The US missile shield has failed half of its tests on intercepting a mock enemy warhead, making the $40 billion system unreliable, a report says.
A decade after it was declared operational, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, or GMD, “cannot be relied on, even in carefully scripted tests that are much less challenging than an actual attack,” a Los Angeles Times investigation has found.
“The system is not reliable,” concurred a recently retired senior military official. “We took a system that was still in development — it was a prototype — and it was declared to be ‘operational’ for political reasons.”
“At that point, you couldn’t argue anymore that you still needed to develop and change things. You just needed to build them.”
The Missile Defense Agency has conducted 16 tests of the missile shield’s performance and 8 of them have been failures, government records show.
The LA Times report cites three tests – one in 2010, another in 2011 and the third in 2013 – where the GMD failed to intercept a mock enemy warhead.
Despite years of efforts to fix technical shortcomings, the system’s performance has only deteriorated since testing began in 1999. The last successful test was on December 5, 2008.
However, influential members of Congress are pushing for more interceptors in the Eastern United States at a potential cost of billions of dollars.
The Obama administration has agreed to expand the system from the current number of 30 interceptors. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has called for deployment of 14 new interceptors at Ft. Greely by late 2017.
The Times’ investigation has found that US officials often overstate the reliability of the GMD system.
The Pentagon’s chief weapons buyer has told Congress he had high confidence in the effectiveness of the GMD system.
“The effectiveness would be in the 90 percent range,” Defense Undersecretary Edward C. Aldridge Jr. told the House Armed Services Committee in 2003, before the system became operational.