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Will US BMD inteceptors target YOUR flight? PDF Print E-mail
Justice News
Thursday, 08 July 2004 12:33
Pugwash Scientists ask: Are civilian aircaraft in danger from US BMD Interceptors? Canadian Pugwash Group
Chair: Dr. Adele Buckley, Toronto; Deputy Chair: Prof. Walter Dorn, Toronto;
Secretary: Prof. Sergei Plekhanov, Toronto;  Treasurer: Dr. Erika Simpson,
Victoria;
Directors: Prof. (emeritus) Peter Meincke, Ottawa; Prof. Peter Walker,
Wolfville, NS;  Prof. (emeritus) Derek Paul, Toronto
____________________________________________________________________________
__

April 26, 2004

Open Letter to Canadian Ministers

The Hon. Anne McLellan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety
and Emergency Preparedness
The Honourable Bill Graham, Minister of Foreign Affairs
The Honourable David Pratt, Minister of National Defence
The Honourable Tony Valeri, Minister of Transport

Dear Madam and Sirs:

We seek your response to the following question:

Are aircraft at risk of being struck by U.S. interceptors?

Our concern arises due to the forthcoming deployment of the ballistic
missile defence system by the United States.

Recent reports issued by the US General Accounting Office indicate that
testing is far from complete for this system (see Appendix 1) and we fear
that it may never be safe. The GAO Report of August 2003 states that o­nly
two of ten critical components required for Ground Missile Defence (BMD) are
ready and that "the radar technologies are the least mature."  Even the most
sophisticated radar systems are prone to error and this system will be o­n
hair-trigger alert 24/7 to counter the perceived (some say fictional) threat
of a missile attack.

We are concerned about the civilian aircraft security that will shortly
become dependent o­n the safety of these untested radars and dangerous
kinetic-kill interceptors.  This concern was first raised in the
Government-Civil Society Consultation at the Department of Foreign Affairs
in February 2004.  Dr. Walter Dorn asserted that, given the extremely low
probability of a missile attack o­n North America  and the very real dangers
inherent in a sophisticated interceptor system covering such an enormous
area, the system was more likely to shoot down a civilian aircraft than an
enemy missile.   He cited the tragic history of missiles striking aircraft
and naval vessels by accident and miscalculation, causing unintended and
unwarranted civilian deaths (see Appendix 2 for reports).

________________________________________________________________________
Canadian Pugwash Group is the Canadian branch of the International Pugwash
Movement which shared the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize with its President, Sir
Joseph Rotblat

Past Chairpersons:
Prof. John Polanyi C.C.; Dr. William Epstein; M.Gen.(ret) Leonard Johnson;
Senator Douglas Roche, O.C.



We highlight here some of the deadly failures of sophisticated missile
defence systems in the past:

A)  July 3, 1988 - The USS Vincennes misidentified a civilian Airbus A300
owned by Iran Air cruising over the Strait of Hormuz, despite the most
advanced technology for IFF available at the time.  Its AEGIS radar
operators reported that the incoming plane was descending with an increasing
speed.  This erroneous reading, and the fact that the aircraft didn't
respond to radioed challenges, led to the decision to launch two missiles at
the aircraft. All two hundred and ninety passengers were killed.

B)  March 17, 1987 - The USS Stark, with its sophisticated anti-missile
system, was hit by a missile erroneously fired by an Iraqi Mirage F-1
fighter jet.  The two Exocet AM 39 air-to-surface missiles were undetected
by the Stark's monitoring equipment and, after striking the Stark, caused a
large hole in the hull and a major fire, leaving 37 crew dead, 21 injured
and $142 million in repair costs.  "From Baghdad", which was US friendly at
the time, "there  came an official apology and declaration that the
offending pilot had mistaken the USS Stark for an Iranian oil tanker."  The
pilot was not the o­nly o­ne to fail.  The radar system did not even detect
the o­ncoming missile, showing the tragic fallibility of the system.

C)  October 4, 2001 - Sibir Airlines Flight 1813 was flying over the Black
Sea when an explosion occurred near the aircraft, following which the
aircraft entered an uncontrolled descent and crashed into the Black Sea.  It
appeared that a Ukrainian S-200 missile, fired during an exercise, missed an
intended drone target and homed in o­n the Tupolev aircraft. The missile
exploded some 15 meters above the plane. Seventy-eight passengers died.

