Saturday, April 14, 2012

US "Toppler Radar" - Smashing Success?

Obama told a television interviewer that the North Koreans have “been trying to launch missiles like this for over a decade now, and they don’t seem to be real good at it.”

According to the piece, our president claimed North Korea's failed rocket launch shows that country is wasting money on rockets which "don't work", while its people starve.  In contrast, the U.S. wastes money on rockets much better at killing, kill more, more rapidly, and engender more fear and hatred on an unprecedented scale - while none of its people (who matter) starve.  OK, perhaps on that last point no one who matters to the North Korean elites aren't starving either, but perfect contrast sets are extremely rare in the real world.

But this post isn't to rag on Obama, it's to point out something I thought about when I first read a news story regarding deployment of the special, secret radar pictured above.  The first thing that was odd about the story was its basic plot: the first launch of a non-ICBM by a basket case of a country required ultra-high resolution imagery & tracking? Of what possible use could centimeter measurements of a missle trajectory be?  Not guidance or thrust, unless we wanted to see if the regime had some older propellant problems like bubbles in the fuel lines, but any significant issue like that would be obvious. It seems pretty unlikely, but if not true, then the claim would be a PR cover for...well what?

Then I thought to myself, if I were advising the military as a consultant on this, I'd not recommend deployment a radar with only detection capability when the US could deploy a dual use asset capable of intercepting the missile.  If successful, it would guarantee a huge financial and credibility loss to an "axis of evil" nation, as well as conduct a live fire field trial of technology in development for the past decade which has never been *really* tested in deployment. If unsuccessful, the US would gain invaluable performance data. The test could be plausibly denied as ever existing, and there would be no chain of clear evidence linking destruction of the missile to the US.  It would seem to be dereliction of duty not to deploy such an asset, given the situation.  The cost-benefit makes it a no-brainer.  The only real liability would be that the rocket did not have a catastrophic failure on its own.

What kind of asset?  Well, it would be an advanced version of prototypes developed decades ago... and deployed in Afghanistan.  Directing EM vibrations at tuned frequencies is the basis of radar as well as microwave ovens, and if you've ever put aluminum foil in your Amana RadaRange set to "High" you've experienced watching last night's Applebee's takeout go up like...well, like a disintegrating North Korean test launch.

As far as I'm aware, there's no plausible way to conclusively prove any frequency directed at a target doesn't have reconnaissance value, especially when the system is super-secret.  Forensic evidence of burned metal would be impossible to distinguish from plain old short circuits, unless there's some really fancy metallurgical analysis which may not even exist outside Raytheon & Texas Instruments labs in Richardson and McKinney, Texas - just off I-35.

Of course, this is all simply natural & idle speculation.

As a noted British minister once said: "One should never really believe anything until it's officially denied."

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