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The Ballistic Missile Early Warning Radar System (BMEWS) at Fylingdales, U.K.

The ongoing debate on the proposed missile defense shield in Europe is heating up. Poland and the Czech Republic are among the possible sites and the UK is now showing interest in supporting the missile shield. Fears over the destabilising effects of such a shield was confirmed by a Russian general who said that they would target the system.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, said America would trigger an “inevitable arms race” if it deployed interceptors in Europe to knock ballistic missiles out of the sky. A senior Russian general rumbled that Russian missiles would target any interceptors in eastern Europe. Poland’s prime minister told his people that Russia was trying to “scare” them. The Czech foreign minister (a prince with a splendid moustache) complained of Russian “blackmail”.

“The aim is to break ground on a European site in 2008, and for its interceptors to become operational in 2012. This week the Polish and Czech prime ministers said they were keen on hosting the missile-defence sites. That is a change: talks with the Poles have dragged on for years, thanks to elaborate Polish demands for things such as extra missile defences for their own country. Yet both Mr Blair and his Polish rivals face objections from three sources: from Russia, from many of their own voters and from fellow European leaders.”

Source: “Missile-defence systems: Expect Fireworks”, Economist.

“In 2003, the U.K. agreed to allow the U.S. to upgrade radar stations at the Fylingdales Royal Air Force Base in northern England, one of the steps to allowing the missile shield. At the time, then-Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said the U.K. would keep its options open about Britain taking the U.S. missile shield.”

Source: “Blair Wants Part of U.S. Missile Shield Based in U.K.”, Bloomberg.

Read more about the RAF Fylingdales base from Wikipedia


The revelation last week that China had slammed a medium-range ballistic missile into one of its aging satellites on January 11 and littered space with junk fragments has created its own form of political debris in Washington, D.C.

The test, which the United States military had long anticipated, has touched off debate over how the U.S. government should interpret and respond to China’s actions.

“It’s a very provocative act,” said Gregory Kulacki, a senior analyst and China expert with the Union of Concerned Scientists. However, “policy makers should respond on the basis of accurate information, not military rhetoric and propaganda.”

For advocates of a more aggressive American posture in space, the anti-satellite test — the first since the United States conducted one in 1985 — confirms long-held suspicions about China’s military ambition in space, and justifies the need for increased spending on space-based weapons programs that recall the star-wars aspirations of the Reagan presidency.

“I hope the Chinese test will be a wake up call to people,” said Hank Cooper, a former director of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program and the chairman of High Frontier, a missile defense advocacy group. “I’d like to see us begin a serious anti-satellite program. We’ve been leaning on the administration. This argument to prevent weaponization of space is really silly.”

It’s true — when one nation moves into space weapons, others are forced to follow just to keep up. It’s the Red Queen scenario, where you have to keep moving forward just to stay in the same place. Because preventing the weaponization of space is likely impossible, it looks like we will have to come to terms with it. One beneficial side effect of a space weapons could be the development of better space systems in general, which could eventually be used to create autonomous colonies.


WASHINGTON (CNN) — China last week successfully used a missile to destroy an orbiting satellite, U.S. government officials told CNN on Thursday, in a test that could undermine relations with the West and pose a threat to satellites important to the U.S. military.

According to a spokesman for the National Security Council, the ground-based, medium-range ballistic missile knocked an old Chinese weather satellite from its orbit about 537 miles above Earth. The missile carried a “kill vehicle” and destroyed the satellite by ramming it.

The test took place on January 11. (Watch why the U.S. has protested the missile strike Video)

Aviation Week and Space Technology first reported the test: “Details emerging from space sources indicate that the Chinese Feng Yun 1C (FY-1C) polar orbit weather satellite launched in 1999 was attacked by an asat (anti-satellite) system launched from or near the Xichang Space Center.”

A U.S. official, who would not agree to be identified, said the event was the first successful test of the missile after three failures.

The official said that U.S. “space tracking sensors” confirmed that the satellite is no longer in orbit and that the collision produced “hundreds of pieces of debris,” that also are being tracked.

