Saturday, December 26, 2009

one step closer to the expensive Iron Dome

Israel successfully completed another series of tests of the Iron Dome, the first level of its multi-layered missile defense umbrella which is designed to intercept missiles and rockets at ranges between 4 and 77 kilometers. Two other tests took place earlier this year back in July and in March.

Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak said that the assessment within the Defense Ministry and military had been that the interceptor would explode 10 meters from the incoming missile. The Iron Dome is not solely a hit-to-kill system, but it can also engage short-range missiles and rockets using shrapnel, enabling it to stop or divert an incoming missile from a distance of three meters. However, there was no need to use these additional measures during the recent test-launch because it exceeded the expectations by far. The two missiles “met head on".

This system is to enter service in 2011, but could be rushed into service sooner. Other sources refer to Israeli Defense Forces sources and Rafael officials according to whom the Iron Dome is expected to be ready in about half a year.

Israel received the reward for this successful test in a jiffy: on December 21, US President Barack Obama has signed a defense spending bill that includes $202 million in funds for Israel's missile defense programs. Over at Asian Defence you can read:

The Arrow-3, a controversial program that initially faced push-back from US Pentagon officials, will now get $50m as opposed to the $37m originally requested by the administration. In addition, the short-range ballistic missile defense program will get $80m., with the balance for the existing long-range program. The total is some $25m more than was approved last year.
A total of US$ 225 million have been invested by Tel Aviv in the project so far. This amount of money is expected to be sufficient for a prototype, the construction of two batteries and the production of a limited number of interception missiles. A single battery is considered sufficient to protect the area of a medium-size city and its environs.

Israel will gladly accept the additional money. Defense officials admit that the cost of intercepting missiles with the system may be as much as $50,000 each.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Dhanush tested

India successfully tested on December 13 a nuclear-capable Dhanush SLBM, a naval variant of Prithvi with 350 km range. The missile flew over 350 km and splashed down at the target point in the Bay with “pinpoint accuracy,” according to official sources in the Defence Research & Development Organisation (DRDO). The bragging continues:

The radar systems of the Integrated Test Range (ITR), located along the coast, monitored the entire trajectory of the vehicle, which flew for 520 seconds before zeroing in on the target with a circular error probability (CEP) of below 10 meters.
The Dhanush’s first test launch ended in failure in April 2000 over technical problems related to the take-off stage, but subsequent trials were reported as successful. The latest Dhanush trial was successfully conducted off Orissa coast in March 2007.

It seems that DRDO feels emboldened by this success which seems to make it forget the poor performance of the Agni-II in the two previous flights, in May and November 2009. The sources indicated there would be two more Agni-II flight tests to overcome these failures.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Topol, Bulava and arts

Last week Russia conducted two missile tests and the results are mixed. On December 10, a Topol missile was launched without any problems from the Kapustin Yar site and hit the designated target in Sary-Shagan, Kazakhstan. Everything ran smoothly as we have seen it many times before. Things looked totally different the day before: On December 9, Russia test-launched a Bulava SLBM. The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed that the test was a failure - like the one before, like the one before, like … - and said in a statement:

"It has been determined in analyzing the launch that the missile's first two stages performed as planned, but there was a technical malfunction at the next, the third, phase of the trajectory," the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Last week’s test has only been one of many failures. Here is a brief chronology of the Bulava test-launches which counts – according to RIA Novosti – seven failures out of the 13 tests:

  1. 24.06.2004 - failure: solid-propelled engine exploded during the test
  2. 23.09.2004 - success: a test of automated systems on board of Dmitry Donskoi nuclear involved the ejection of a full mockup of the Bulava missile from submerged position to a height of about 40 meters
  3. 27.09.2005 - success: the missile flew for 14 minutes and covered a distance of 5,500 km. Warheads hit all designated targets at the testing grounds
  4. 21.12.2005 - success: all targets at the Kura testing grounds after a launch from a submerged submarine
  5. 07.09.2006 - failure: a glitch in the program caused the missile to deviate from the trajectory and fall into the sea before reaching the target
  6. 25.10.2006 - failure: the missile deviated from the trajectory, self-destructed, and fell into the White Sea
  7. 24.12.2006 - failure: malfunction of the third-stage engine 3-4 minutes into the flight caused the missile to self-destruct
  8. 29.06.2007 - success: warheads hit targets at the Kura testing grounds after a launch from a submerged submarine
  9. 18.09.2008 – success: Subsurface launch at 18:45, warheads hit target at 19:05
  10. 28.11.2008 - success: a successful launch during the state-run technical tests
  11. 23.12.2008 - failure: the missile self-destructed
  12. 15.07.2009 - failure: the missile self-destructed during the separation of the first stage
  13. 09.12.2009 - failure: a technical failure in the third stage engines rendered them unstable

But some analysts suggest that in reality the number of failures has been considerably greater: According to Russian military expert Pavel Felgenhauer, of the Bulava's 11 test launches, only one was entirely successful.

Against the background of these dire results RIA Novosti demands that “we must now assess the entire project's status and the implications of the latest abortive test on the future development of Russia's strategic nuclear forces.” Well, it seems that perceptions of the state of the Russian missile arsenal vary. Andrei Shvaichenko, commander of Russia's Strategic Missile Forces (SMF) said on December 8 that Russia will complete the development of advanced missile systems by 2016:

"The future missile group will consist of two components -- standby stationary missile systems with a high level of combat readiness and long-endurance missile systems. […] By the end of 2016, the missile systems with extended service life will account for no more than 20 percent of the total, while the share of new missile systems will be about 80 percent."
If one considers the performance of the Bulava one can call these plans very … na├»ve ambitious. Of course one realistic option would be to continue with the slow introduction of the new missiles and a rapid decline of old missiles. But I assume that this was not what commander Shvaichenko was bragging about. ..

On a final note: if Russia should drop out of the missile building business it might still go into arts. The failed missile test of Russia illuminated the Norwegian sky on Wednesday morning: The spiral even caused speculations about a UFO causing bluish-white sky to pop up. The NewScientist reported that it looked like a time-travelling vortex fit for Doctor Who.

For a better hypnotic effect take a look at this video.

Back online :-)

Finally I find the time to update this blog. Thank you for bearing with me during the unduly long blog-out.

In order to establish the Missile Monitor further in the Web 2.0 realm I started today the Missile Monitor Tweet. I will (re)tweet missile-related news that floods my inbox. In the past I all too often had no time to come up with a post and only deleted the news. This Twitter thing might now help me to utilize the information.

And now: let the blogging begin!