Thursday, February 21, 2008

Navy Scores For The Gipper

Ronald Reagan would have been proud of the U.S. Navy yesterday. According to Reuters, "[t]he Pentagon said . . . it had 'a high degree of confidence' that a Navy missile hit the toxic fuel tank of a disabled U.S. spy satellite, which posed a potential threat if it struck land on reentry."

What a relief that the Navy hit its target apparently on the first try and during an only ten-second window available to do it:

An SM-3 missile fired from the guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Erie in the Pacific Ocean northwest of Hawaii hit the errant satellite on Wednesday at 10:26 p.m. EST (0326 GMT Thursday), 153 nautical miles (283 km) above the Earth.
. . . .
The missile hit the 5,000-pound (2,270 kg), bus-sized satellite as it traveled through space at more than 17,000 miles per hour (27,400 kph), the Pentagon said.

That "Star Wars" research continues to pay dividends for the United States. Just ask the Chinese, who botched their own shoot-down of a satellite last year -- and whose complaints about American anti-missile defense accuracy are telling:

A Chinese state newspaper on Thursday -- Wednesday in the United States -- accused Washington of hypocrisy for criticizing other countries' space ambitions while rejecting a treaty proposed by China and Russia to ban weapons in space and firing a missile at the spy satellite.

China said it was monitoring Washington's destruction of the satellite.


"The Chinese side is continuing to closely follow the U.S. action which may influence the security of outer space and may harm other countries," Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told a regular news conference.

Well done, Midshipmen!

Update: A newly posted report at Space.com provides further insight as to the strategic implications of the Navy's success:

The U.S. Navy's successful missile hit and apparent destruction of a defunct spy satellite represents a major step forward in the space arms race in the eyes of some analysts. Others are not so sure.

One expert said last night's hit was not an example of a real missile-defense system, targeting an unusually low satellite that was essentially a sitting duck with a missile that is not the nation's top-of-the line for such tasks.

Some say tensions with Russia and China will increase following the U.S. anti-satellite demonstration, as both nations had stated their opposition to the attempt. Others argue the United States took necessary measures to ensure geopolitical stability and extend its military dominance.

"This is obviously being hailed as a victory both politically, because the [U.S.] administration can claim there was no loss of life, and technically because it worked," said Theresa Hitchens, Center for Defense Information director. "It helped the [U.S.] Navy demonstrate the capabilities of its missile defense system."

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