The Real Story on Testing

March 18, 2004

Recently, there has been some news about the upcoming deployment of the missile defense system. There are a few members in the Senate who fail to acknowledge the extensive and compelling testing this new weapons system has already undergone and continues to undergo.

Some Observations: The ground based interceptor system, designed to knock down incoming ballistic missiles by launching ground-based missiles that destroy warheads with kinetic energy has flown eight integrated intercept attempts tests since 1999, scoring five successes.

The true value of testing is an accumulation of information based on a specific event to further understand and develop a successful system. The wealth and abundance of information gathered, regardless of a specific result, within the overall test is extremely valuable for the successful development of that system. Every test is a success.

As part of the eight integrated flight tests, there are over a thousand additional tests that the system has gone through in addition to the integrated tests. It is false to suggest the system has only been “tested” eight times.

In each test only a single missile was shot at the target. In a live situation the US would launch multiple intercept missiles at the target, thus dramatically increasing the likelihood of an intercept.

A useful parallel weapon system is the M-16 Rifle, the standard for US Military personnel. This weapon discharges at least three bullets at its target per shot. The United States would not do away with this system simply because a single bullet failed to hit its target every time.

Critics argue for more “rigorous testing”. It should be noted that these requirements demanded by others are normal for upgrading a weapon already in use. But those requirements are not held for a new weapon or system. This point is proven by the recent development, testing and success of the Predator and the JSTAR systems, which have been deployed.

The current deployment sites; both the Fort Greely, AK site and the Vandenberg, CA site are Test Bed Sites designed for both deploying a missile defense system and continued testing of that system.

Finally, Adm. James O. Ellis Jr., who heads the U.S. Strategic Command, recently testified that he is “comfortable” with the test data he has seen, and declared the system will have definite — if rudimentary — military usefulness.

Deploying a missile defense system is critical to protecting our public safety and preserving our way of life.

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