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July 13, 2006
Anti-Missile Test 'Phenomenal'

The Army had a "phenomenal" success in the latest test of the American anti-ballistic missile defense system. Jason Gibbs reports for the Las Cruces Sun-News that a Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) missile intercepted and destroyed a warhead and its contents:

Hundreds of miles above southern New Mexico, it was a picture-perfect impact between two missiles. ...

The pre-dawn art show was the result of the third of five tests planned at White Sands Missile Range to determine the effectiveness of THAAD — Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile. And military officials said the test went better than they could have hoped.

"This was phenomenal," said U.S. Army Col. Charles Driessnack, the project manager for the Missile Defense Agency's THAAD program. "It performed as expected."

The test demonstrated the THAAD's ability to "completely destroy that warhead so that no chemical or nuclear residue would contaminate areas" below the explosion, Driessnack said. ...

The target — a Hera missile that closely mimics the characteristics of the more infamous SCUD missiles — was launched shortly after 5:17 a.m. Wednesday. It took to the skies from a location on the far northern reaches of the bombing range's territory, about 100 miles north of the Organ Mountains, 25 miles north of Highway 380.

It carried a canister of inert material to simulate chemical or biological elements that could be mounted on an enemy missile, Driessnack said. The target missile rose roughly 200 miles above the Earth before beginning the final stage descent toward land.

The THAAD program has had a series of successes, and this one shows that the technology has caught up with the theory. Naysayers have constantly criticized the effort by pointing out that the system at this stage can't knock down 1,000 ICBMs with 100% accuracy, but this shows that the anti-missile system can take out inbounds on a one-for-one basis, and doesn't require a shotgun approach. If that holds, then the only restriction on scope is how many THAAD missiles we fund.

We spent the 1990s believing that we no longer needed such a system, or that developing an anti-missile shield would somehow prove destabilizing. So after handicapping ourselves by ten years, we see that the proliferation of rockets in the hands of nutcases like Kim Jong-Il and the Iranian mullahcracy provided its own destabilization and almost left us with our pants down.

The true threat never came from a Russia or China with a rational, if antagonistic, political system and a thousand or more ICBMs. It came from rogue nations with irrational actors like North Korea and Iran. People laughed when Ronald Reagan said he would share the missile-shield technology with his Cold War antagonists, but this is the reason why it made sense. MAD provides no deterrent to nutcases who either don't care about killing millions of their own people or believe that th 12th Imam will come with their glorious death. Once we knock their few missiles down and prove them toothless, those regimes will crumble.

People also laughed when George Bush claimed this week that our missile defense systems could knock down the Taepodong-2. I think he knew a bit more than the media and critics considered at the time. None of them appear to have reported on this success, either, at least up to now. (hat tip: CQ reader Larry T)

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at July 13, 2006 9:04 AM

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