The US Gets a Satellite Shield

The US shootdown of satellite USA 193 is a tremendous technical achievement, with profound and very positive strategic consequences.

A U.S. Navy cruiser blasted a disabled spy satellite with a pinpoint missile strike that achieved the main mission of exploding a tank of toxic fuel 130 miles above the Pacific Ocean, defense officials said. Destroying the satellite’s onboard tank of about 1,000 pounds of hydrazine fuel was the primary goal, and a senior defense official close to the mission said Thursday that it appears the tank was destroyed, and the strike with a specially designed missile was a complete success.

I think the only changes to the SM-3 missile were software – the kinetic kill vehicle is too complex for quick hacks. It looks like this:

And does this (my ellipsis and link):

…the kinetic warheadhttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Projectile#Kinetic_projectiles (KW) begins to search for the target using pointing data from the launching ship. The ATK (supplied) solid divert and attitude control system (SDACS) allows the kinetic warhead to maneuver in the final phase of the engagement. The KW’s sensors identify the target and attempt to identify the most lethal part of the target and aim the KW at that point.

The SDACS is a pulsable solid fuel rocket – you can switch it on and off. There are many other technical marvels to this weapon – it’s carried in and hot-launched from 24-cell vertical silos, its three stage guidance system uses GPS, the passive electronically scanned radar in its Aegis battle management system tracks hundreds of targets simultaneously hundreds of miles out.

And all this works on a ship, in all weathers, anywhere in the world.

So now the dictators running Russia, China, North Korea, and Iran know they’ll lose most missiles they fire at US targets, and that the US can remove their low-orbit GPS and observation satellites without fuss with just a few missile cruisers.

And precisely because they’re dictatorships, none of these nations has the intellectual, technical, or economic muscle to come close to the US in this area.

The best they can do is shoot anonymously and preemptively, use volleys in the hope of saturating defenses, fire multiple decoys, and maybe detonate EMP weapons in low orbit in the hope of taking out US satellites.

But each of these tactics can be countered – the US will see rockets fired at its satellites well before they arrive, and know their launch points exactly. Volleys are expensive and easy to detect, so the aggressor can be immediately counterattacked. The US BMD and ASAT assets are smart enough to filter out decoys. And EMP weapons need to detonate in the atmosphere so won’t reach the high orbit US satellites.

All of which makes the free world a safer place.

Provided, that is, Americans don’t elect the America-hating Obama.

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