The United States logged a formal diplomatic protest.

“We are aware of it and we are concerned, and we made it known,” said White House spokesman Tony Snow.

Several U.S. allies, including Canada and Australia, have also registered protests, and the Japanese government said it was worrisome.

China’s leaders are merely acting in the country’s best interests. In any major conflict, the ability to knock satellites out of the sky could be invaluable. That is why the US is making such a fuss about this. The leaders of China are only human — and humans have the tendency to engage in arms races. What can be done to prevent the militarization of space? If you have ideas, give them in the comments.

Update: here’s another article from the BBC.

From United Press International:

DAYTON, Calif., Dec. 20 (UPI) — The U.S. Army awarded a $15 million contract for the development of a new type of lightweight composite armor based on nanotechnology.

The pact awarded to the University of Dayton Research Institute (UDRI) this week will lead to new materials that can be used in vehicles and body armor.

“This is not a ground-level academic study project,” UDRI engineer Brian Rice said. “We are actually working with two Ohio companies to create a product that, if it tests out well, could show up in Iraq next year.”

Armor Holdings and TPI Composites are also involved in the project, which is under the auspices of the Army Research Laboratory. Rice said Dayton would be working with the two companies specifically on an armor package for Humvees and armored vehicles.

UDRI is home to one of the leading ballistics labs in the United States.

Rice said the planned armor “will be even stronger than existing armor, but also lighter, to reduce the top weight of the ‘up-armored’ vehicle.”

He also assured that engineers would be looking into reducing the flammability and flexibility issues inherent in many composite materials as an improvement in body armor.

UDRI said in a statement that the research would also likely lead to advances in protective materials for police and firefighters as well as other civilian applications such as vehicles, rail cars and wind-turbine blades.

There’s a huge difference between “nanotech armor” and “nanomanufactured armor”, the sort of technology we’re looking at here at Lifeboat. Nanomanufactured armor will be made of diamond or fullerenes, and lack any structural flaws, making it many times more durable than anything we have today, whether we like to call it “nanotech” or not.

From Popular Science, a project that introduces a powerful kinetic weapon to the U.S. military arsenal:

When the order comes, the sub shoots a 65-ton Trident II ballistic missile into the sky. Within 2 minutes, the missile is traveling at more than 20,000 ft. per second. Up and over the oceans and out of the atmosphere it soars for thousands of miles. At the top of its parabola, hanging in space, the Trident’s four warheads separate and begin their screaming descent down toward the planet. Traveling as fast as 13,000 mph, the warheads are filled with scored tungsten rods with twice the strength of steel. Just above the target, the warheads detonate, showering the area with thousands of rods-each one up to 12 times as destructive as a .50-caliber bullet. Anything within 3000 sq. ft. of this whirling, metallic storm is obliterated.

If Pentagon strategists get their way, there will be no place on the planet to hide from such an assault. The plan is part of a program — in slow development since the 1990s, and now quickly coalescing in military circles — called Prompt Global Strike. It will begin with modified Tridents. But eventually, Prompt Global Strike could encompass new generations of aircraft and armaments five times faster than anything in the current American arsenal. One candidate: the X-51 hypersonic cruise missile, which is designed to hit Mach 5 — roughly 3600 mph. The goal, according to the U.S. Strategic Command’s deputy commander Lt. Gen. C. Robert Kehler, is “to strike virtually anywhere on the face of the Earth within 60 minutes.”

The question is whether such an attack can be deployed without triggering World War III: Those tungsten-armed Tridents look, and fly, exactly like the deadliest weapons in the American nuclear arsenal.

The article goes on to list concerns that were brought up by officials in congress and elsewhere — what is it really good for? If the President is going to authorize an ICBM launch, he’d better have a damn good reason to do so. But the need to use a cruise missile implies inaccessability by air. If the target is inaccessible by air, then is the intelligence leading to its selection really that trustworthy? Because this weapon looks like a nuclear missile, it probably has the potential to cause more problems than it solves.