This has to be the least surprising news I’ve seen in awhile. Star Wars/ABM/Missile Defense is worthless! Na-a-awwww! Re-e-eally?!?!? Gee, who’d a thunk it? I did a paper on this back in college during the late 1980s, concluding that, yes, “shooting down a bullet with a bullet” can be done, but missile warheads are very small, move very quickly and devices used to detect them are not difficult to fool.
Any system for stopping missiles is very easily overwhelmed with lots of real warheads, chaff (clouds of small bits of metal) and decoys. To take just one of the more obvious examples, a multi-stage ballistic missile takes about 30 minutes to get from Russia to the United States. Over 20 of those minutes are spent in space where there’s no air friction, where a decoy can be as simple as a balloon coated with metal-based paint. Such a decoy can’t be deployed until the real warhead is in space and will quickly burn up on re-entry, but it’s pretty much impossible to separate such a decoy from a real warhead when your detection devices are hundreds to thousands of miles away. A single warhead could pop out 20 to 30 decoys, and with small air-sprays, they can all follow different, widely divergent paths. If you want to stop them mid-course, all of the warheads, both the real ones and the fake ones, have to be stopped, or at least a good 80-90% of them. An ABM system will have very little time between the time all the balloons burn away and the warheads impact their targets. A system would have to be extraordinarily fast and capable to deal with the dozens, perhaps hundreds, of remaining warheads. And:
The GMD system, however, is widely considered to be ineffective. Despite the billions of dollars spent, the system has not had a successful intercept test since 2008, with two failures in 2010. A recent report by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences found that, “The current GMD system has serious shortcomings, and provides at best a limited, initial defense against a relatively primitive threat.”
In other words, the US spent from the Eisenhower era to the 1972 ABM treaty developing anti-missile defenses, private entrepreneurs continued researching means and methods from 1972, with the government again picking up the tab for research in 1983, whereupon the government has continued to fund research and development ever since. What has the US accomplished in all that time? Doesn’t sound like six decades of research has accomplished very much.
What has the impact been on US-Russian relations?