GMD interceptor in Alaska.(Photo : US Army)
The U.S. Army's troubled Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) missile system assailed by U.S. federal auditors in 2014 as a system that doesn't work and probably never will has again been attacked as next to useless in protecting the continental United States against ballistic missile attacks from North Korea, Russia and China.
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GMD is the United States' anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system that intercepts attacking warheads in space during the midcourse phase of ballistic trajectory flight. GMD's missile is a ground-based interceptor with an Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle (EKV) that destroys an incoming warhead by ramming it, a tactic called "hit-to-kill."
GMD is administered by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) but operational control and execution is ceded to the U.S. Army. There are 26 interceptor GMD ABMs currently deployed at military bases in Alaska and California.
The federal government has asked funding to produce 14 more interceptors. MDA has described the GMD as the U.S.' only ground-based defense against limited ICBM attacks.
A new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), a nonprofit science advocacy organization based in Massachusetts, claims GMD has failed to destroy its targets two-thirds of the time in tests conducted since 2004.
"After nearly 15 years of effort to build the GMD homeland missile defense system, it still has no demonstrated real-world capability to defend the United States," said Laura Grego, a UCS physicist who co-authored the report.
The report noted that deficiencies in the GMD program are due mainly to a Bush administration decision to exempt GMD from normal oversight and accountability so as to rush the system into service by 2004, said Grego.
"Instead of getting something out to the field that worked well or worked adequately, in fact this has been a disaster. It's done the opposite," she said.
The scathing UCS report is almost similar in tone and findings to a 2014 report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) stating that GMD might not be operational any time soon because "its development was flawed."
GAO also pointed out the GMD missile is "capable of intercepting a simple threat in a limited way."
The ineffectiveness of GMD is telling. As of June 2014, 9 of the 17 hit-to-kill intercept tests succeeded, giving the system a success rate of just 53%. Worse, the flight intercept tests from 2010 to 2013 were all failures.