Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Unfortunately, much can be learned from failure, with the right people doing the analysis

Russia's new submarine-based strategic missiles have failed in the booster phase in about half the tests, according to sources.

Apparently, what happens is that the missiles, which have an effective range of about 5,000 miles, go catastrophically off course soon after launch. It sounds, to me, like a computer guidance system glitch, something that it will only take enough hours of looking at code to fix.

In other words, something easy, if tedious, to correct. I don't like the idea that they could sneak a submarine that carries missiles with up to ten warheads each sneaking up to our coast. With a range like this, if they can fix the guidance glitch, they could land a warhead pretty much anywhere in our country. I'd much prefer that the tests showed that the estimated range was overly optimistic--say, only about a quarter to a third of the range.

Russia has learned a lot about functioning economies, and about quality weapons systems, in the years since they lost the first cold war, whereas we seem to have forgotten most of what we learned.

It goes to show that more can be learned from failure--if the loser survives it--than from success.

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