U.S. tests anti-missile interceptors

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The U.S. Navy and the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) on December 14th successfully test fired two missile interceptors, designed to destroy an incoming missile attack.

The test occurred Dec. 14 and launched two Raytheon-built Standard Missile-6 Dual 1 (SM-6) missiles from the Navy destroyer USS John Paul Jones from just off the coast of Hawaii, MDA officials said in a statement. The two SM-6 projectiles were launched against a medium-range ballistic missile target as part of the MDA’s Sea-Based Terminal Program, using Navy ships equipped with the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System.

The interceptor missiles also used an explosive warhead to destroy their target, which appears to be an advance on previous interceptors, which relayed merely on hitting the target.



  • Wayne

    “The 60 Year History of Raytheon’s Standard Missile Family”

  • Tom Billings

    “The interceptor missiles also used an explosive warhead to destroy their target, which appears to be an advance on previous interceptors, which relayed merely on hitting the target.”

    Well, …no. The kinetic energy warheads are more useful where they are used most, in hard vacuum. The SM-6 is primarily designed as an anti-aircraft/anti-cruise missile weapon. Thus the usual explosive fragmentation warheads with proximity fusing are fitted. That it *also* is useful as a closer in anti-missile weapon, to catch leakers from the longer engagement ranges of the SM-3 is an excellent thing. The warhead choices are mediated by primary missions, however.

    For instance, when the SM-3 Block IIb, with even higher and longer range, comes along, I expect they can be fitted with warheads holding multiple individually guided interceptors, and thereby reduce the number of leakers that SM-6 will need to take on.

  • wodun

    These things sure are versatile. Too bad they have such boring names. Guess they didn’t have an office pool to pick the coolest name.

  • Tom Billings

    “Guess they didn’t have an office pool to pick the coolest name.”

    Wouldn’t have mattered. The Standard Missile designation was born from the MacNamara-izing of the DoD, in 1963. Making weapons as bureaucratic as possible was all that got them past the SecDef. Making them interesting was the *last* thing he wanted!

  • Given the mechanics involved, I’m not sure ‘. . .merely on hitting the target.’ quite does justice to the capability.

  • Edward

    Your video started out with an interesting statement. It helps to propagate the myth that science believes that the bee cannot fly. It says that this is “according to recognized aerotechnical tests,” but it turns out that this is false.

    It is difficult to find where this myth started, but since the mathematics depends upon the flapping rate, I tend to favor the story in which it is based upon one test that quickly became recognized as being flawed. My general rant on this (possibly/probably apocryphal) story goes along these lines:

    After the paper was released, the camera used to measure the bee’s flapping rate was quickly noticed to have allowed for something called aliasing. This is a problem that anyone learning the art of the science of test engineering must be taught to avoid.

    In the case of the bees, the camera took pictures at a rate that allowed the scientist to miss that the wings were flapping four times faster than the film made it appear. Thus, comparing the flapping rate with the mathematics, the scientist came to the bogus conclusion that the math showed that bees cannot fly and that the mathematics was flawed, rather than the bee could not fly as observed.

    Aliasing can be seen in old western movies, in which the stage coach’s wheels sometimes appear to rotate backward when they obviously are rotating forward.

    The way such aliasing could occur is if the camera takes a picture every 1-1/3 cycles of the flap. After four complete flaps, the camera has made it look as though one flap occurred. When performing any test, make sure that the data collection is done in such a way as to avoid this problem.

    One way is to take data at a faster rate than the expected necessary rate. Another is to arrange for two data points in rapid succession between regular beats of the data points (similar to syncopation in music) to confirm that the measured factor is not changing in unexpected ways between data points. (For instance by supplementing a 24-frame per second camera with a second camera that is 1/100th second out of sync. Except that the cameras would have to be faster for bee wings.)

    (Other stories suggest that insect wings flex in ways that the mathematics were unable to account for, at that time, allowing for airflows that generate more lift than the mathematics predicted.)

    It is my understanding that climate scientists are undergoing a similar data problem, in that they are now “correcting” past ground temperature data on the assumption that it was not gathered in the optimum way. Either the data was not collected at the same time each day, or collecting the data at the same time each day is almost guaranteed to miss the daily high temperature.

    Comparing data collected at the same time each day, such as in remote areas, to the data collected at the high and low temperatures each day, such as at airports, has become problematic. This isn’t exactly an aliasing problem, but it makes the remote sites less reliable when judging the amount of global warming that may or may not be occurring. Correcting for these conditions can be problematic, as the actual conditions are now unknown for each site and each reading.

    The problem of heat islands is similar, though also unlike aliasing. A weather station that once was surrounded by a grassy area will record higher temperatures when there is a nearby construction, such as a parking lot or an expansion to an airport tarmac. The higher temperatures occur especially in the cooler nighttime records, because the heat retained during the day is then given off during the cooler night. It is fascinating to note that the general rise in temperatures, over the 20th century, is not a general rising of temperature in the daytime measurements but in the nighttime measurements.

    If care is not taken to measure the right conditions or care is not taken while interpreting the data, then incorrect conclusions can be drawn. There is, indeed, an uncertainty in science, and it is generally due to human error or bias, but it is sometimes due to the limits of our ability to precisely measure what we want to learn.

    That the missiles noted in Robert’s post are able to hit their targets shows that these missile engineers were able to correctly measure what they needed, and their missiles are also able to measure what they need during flight in order to guide them to their targets.

  • Edward, do you have a blog?

  • Edward

    No, Blair, I do not.

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