D)  March 23, 2003 - An RAF Tornado was shot down by a US Patriot missile
battery when the Tornado's electronic signature was not recognized by the
Patriot system.  Questions have arisen about the reliability of the
Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) technology in the missile system that
should have prevented coalition aircraft from being shot down by "friendly"
air defence systems.

E)  March 24, 2003 - a U.S. F-16 fighter jet fired at and destroyed a
Patriot battery's radar disk after the pilot said the Patriot had 'locked
on' to the plane.  This was, again, the fault of the Patriot system because
a radar locking could easily be perceived as a threatening action during a
period of heightened tension.

F)   April 2, 2003  - An American F/A-18 Hornet was struck, killing the
pilot, while flying near Karbala, Iraq, leaving the Pentagon suspicious that
a Patriot battery was responsible.  U.S. Central Command spokesman Brig.
Gen. Vincent Brooks said Iraqi surface-to-surface and surface-to-air
missiles had been fired in the area where the fighter aircraft was flying.
That suggests a Patriot might have been firing at an Iraqi missile and hit
the Hornet instead, or that an Iraqi missile might have hit the Hornet.

We realize that interceptors travel at much greater altitudes and speeds
during most of their trajectories than do aircraft.  But they will still
pass through airspace, whether during testing, deployment or unintentional
launch.  The radar-Infrared guidance systems (X-band, SIBIRS-high,
SIBIRS-low) have made and, no doubt, will continue to make fundamental
targeting errors.  Given the alarming examples of disastrous errors that
occurred with missile and radar technologies (only some of which are
described above), we raise these questions:


o       Can we be absolutely sure that a US interceptor will have a trajectory to
avoid any known or unknown civilian aircraft flights?

o       Who will assume the liability for costs arising from any such accidents?

o       We are also concerned about the debris that may be caused during missile
testing. Is there a danger that this debris might cause damage o­n the
ground, as the Patriot missiles did in Gulf War I?

o       What measures can be taken to prevent the accidental targeting of a
civilian aircraft?

o       Will the Government of Canada raise concerns about the deployment of these
immature technologies with the U.S. Government?

We consider these issues vital not o­nly for Canadian security but also for
that of the airline industry and the world as a whole.  Your early reply to
these questions would be sincerely appreciated.

Yours truly,

Dr. Adele Buckley                               Dr. Walter Dorn
Chair, Canadian Pugwash Group           Deputy Chair, Canadian Pugwash  Group
6 Tepee Court; Toronto, o­n  M2J 3A9     215 Yonge Blvd., Toronto, o­n  M5M 3H9
416-491-9307; 416-491-0641(fax)         416-482-6800x6538; 416-482-6802 (fax)
Email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it                 Email:  This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

CC:
Deputy Director, Aviation Security and Facilitation Branch
International Civil Aviation Organization
999 University Street
Montreal, Quebec H3C 5H7

President and Chief Executive Officer
NAV CANADA
P.O. Box 3411 Station 'D'
Ottawa, o­n K1P 5L6
FAX (613) 563-3426

Transportation Safety Board of Canada
Head Office, 200 Promenade du Portage
Place du Centre, 4th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec K1A 1K8
Fax: (819) 997-2239

Air Transport Association of Canada
255 Albert Street, Suite 1100
Ottawa, o­n K1P 6A9
Facsimile: (613) 230-8648

President, Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA)
P.O. Box 1169, Herndon, VA 20172
Fax  703-464-2110

Canadian Air Traffic Control
162 Cleopatra Drive, Nepean, o­n
K2G 5X2
Fax:  (613) 225-8448

Canadian Owners and Pilots Association (COPA)
207 - 75 Albert Street
Ottawa, o­n, K1P 5E7
FAX (613) 236-8646


APPENDIX 1

EXCERPT FROM "What GAO Found" in GAO [General Accounting Organization]
Highlights, "Additional Knowledge Needed in Developing System for
Intercepting Long-Range Missiles", August 2003 available at Federation of
American Scientists Website

"GMD [Ground-based Midcourse Defense] is a sophisticated weapon system being
developed to protect the United States against limited attacks by long-range
ballistic missiles. It consists of a collection of radars and a weapon
component - a three-stage booster and exoatmospheric kill vehicle -
integrated by centralized control system that formulates battle plans and
directs the operation of BMD [Ballistic Missile Defense] components.
Successful performance of these components is dependent o­n 10 critical
technologies.

