- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 10, 2002

In a classic example of a dog-bites-man story, The Washington Post reported on March 2 that the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) issued an analysis criticizing a recent sea-based anti-missile test that missile-defense proponents had declared to be an amazing success five weeks earlier. Not so fast, said the UCS "working paper," which the organization conveniently provided to The Post several days before it was made public. The test had little to do with "real-world scenarios," the UCS asserted. Dutifully, Bradley Graham of The Post cranked out a "news" story.
Over the years, one of the missions adopted by the self-appointed Union of Concerned Scientists apparently is to do battle with those obviously unconcerned, war-mongering, selfish scientists who have been assisting the Pentagon with the development of an anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system. Indeed, the UCS's web site declares that its own missile-defense goal is "preventing deployment of a costly, ineffectual and dangerous technology." That seems rather definitive. In fact, one irrefutable conclusion that directly follows from that position is this: The UCS demands that the U.S. government must continue, as a matter of policy, to expose its citizens to a catastrophic, bolt-from-the-blue attack by any rogue regime that develops both a long-range ballistic missile and any weapon (nuclear, biological or chemical) of mass destruction. Yet, The Post merely characterized the UCS as an organization of "missile-defense skeptics."
The Jan. 25 test whose success the UCS questioned involved an anti-missile interceptor launched from a Navy cruiser. Now, keep in mind: This was the first flight test of a ship-launched anti-missile interceptor attempting to collide with its target. The targeted vehicle was a one-stage Aries missile, which was launched from the Hawaiian island of Kauai. The USS Lake Erie, an Aegis cruiser stationed 300 nautical miles from Kauai, detected and tracked the Aries target missile. Six minutes after the Aries missile was launched, the Aegis cruiser fired its interceptor. Traveling 6,700 mph, the interceptor collided two minutes later with the Aries missile, which was traveling at 4,200 mph. According to the UCS, "The closing speed between the target and interceptor in the test was roughly 4 km/s," or 9,000 mph. The collision occurred between 125 miles and 225 miles from the Erie at an altitude of 100 miles. Wow.
No wonder the test has been considered a success by missile-defense proponents. Remember, this was the first flight test of a sea-based anti-missile interceptor that attempted to hit its target. Moreover, the test also highlights the potentially indispensable role of the Navy Theater-Wide (NTW) anti-missile defense system, which the Bush administration expects to be capable of destroying ballistic missiles in their launch and mid-course phases, when the missile targets are easier to hit and before they release their warheads.
The UCS, however, was not impressed. Why? Well, consider its "key finding" in its "working paper." What so disturbs the UCS is the fact that "the target used in the test was considerably larger than important targets that NTW is presumably being developed to engage, such as a warhead from a North Korean Nodong missile." (Never mind that the ultimate goal of the NTW defense system is to destroy hostile ballistic missiles before they release their warheads.)
Had the UCS been around in 1903, when the Wright brothers flew their "heavier-than-air machine" 852 feet for 59 seconds at Kitty Hawk, it would have issued a "working paper" declaring how meaningless the achievement was. And the UCS would have scoffed at the dream that, one day, a pilot could fly solo and nonstop across the Atlantic Ocean a feat Charles Lindbergh accomplished less than 25 years later. And what would the UCS have said about developing flying machines for use in war? No doubt, its concerned scientists would have been the first to declare that such a project would involve "costly, ineffectual and dangerous technology." And if the UCS argument had carried the day, imagine the outcome of the world wars that followed later that century.
Meanwhile, The Post, like the few newspapers that mentioned the Wright brothers' achievement at Kitty Hawk, would have published inaccurate stories about the feat, prompted no doubt by the "concerns" and skepticism of the UCS.


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