The effort to reboot the 1980s 'Star Wars' missile defense program

Contributed by
Dec 4, 2015

The “Star Wars” program aimed to use satellites to blow potential nuclear missiles out of the sky back in the 1980s, but it turned out the technology wasn’t quite at the point to make it viable. The project eventually faded into obscurity — until now.

Defense contractor Raytheon is proposing a new program that involves missile hunters dubbed “kill vehicles” (subtle, right?) that are fired into space and would be used to stop ballistic missiles. When a missile is detected, the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle would fire off and track the missile, destroying it by physical collision. The company claims the tech has a record of 35 successful intercepts in space.

Not content with just one Kill Vehicle, the company is also working on a 2.0 version that will be cheaper and more effective, along with a “Multi-Object Kill Vehicle” conceived to knock off several missiles in space, according to Popular Science.

Though something that could potentially intercept a missile could save a lot of lives, Yousaf Butt, a professor at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, noted that these systems might not actually be much of a deterrent for nuclear war (the threat of retaliation covers that pretty well). If anything, it might make it more likely. Here’s what he wrote in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists:

“Missile defense couldn't replace any lost deterrent value because missile defense doesn't deter nuclear attacks. The purpose of missile defense is to defend--or, more accurately, attempt to defend. An adversary wouldn't be deterred from launching a nuclear attack because of the existence of missile defense; rather, it's the credible threat of overwhelming nuclear retaliation that deters an adversary. If the enemy is irrational and suicidal enough to discount the threat of massive nuclear retaliation, then a missile defense system that can theoretically intercept only some of the attacking missiles most certainly isn't going to be a deterrent.”

So, what’s your take on the potential “Star Wars” revival? A good move, or something we should leave in the 1980s?

(Via Popular Science)

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