Thursday, December 17, 2015 by Greg White
Raytheon is one of America’s top defense giants, which specializes in air and missile defense, sea-based radars, sonars, torpedoes and more. In the 1980s, the space-based research company developed an anti-missile defense dubbed Star Wars. In light of the recently released Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie, Raytheon has proposed new ways to better it’s anti-missile defense.
In August 1945, the U.S. dropped two atomic bombs, and since then, no other country has dared to use nuclear weapons. The nuclear age triggered an onslaught of nuclear weapons that could bring humanity to extinction. In an effort to thwart the use of nuclear weapons, The Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) – otherwise known as Star Wars – was initiated by President Ronald Reagan. The purpose of the program was to develop a sophisticated anti-ballistic missile system that would stop missile attacks from other countries, specifically the Soviet Union.(1,2)
The SDI was eventually abandoned; scrapped as another closed chapter in American history books. Motivated by ambitious intentions, the Star Wars program was a hopeful candidate for a revolutionary defense system. Nevertheless, Raytheon wants to resurrect the Star Wars program from the abyss by offering some suggestions about how it could be improved.
Some improvement recommendations are banal but nonetheless important, such as the lack of Imperial cyber security. As Raytheon notes:
First, the Empire. Think back to “Episode IV: A New Hope,” where R2-D2 simply plugs in to the Death Star’s network and disables the trash compactor that is about to crush Luke, Leia, Han Solo and Chewbacca.
That sort of activity is what IT security professionals call an anomaly – a rare occurrence that warrants further investigation. It’s a good thing the Death Star lacked an insider-threat detection system, which would have helped the Empire corner the rebels right then and there.
The rebels, meanwhile, could have used stronger cyber when they tried to deactivate the tractor beam. R2 saw it on the Death Star network but could not deactivate it. If he had, Gen. Kenobi never would have had to embark on the heroic trek that led to his fatal confrontation with Darth Vader.
Side note: Thank goodness Jabba the Hutt didn’t know about multi-factor authentication. If he did, there’s no way a disguised Leia ever could have operated the carbonite cell and freed Han.(2)
Raytheon’s more ambitious projects include the use of several “kill vehicles,” which are rocket launched missile seekers. They are launched into space as kamikaze pilots, which decimate ballistic missiles by colliding into them. This is achieved foremost by Raytheon’s Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle. It works in collaboration with the the Standard Missile-3. Together, Raytheon claims the fused forces have a “combined record of 35 successful intercepts in space.”(3)
Furthermore, Raytheon is currently working on a “Redesigned Kill Vehicle,” which is a cheaper and more efficient killing machine than its predecessor. The industrial corporation was awarded a contract in August, which is fueling Raytheon to develop a new weapon known as “Multi-Object Kill Vehicle.” The weapon is tuned to destroy several missiles spread throughout space.(3)
It’s an ambitious and noble goal to foster technologies that counteract the impending apocalypse. Nevertheless, Raytheon has a history with exorbitant shortcomings. These failures are a product of the inherent challenges of the projects at hand and meeting stringent demands set by Congress, such as “it is important to redesign the Exo-atmospheric Kill Vehicle using a rigorous acquisition approach, including realistic testing.”
Furthermore, there is an intrinsic threat within the logic of the system. According to Yousaf Butt, a professor and scientist-in-residence at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies at the Monterey Institute for International Studies:
Missile defense couldn’t replace any lost deterrent value because missile defense doesn’t deter nuclear attacks. The purpose of missile defense is to defend–or, more accurately, attempt to defend. An adversary wouldn’t be deterred from launching a nuclear attack because of the existence of missile defense; rather, it’s the credible threat of overwhelming nuclear retaliation that deters an adversary.
If the enemy is irrational and suicidal enough to discount the threat of massive nuclear retaliation, then a missile defense system that can theoretically intercept only some of the attacking missiles most certainly isn’t going to be a deterrent.(3)
In other words, there is a real possibility that the Star Wars program could destroy the planet rather than preserve it, making the anti-missile defense program seem more like a Death Star than a lifesaver.