News


U.S. Newswire
16 Mar 16:12

FAS: PAC-3 Test Says Nothing About National Missile Defense
To: National Desk
Contact: John Pike of the
Federation of American Scientists, 202-673-1023;
Web site: http://www.fas.org/

WASHINGTON, March 16 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Monday's successful
intercept of a target by the short-range Patriot Advanced
Capability-3 (PAC-3) interceptor says nothing about the technical
feasibility of the National Missile Defense (NMD) program, since
the two programs use entirely different technologies, according to
Federation of American Scientists' Director of Space Policy Project
John Pike.

Brig. Gen. Daniel Montgomery, who directs the Army's missile
defense programs, claimed that "The significance of this success
can't be overstated." But, according to Pike, it would be far too
easy to overstate the significance of this test for the very
different National Missile Defense.

The PAC-3 interceptor is intended to intercept slow moving
short range missiles at ranges of a few dozen miles. The NMD
interceptors will be required to intercept fast-moving long range
missiles at ranges of well over a thousand miles. These very
different requirements have led the two programs to use entirely
different technologies.

The PAC-3 interceptor uses an on-board radar to find the
incoming target at close range within the atmosphere. In
contrast, the long range NMD interceptor uses a heat seeking
telescope camera to find the incoming target at long range above
the Earth's atmosphere. The PAC-3 radar lacks the range to do
long-range interceptions, and the NMD heat seeker won't work within
the atmosphere.

These very different technologies have had very different
success rates in previous tests. Since testing started in 1986 of
the predecessors of PAC-3, there have been a total of five
successful intercepts of targets out of eight attempts (including
Monday's test). This success rate of better than 60 percent
compares very favorably with the dismal failure rate of the NMD
interceptor technology, which has failed to intercept a target in
13 of the 15 attempts since 1982.

So why not just use PAC-3 for National Missile Defense?
"The short-range PAC-3 interceptor, with its short-range radar, can
only defend a few hundred square miles," Pike said. "In contrast to
the two bases and two hundred interceptors planned for NMD, a
national defense using PAC-3 could require thousands of bases and
many tens of thousands of interceptors to defend the entire
country."

-0-
/U.S. Newswire 202-347-2770/
03/16 16:12
 

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