" MDA [Missile Defense Agency] expects to demonstrate the maturity of most
of these technologies before fielding the BMD elements, which is scheduled
to begin in September 2004.  However, the agency has accepted higher cost
and schedule risks by beginning integrating of the element's components
before these technologies have matured.  So far, MDA has matured two
critical GMD technologies. If development and testing progress as planned,
MDA expects to demonstrate the maturity of five other technologies by the
second quarter of fiscal year 2004.

" The radar technologies are the least mature.  MDA intends to demonstrate
the maturity of an upgraded early warning radar in California in the first
quarter of fiscal year 2005 and a sea-based radar in the Pacific ocean in
the fourth quarter of that year.  Although MDA does not plan to demonstrate
the maturity of the technology of the early warning radar in Alaska, which
will serve as the primary fire control radar, through its own integrated
flight tests, it may be able to do so through the anticipated launch of
foreign missiles."




APPENDIX 2

Further information o­n incidents described in the letter:

A)  March 17, 1987
USS Stark warns an incoming Mirage F-1 fighter jetty identify itself.  The
AWACS plane in the area noted the Mirage had banked suddenly and headed home
but they failed to note it had fired two Exocet AM 39 air-to-surface
missiles.  These missiles were not detected by the Stark's sophisticated
monitoring equipment and the missiles struck the Stark, causing a large hole
in the hull and a major fire leaving 37 crew dead, 21 injured and $142
million in repair costs.  o­ne source reports that "From Baghdad came an
official apology and declaration that the offending pilot had mistaken the
USS Stark for an Iranian oil tanker.  As the US was siding with Iraq during
the course of the Iran-Iraq war, the US did little to pursue a further
explanation.
Source:  navysite.de/ffg/FFG31.HTM

B)  USS Vincennes and Iran Air Flight 451
Date:   03 JUL 1988
Time:   10.24 LT
Type:   Airbus A.300B2-203
Operator:       Iran Air
Registration:   EP-IBU
Msn / C/n:      186
Year built:     1982
Total airframe hrs:     11497 hours
Engines:        2 General Electric CF6-50C2
Crew:   16 fatalities / 16 o­n board
Passengers:     274 fatalities / 274 o­n board
Total:  290 fatalities / 290 o­n board
Airplane damage:        Written off
Location:       Strait of Hormuz - 26'37" N 56'E (Sea)
Phase:  Cruise
Nature: International Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport:      Bandar Abbas Airport (BND)
Destination airport:    Dubai Airport (DXB)
Flightnumber:   655
Remarks:

Flight IR451 arrived at Bandar Abbas from Tehran at 05.10h UTC. At 06.47h
the aircraft took off again as flight IR655 bound for Dubai. Two minutes
later, the crew reported leaving 3500ft for FL140 o­n Airway A59, estimating
MOBET at 06.53. At 06.54:00 UTC the aircraft passed MOBET out of FL120.
Nothing more was heard from IR655. At 06.54:43 two surface-to-air missiles
struck the aircraft. The tail and o­ne wing broke off as a result of the
explosions, causing the aircraft to crash into the sea out of control. The
missiles were fired by the US Navy cruiser USS Vincennes. The Vincennes was
operating in the area to protect ships in the area, together with the
frigates USS Elmer Montgommery and USS John H. Sides. Due to increasing
tension in the area (May 17, 1987 an Iraqi Mirage attacked the USS Stark)
all aircraft in the area had to monitor 121.5 Mhz (International Air
Defence - IAD radio frequency). At about the time the Airbus took off, the
radar picked up a brief IFF mode 2 response, which led to the mistaken
identification of the Airbus as a hostile F-14 aircraft. The USS Vincennes
issued 7 challenges o­n the Military Air Distress (MAD) frequency 243 MHz,
addressed to 'Iranian aircraft', 'Iranian fighter' or 'Iranian F-14'. These
messages were followed by three challenges o­n the IAD. A number of AEGIS
radar operators misread the displays and reported that the incoming plane
was descending with an increasing speed. This fact, and the fact that the
aircraft didn't respond to the challenges led to the decision to launch two
missiles against the perceived hostile target. It remains uncertain whether
the IR655 flight crew (only able to monitor the IAD, not the MAD
frequencies) would have been able to rapidly identify their flight as the
subject of the challenges made by the USS Vincennes.

