Feb. 5, 2003. 01:00 AM
Anti-missile system a dud: Documentary
U.S Patriots hit wrong targets in '91 Gulf War Performance `substantially
As the U.S. prepares for war with Iraq, Americans could be in for a rude awakening unless they realize the Patriot anti-missile system was nearly a complete failure 12 years ago in the Persian Gulf War, according to a CBC documentary airing tonight.
To this day, most people believe the Patriot worked. It simply isn't true, but that's what they believe," Joe Cirincione, the chief investigator who led a U.S. congressional committee that examined the Patriot's performance during the war, tells the fifth estate.
"The danger with believing that the Patriot worked, when it didn't, is that you believe missile defences can solve the problem for you, that you really don't have to worry so much about the missiles proliferating, because you can just proliferate these counter-systems. It generates a false and dangerous illusion of security."
The show looks at the Patriot's rate of success against the Scuds targeting Israel during the Gulf War. Included are interviews with several Israelis in key roles at the time, including Moshe Arens, then Israeli defence minister, and Uzi Rubin, who until a month ago was head of Israel's missile defence program.
"Patriots were hitting targets, but the wrong targets," Rubin tells fifth estate. Iraq's Scuds were poorly made and wobbly in flight, making them hard to hit.
A spokesman for Raytheon, which makes the Patriot, said it is not interested in debating "old news." In an e-mail brief to The Star, it says it has invested $2 billion (U.S.) in the Patriot since 1991, giving it a more accurate radar system and other upgrades, making its performance "substantially improved since Desert Storm."
Preliminary test results, cited by fifth estate, suggested nine out of 10 slow-moving targets were hit by the most recent Patriot "but, when the testing got more demanding, it was a different story.
"Trying to intercept drones and a variety of missiles, the Patriot could destroy only two targets in five, just 40 per cent," CBC's Bob McKeown reported.
Also interviewed is Ted Postol, an outspoken arms control expert at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He says there is no evidence a single Scud was destroyed by a Patriot during the Gulf War, as claimed by the U.S. government and army. "If people think they're defended when they're not, they can do things that get them killed or injured."
Iraq is said to have hidden 30 to 40 Scuds. "If those Scuds carry biological or chemical warheads, the Patriot's role, if there's another war, will be crucial," McKeown reports.
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