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Friday, December 2, 2022

The Physics Body Admits There Were Errors in the Analysis of Missile Defense

On Monday, the biggest group of physicists in the world revealed that a paper they had published seven months before had inaccuracies that played down the efficiency of an innovative strategy for intercepting missiles.

In February, the study of 54 pages was made public by the American Physical Society. It determined that the employment of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) by the United States to intercept and destroy North Korean missiles would be met with “extremely significant hurdles” after conducting an analysis of the overall viability of preventing missile attacks. As part of the society’s long history of providing information on cutting-edge weaponry to decision makers in the military policy arena, the organisation sent the study to members of Congress and officials in the administration of President Joe Biden.

But the scientists who came up with the idea of using drones believe the failure was due to flaws in the organization’s technical study of the notion. These faults were recognised by the society on its website on Monday, but the institution has not yet provided any more information or explanation.

Both he and the other person who supports the use of drones in military operations have expressed a desire to provide the government authorities in Washington, DC with an unbiased analysis of the proposal before they decide how to enhance the country’s defences against enemy missiles.

The report for February was authored by a collective of 13 engineers and physicists. The University of Illinois’ Frederick K. Lamb served as the organization’s chairman. James D. Wells, who is affiliated with the University of Michigan, and Laura Grego, who is affiliated with both the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Union of Concerned Scientists, served as the co-chairs. The private organisation, which has its headquarters near Cambridge, Massachusetts, has often argued that antimissile defence is both pointless and unsettling.

The proposal called for drones from the United States to conduct surveillance over the Sea of Japan. In the event that North Korea launched a nuclear strike, the drones would fire rocket interceptors that would follow the flaming exhaust of the ascending missiles and destroy them.

In 2004, the Bush administration started the process of installing an interceptor missile system in Alaska and California. This system has a tracking time of around a half an hour for long-range warheads that are shot from North Korea. However, leading experts agree that it has a number of significant drawbacks.

The year 2020 marked the beginning of the physical society’s very own antimissile studies. It analysed the practicability, over the next 15 years, of using both the traditional and contemporary methods, such as those developed by Drs. Garwin and Postol. In February, it released its report to the public.

The primary flaw that Dr. Garwin and Dr. Postol found in the study produced by the society is centred on the speed of their suggested interceptor rockets and, as a result, the distance that the rockets would have to travel. According to the diagram that is included in the report, in order for the carrier drones to be effective in destroying missiles that are launched in the direction of Boston, New York, or Washington, they must remain stationary over North Korea’s mainland or within a thin strip of the country’s coastal waters. In situations like this, it would be possible to shoot down the drones.

However, the two researchers discovered that the organisation doing the research had utilised an incorrect interceptor speed, which was less than 2.5 miles per second rather than the greater rate of more than 3.1 miles per second. Although the miscalculation may not have seemed significant, the military repercussions were not. The proper amount was determined to be pushing the drones more than 100 miles farther out to sea for an interceptor flight that lasted 195 seconds, which was the baseline.

The emails that were exchanged between Dr. Garwin and Dr. Postol and the authors of the study may be seen in The Times and were sent shortly after the report was published in February. In these, the writers acknowledge having made errors and provide potential solutions.

Frances Hellman, a physicist at the University of California, Berkeley, who is the president of the physical society, stated that in late May and early June, it had privately notified key recipients about problems with the report. These key recipients included staff members at the National Security Council and the Department of Defense, in addition to House and Senate armed services subcommittees.

Dr. Lamb, who served as the chairman of the report committee, said that one of the challenges that arose during the revision was the fact that the members of the research group are busy individuals who “dedicated time” to the report. He replied that at this point we were in the overtime period. Dr. Lamb continued by saying that the work needed a great deal of caution. “The very worst thing that could happen,” he said, “is to attempt to fix something and end up making another mistake.”

A Boyle
I cover Science related topics for The National Era
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