News

Missile Defense Testing Update

From: Michael Jones [email protected]>
Date: Wed, 13 May 1998 

     This is an update on the PMRF Enhanced Capability EIS and related 
matters.  I mailed my comments on the draft EIS to PMRF last week.  One
of my comments contained a list of documents referred to in the draft EIS
that I asked to review before the public comment period ends.  I was told
today that PMRF has sent two of these documents to Hamilton Library at
UH Manoa and is trying to get the others, which seem to be in Huntsville,
Alabama.  Requests for a copy of the draft EIS and comments on it should 
be sent to:
               Ms. Vida Mossman
               Pacific Missile Range Facility
               P.O. Box 128
               Kekaha, Hawaii  96752-0128
The deadline for written comments is 26 May 1998.

     The 5th attempt to intercept a theater missile target by the Army's
THAAD interceptor was conducted at White Sands Missile Range on 12 May.  
This attempt, like the previous four, failed.  There are articles about
the latest THAAD test in the 12 May Honolulu Star-Bulletin and in the
13 May Washington Post and Honolulu Advertiser.  The Navy's interceptor
which, like THAAD, is intended to defend large areas uses a hit-to-kill 
vehicle called LEAP.  All four attempts at intercepts with LEAP have also 
failed.  A 27 April Washington Post article noted only seven hits in 20
tests of hit-to-kill interceptors since 1983 and that the last six tests 
(now seven) have all failed.  A 27 Feb. report on missile defense 
flight test programs commissioned by the Defense Dept. characterized much 
of the current testing as "rush to failure."

    The poor performance of missile defense systems on flight tests would
seem to indicate that serious reconsideration of missile defense programs is
needed at the national level.  However, Sen. Cochran recently introduced 
a bill in the U.S. Senate (S. 1873) that would declare that U.S. policy is
to deploy a National Missile Defense to defend U.S. territory against a
limited ballistic missile attack "as soon as technologically possible."
Hawaii Senators Inouye and Akaka are cosponsors of this bill.  The bill is
remarkably vague -- for example, it does not indicate how one would
determine whether a national missile defense is "technologically possible."
Perhaps the criterion will be just one successful intercept, which is the
stated criterion for a commitment to purchase 40 THAAD interceptors.
In addition to the technical difficulties, such a national missile 
defense would not prevent terrorist attacks like the Oklahoma City and
World Trade Center bombings.  Many people believe that other measures like
the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program to help dismantle Russian 
missiles and securely store the nuclear warheads from them would be
more effective in reducing the threat from weapons of mass destruction.
Finally, Sen. Cochran's bill is opposed by Defense Sec. Cohen and by
Gen. Shelton, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

     The Cochran bill was debated in the Senate today.  Supporters cited the
5 nuclear explosions by India this week as further proof of the threat and
argued that there is no reason to delay a deployment decision until 2000, 
which is current Clinton administration policy.  Opponents countered that
that there is no developed, tested system to deploy and that more effort
should be focused on nonproliferation.  The vote to cut off debate failed
by one vote (59-41, 60% is required); Sens. Akaka and Inouye voted to cut
off debate.

 Michael Jones            | phone  808 956 2932
 Physics Dept.            |  FAX   808 956 2930
 Univ. of Hawaii          | Email  [email protected]
 2505 Correa Road
 Honolulu, Hawaii 96822