Humour: September 2006 Archives

The Strategic Defense Initiative (aka "Star Wars" program) has, since Ronald Reagan announced it more than 20 years ago, cost the US government more than US $100Bn. (That's a lot of M&Ms.)

To be fair, they've got some bang for their hundred thousand Big Ones — the Missile Defense Agency now operates a Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System whereby they can (in bright light, with a tail-wind, and on days with a "T" in their name) shoot down a crude incoming ballistic missile. There are about ten interceptor missiles available, and the current goal of the project is to pop a cap in the ass of any rogue state that tries to destroy the United States by launching a single 1950s-vintage ICBM with a single warhead and no countermeasure capability. (Presumably before the response turns the attacker's country into a glowing hole in the map.) There's also a slightly more advanced naval system that can track and intercept intermediate and theatre ballistic missiles (assuming the rogue state in question is shooting across a sea patrolled by the US Navy).

However, there is one leetle weakness in the BMD program. To hit a missile with a missle requires fairly accurate radar — it entails accurately tracking a target the size of a dustbin at a range of several thousand kilometres — and so they've also developed an appropriate radar system. The sea-based X-band radar system (pictured above) is a thing of technological beauty that looks as if it sailed in out of a Bond movie: a $900M fifty thousand tonne offshore platform with a 1800 ton radar installation on top of it, it's designed to sit in the ocean near the Aleutian islands and spot incoming sub-orbital trash cans and guide the rocket interceptors into the target.

Unfortunately, there's a problem with it. And the problem isn't just the fact that it doesn't have a lifeboat and can't be evacuated in event of a storm.

No, the problem is quite simple: any budding Doctor Evil can ensure the success of his orbital mind control lasers or terrorist ICBMs by the simple expedient of sending something like a 1950s vintage Whisky class diesel-electric submarine to poke a pointy stick through the eyes of the ballistic missile defense system. Which is, you will notice, not exactly mounted on a vessel that's capable of fighting off a bunch of Malacca Straits pirates in a speed-boat, never mind a third world navy.

I don't know about you, but I'm coming to the conclusion that the Pentagon subcontracted this job to the same guys that James Bond's enemies always hired to design their headquarters — you know, the one with the prominently labelled SELF DESTRUCT button. (That would be Halliburton and Brown & Root, right?) I mean, what other explanation is there for spending $100Bn on a mind-numbingly sophisticated ballistic missile defense system ... only to leave it vulnerable to a single good old-fashioned torpedo?



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This page is an archive of entries in the Humour category from September 2006.

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