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Old March 19 2013, 07:14 PM   #275
Crazy Eddie
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Re: SpaceX is a go for April 30th: 1st commercial launch to space stat

gturner wrote: View Post
But for an ICBM intercept you don't need the launch location
You do if you're pre-positioning tracking radars with the intention of quickly obtaining an accurate firing solution for the interceptor. If the radars are in the wrong position or if the attack comes from an unexpected direction (say, someone launching a missile on a polar orbit that comes up from south to north) your sensors could give a false reading on its course and speed, or fail to detect it altogether.

The last rounds of ABM tests were fired against targets whose exact launch points were known ahead of time so the tracking systems could be placed in an optimal position to acquire the target and guide the missile to a hit. You don't have the luxury of doing this in battlefield conditions, because you 1) Can't know ahead of time when someone's going to launch an ICBM at you and what launch site they're using and therefore cannot position your sensors to watch all likely approaches and 2) don't necessarily know what kind of missile is going to be launched at you or its flight profile. ABMs appear to be optimized for certain types of ground-based ICBMs like the kind China and/or Russia still use in their land-based silos, and they aren't particularly good at intercepting those anyway; they're virtually useless against SLBMs, which are often launched at closer range using much flatter trajectories.

The problem is much simpler than warship defense where they have to expect a saturation attack from a variety of platforms and incoming angles simultaneously, possibly coming in with heavy jamming support, and where the warning and flight times are shorter.
And much more complicated due to the fact that the thing you're defending is a thousand kilometers wide and the thing that could attack it could be just about anywhere. And that too ignores the fact that anyone who is going to fire an ICBM at the United States probably isn't going to fire just one, and probably isn't going to use one that'll be easy to intercept (even the older Russian missiles have decoy launchers and electronic warfare systems).

The difficulty with ABM intercepts is the massive delta-V required to get the terminal package into the target environment.
No, the difficulty with ABM intercepts is the problem of scale. You're not shooting a missile at another missile in the same battlespace, you're shooting a spacecraft at another spacecraft half a world away on a path that will bring them into contact with one another at exactly the right moment in their respective flight profiles. Even when you have the timing down perfect -- which you can't in a battlefield situation -- the degree of uncertainty in both the target and interceptor's flight path is huge and grows exponentially larger the less accurate your targeting fix is.

When you factor in the fact that the United States only has about 24 ABMs of capable of intercepting an ICBM for the more than 200 missiles possessed by both China and the Russian Federation, ultimately those missiles are more for peace of mind than an actual defense against ICBMs.
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