25 June 2014

GMD Testing: A $40 Billion Failure

Image Copyright: John Wagner / Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

The amount of money required for the research and development of America’s defense systems is staggering and often unreported out of security concerns.  The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system (GMD) has repeatedly failed over its 15-year testing lifetime and $40 billion investment.

The program is a national missile defense network, based in California and Alaska to defend the nation from nuclear missile attacks from regions like North Korea and Iran.  The intercept system is incredibly complex and can be described as firing one bullet to strike another in mid-flight.  The speed and altitude of the interceptors are extreme, hence the complicated testing requirements.  

The interceptor, called the “kill vehicle,” was launched on January 31, 2010, and hurtled through space at 4 miles per second, tracking toward its target.  It missed.  The $200 million failure was just one of many.  Sixteen of these tests have been conducted, and government records show that eight of them have failed before this past weekend.  There was a glimmer of hope for the system last Sunday, when the system completed its first successful test since 2008, striking its target over the Pacific Ocean.   

Many in the military believe the system was dubbed operational way too early in its development for political reasons, despite problems with the existing equipment.  Even though the prototype is far from perfect, President Obama wants to expand the number of interceptors into Eastern Europe, which would surely cost several billion dollars.

Tom Collina, the research director at the Arms Control Association, says, “We need to put the money towards a system that works. Would you spend $1 billion on an insurance policy that only worked one third of the time?” What’s your take on the program?

Comment below or weigh in on the discussion here and connect within the military network.

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