C)    Sibir Airlines Flight 1813 (or 1812?)
Date: 04 OCT 2001
Time: 13.44
Type: Tupolev 154M
Operator: Sibir Airlines
Registration:  RA-85693
Msn / C/n:  90A-866
Year built: 1990
Total airframe hrs:  16703 hours
Engines: 3 Soloviev D-30KU-154-II
Crew: 12 fatalities / 12 o­n board
Passengers: 66 fatalities / 66 o­n board
Total: 78 fatalities / 78 o­n board
Airplane damage: Written off
Location: 114mls off Adler (Russia)
Phase: Cruise
Nature: International Scheduled Passenger
Departure airport: Tel Aviv-Ben Gurion International Airport (TLV)
Destination airport: Novosibirsk-Tolmachevo Airport (OVB)
Flightnumber: 1813
Remarks:
Flight 1812 (sic) had departed Tel Aviv for a flight to Novosibirsk and was
en route over the Black Sea at FL360 when an explosion occurred near the
aircraft, following which the aircraft entered an uncontrolled descent. The
aircraft then crashed into the Black Sea at a position of 42.11 deg. North /
37.37 deg East. It appeared that a Ukrainian S-200 missile which was fired
during an exercise missed the drone and apparently homed in o­n the Tupolev.
The missile exploded some 15 meters above the plane.

D)   RAF Tornado shot down by Patriot missile battery - March 23, 2003
Excerpts from report from The Guardian (UK):
 "The Patriot attack raises new questions about the reliability of the
Identification Friend of Foe (IFF) technology, which should prevent
coalition aircraft being shot down by their own air defence systems.

"IFF failures were blamed for the death of nine British soldiers in the 1991
Gulf war when their Warrior armoured vehicles were hit by tankbuster bombs
dropped by US A-10 aircraft in broad daylight....


"Major-General Daniel Leaf of the US air force, said RAF jets used the same
IFF system as their US allies, and there was no reason why they should be at
greater risk from American weapons.  The Tornado's electronic signature
should have been recognised by the Patriot. Patriots were designed for use
against aircraft but have been modified to intercept everything from
incoming ballistic missiles to low-flying cruise missiles, according to
Group Captain Lockwood.  The system is built around computer-guided radar
but it can also be operated by human command."Richard Norton-Taylor and Rory
McCarthy,"Urgent review of friend or foe ID technology", The Guardian, March
24, 2003.

Both the Guardian and Times report that the UK National Audit Office had
reported that MoD was acting too slowly and the system was still not fully
compatible with equipment in NATO countries.

The Times further reports:
"The other possibility is that the IFF system failed at the Patriot end
rather than o­n the plane.  The American-built 7 ft-long Patriot missile
should also have recognised the difference between a plane and a missile
which have different speeds and trajectories.  Patriots were originally
designed for use against enemy aircraft but were modified to act as a
defence against incoming short-range ballistic missiles.  The missile, first
fired in anger in the last Gulf War, is powered by a solid propellant rocket
motor that powers it to three times the speed of sound.  The o­ne-tonne
missile carries a 200 lb high-explosive shrapnel warhead.  Each Patriot has
eight launchers, each containing four missiles and the system is built
around computer-guided radar.  The missile is launched and guided to the
target in three phases. First the guidance system turns the Patriot toward
the target as it flies into its radar beam.  Then the computer guides the
missile toward the target.  Finally the Patriot's internal radar receiver
guides it over the final distance toward the target.
Source:  PA News, "RAF Tornado shot down by US missile", Times o­nline, March
23, 2003.


E)  March 24, 2003 - a U.S. F-16 fighter jet fired at and destroyed a
Patriot battery's radar disk after the pilot said the Patriot had 'locked
on' to the plane.
Source:  IT world.com site March 28, 2003 article by Paul Roberts, IDG News
service, "Software bug may cause Patriot missile errors".

F)     April 2, 2003 - An F/A-18 Hornet is struck killing the pilot while
flying near Karbala leaving the Pentagon suspicious that a Patriot battery
is responsible.
"A Patriot battery is suspected in the strike April 2 o­n a U.S. Navy F/A-18
Hornet near Karbala. The pilot of the fighter jet, which was assigned to the
aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk in the Gulf, was killed, the Pentagon
announced Sunday.

"U.S. Central Command spokesman Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said Iraqi
surface-to-surface and surface-to-air missiles had been fired in the area
where the Hornet was flying. That suggests a Patriot might have been firing
at an Iraqi missile and hit the Hornet instead, or that an Iraqi missile
might have hit the Hornet.
Source:  Patriot missile: Friend or foe to allied troops? By Andrea Stone,
USA TODAY
Last Updated on Thursday, 08 July 2004 12:33
 

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