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Missile Defense: Another Successful U.S. Test

Posted By Baker Spring On May 20, 2013 @ 5:00 pm In Security | Comments Disabled

PASCAL SAURA/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom [1]

PASCAL SAURA/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom

Last Wednesday, off the coast of Kauai, Hawaii, the Navy cruiser USS Lake Erie conducted a successful test [2] of the next-generation missile defense weapon, engaging and destroying a dummy target warhead that had separated from a short-range attacking rocket.

The Standard Missile-3 (SM-3) is designed to seek and kill both attacking rockets and the warheads they carry. This next generation of the SM-3 interceptor is called the Block IB (SM-3 Block IB).

This is the third successful intercept test of the cutting-edge interceptor since its first test resulted in a failure to destroy the target on September 1, 2011. With this most recent test, the SM-3 Block IB program is now on track to provide a key element of the second phase of the Administration’s Phased Adaptive Approach (PAA) missile defense program.

This second phase includes basing the SM-3 Block IB interceptors on both Navy ships and on land in Romania by 2015. These three successful tests have put the SM-3 Block IB program back on track to meeting the 2015 deadline.

However, sequestration could result in the outright cancellation of the European element of the PAA. This would be a major setback.

There are two critical lessons stemming from the combination of the three successful SM-3 Block IB interceptor tests and the failure in September 2001. First, a failure to achieve an intercept can potentially teach as much [3] as a successful one. In this case, the proper response is to move forward with follow-on tests and not back off the program.

The second lesson is that it is wise to pursue a development program for next-generation military technology with a considerable degree of concurrency—that is, the stages of development should be pursued in an overlapping fashion rather than sequentially.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) has long argued against [4] concurrency, which it believes involves too much risk. But a strict interpretation of the GAO recommendation for avoiding concurrency, in the case of the SM-3 Block IB program, could easily have resulted in a failure to meet the 2015 deadline and needlessly weaken our defensive capability.

The current status of the SM-3 Block IB development program demonstrates that the GAO is underplaying the cost of pursuing military technology programs in a strictly sequential fashion. Accordingly, other missile defense development programs should pursue concurrency.


Article printed from The Foundry: Conservative Policy News from The Heritage Foundation: http://blog.heritage.org

URL to article: http://blog.heritage.org/2013/05/20/missile-defense-another-successful-test/

URLs in this post:

[1] Image: http://blog.heritage.org/wp-content/uploads/missile130520.jpg

[2] successful test: http://www.mda.mil/news/13news0005.html

[3] potentially teach as much: http://www.heritage.org/research/reports/2013/05/missile-defense-testing-robust-program-essential

[4] argued against: http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/590277.pdf

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