Thursday, February 21, 2008

So The U.S. Has An ASAT Weapon

By Cernig

So, the U.S. has an anti-satellite weapon. It's a modification of the well-tried SM3 naval missile rather than one of the fancier and far more expensive per unit specially-developed anti-missile interceptors the military are keeping up in Alaska and plan to install in Europe. It might work under all weather conditions - but the military erred on the side of caution.

The neocons are jubilant - Michael Goldfarb calling it the "greatest PR boost the program could have gotten short of actually striking down a North Korean missile inbound to Hollywood". That's a bit hyperbolic - but then again he also headlines his piece "Missile Defense Works" when hitting a satellite the size of a bus in a predictable orbit doesn't actually say a damn thing about ability to hit a dodging, far smaller re-entry vehicle which might have onboard jammers or decoys deployed.

The rest of us? Well, there isn't a single expert in the field who believes the "hydrazine threat" story. The consensus is that the Bush administration just rattled a sabre the U.S. already proved it had the capability for back in 1985 to no good outcome other than heightened international arms control tensions, at a time when the neocon lobby is calling for a walkback by the U.S. on various arms treaties to allow missile defense systems which will include the permanent stationing of weapons in space. The shootdown was a short-sighted act of marginal utility but incalculable diplomatic/foreign policy effects. Welcome to the new arms race with both China and Russia - and India, Japan, Israel...

Worse, if the neocons are successful in riding this PR victory into a Brilliant Pebbles deployment, the next time an SM3 is launched into orbit it may be targeted at a rogue satellite containing a half-dozen interceptor missiles of its own (or even a nuke-pumped X-Ray laser if one of the more nightamrish plans from Ronnie's old Star Wars comix makes a re-appearance). Wouldn't that make a nice firework video for the nightime news?

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