Why the Patriot Missile Might Fail America’s Military

    Joseph Cirincione


    U.S. soldiers stand near the launcher of a Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) system during a demonstration at a South Korean airforce base in Suwon, about 46 km (28.7 miles) south of Seoul September 18, 2003. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

    America risks entering into a war with the mistaken belief that it has a shield against the enemy’s missiles when all it has is a sieve.

    It turns out that history does repeat itself. The news that the Patriot anti-missile system failed to shoot down a Scud in Saudi Arabia is in November 2017 is exactly what happened when the Patriot system failed spectacularly in Saudi Arabia in the Gulf War of 1991.

    Then, as now, the public and officials were misled by quick, false claims of success. Then, as now, journalists reported the claims as fact without checking. Then, as now, the claims of success were used to justify huge increases in missile defense budgets. Then, as now, the administration trumpeted the false claims as proof that missile defense works.

    It does not. Even shooting down simple, short-range missiles like Scuds is extraordinarily complex. It is exponentially more difficult still to shoot down a long-range missile like the ones North Korea is testing. Compared to these sophisticated, ocean-spanning missiles, modified Scuds, like the one that forces in Yemen shot at the Riyadh airport, are large, slow and usually launched from fixed sites. Still, Saudi Arabia could not hit one after firing five interceptors at it, according to new reporting from The New York Times and analysts at the Middlebury Institute in Monterey.

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