Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Reagans gift from the Grave

Star Wars Now
Missile defense is on its way to becoming a reality.
by James Thayer

HIGH ABOVE THE EARTH, the Aries missile streaked toward its target, creasing the thermosphere at two miles a second. Launched at 8:12 a.m. Hawaiian Standard Time, the 30-foot long solid-fuel rocket had weighed in at more than six tons and had generated 200 kilonewtons of thrust. But now, high overhead, the missile had separated from its booster, and it screamed along the edge of space.
It was doomed from the start. Far below, rolling gently in the sea off the Kauai coast, the USS Lake Erie waited. The ship--a Ticonderoga class cruiser--is 567 feet of gray lethality: Tomahawk and Harpoon missiles, MK 46 sub-killer torpedoes, and a brace of six-barreled Vulcan Gatling guns (rate of fire: a sweet 6,000 rounds per minute). The Lake Erie is outfitted with the Aegis ballistic missile defense system. The sailors detected the missile, and went to work.
"The firing team had no clue when the [Aries target] missile would be launched," said Fire Controlman 3rd Class Jacob Todd on board Lake Erie. The ship's crew tracked the missile's course, and quickly generated a fire-control solution. At 8:16 a.m., an SM-3 missile was launched from the Lake Erie's deck. Trailing a cone of fire, the SM-3 rose into the sulfurous yellow sky.
Six minutes elapsed. Then, a hundred miles up and 375 miles northwest of Kauai, the Lake Erie's missile ripped into the incoming Aries. The explosion was brilliant and furious and then instantly gone, and the only things remaining of the two missiles were slivers of hot metal drifting back toward earth.
This test occurred last November, and was the sixth successful missile interception out of seven attempts. Of course, American attention is currently focused on Iran, which is both building a nuclear warhead and lying about it at the same furious clip, and which has successfully tested its medium-range Shahab 3 missile. North Korea, which has fired a Taepo Dong 1 missile over Japan, is just as dangerous.
Less attention is being paid to the antidote: the Pentagon's success in anti-missile tests, and its current and on-going deployment of systems that will knock out enemy missiles. "A robust, fully operational missile defense system is on its way to becoming a reality," Air Force Lt. General Henry A. Obering III, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said last month. Star Wars is here, now.

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