This week, the US tested its new Standard Missile 3 Block IIA ballistic missile interceptor. As was the case with an identical test months ago, the supposedly cutting edge missile defence interceptor failed. While the failed test of the system from June of 2017 was blamed on “human error”, there have been no forthcoming explanations for why this week’s test has failed. This comes amid reports that the seemingly state of the art US made Patriotic Defence System has frequently failed to intercept decades old SCUD missiles fired at Saudi Arabia from Houthi controlled areas in northern Yemen.
US based arms expert Michael Ellemen has said,
“If you launch one interceptor in the testing there is about a 50 percent chance it will hit the target. But that’s a statistical thing, and it assumes that the reasons they failed [to hit the target] is all the same. With statistics you can get them to say anything. I’m not entirely confident in the system”.
This contradicts Donald Trump’s claims that American missile defence systems have a 97% accuracy rate. When it comes to modern weapons systems, products made in the USA are vastly more expensive than the modern systems produced in Russia and China. Nevertheless, a large part of Trump’s particular aggression towards North Korea is centred on selling these weapons to ‘frightened’ countries in the region, particularly Japan, which is uniquely wealthy and able to afford whatever the US sells it. Likewise, Saudi Arabia’s wealth makes it an ideal country to buy the expensive Patriot System, but nevertheless, America’s closest ally in the Arab world has recently been in discussions with Russian officials to purchase the S-400 missile defence system.
For Riyadh, part of the rationale in looking to buy Russian made defensive weapons, is necessitated by the ongoing programme to slowly but surely diversify Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical portfolio in preparation for the inevitable arrival of the Petroyuan and also as a means of attracting further Eurasian investment in the ambitions Project 2030 initiative, wherein Riyadh plans to build a new super-city on the Gulf of Aqaba.
But there is an even more obvious reason why a wealthy US ally would be interested in the Russian S-400. The US weapons, in spite of their price tag may simply not be all they’re cracked up to be, especially if their success rate is touch and go against extremely outdated missiles being fired from a poorly armed Houthi militia. By contrast, Russia’s missile defence systems in Syria, continue to show a success rate against Takfiri fired missiles and weaponised drones which attempt to attack Russian bases in the country.
Given that there is a touch of paranoia in America’s strategic thinking and inversely, an element of strategy to America’s paranoid exaggerations, could it be that the US is hoping to actually provoke North Korea before the DPRK’s weapons get even better and likewise, before America’s own weapons are proved to be worse than received wisdom dictates that they are? There may well be such a maddening element to the brinkmanship currently being pursued by Washington vis-a-vis Pyongyang.
With the DPRK making rapid progress on the development of its weapons, perhaps the US feels it is in a race against time, knowing full well that when North Korean officials say they can hit any target on the US mainland with a nuclear missile, that they are in fact telling the truth.
The US remains one of the top three weapons producing nations in the world, but when it comes to reliability, durability and now, even accuracy, the emperor is increasingly wearing fewer and fewer clothes.