Headline on CNN: Missile misses target, officials call it a success. Implication seems to be that the officials (military-techno-industrial complex!) are, um, Mooring the truth a little, too say the least.
After all, the lead intones:
The Missile Defense Agency conducted a missile defense test over Hawaii Wednesday, and while the warhead did not strike the target, officials said they still considered the exercise a success.
“I wouldn’t call it a failed test, because the intercept was not the primary objective,” said Chris Taylor, a spokesman for the MDA. “It’s still considered a success in that we gained great engineering data. We just don’t know why it didn’t hit.”
Well, the missile test also did not:
- Fix the economy.
- Prevent the Oracle hostile takeover of PeopleSoft.
- Repair France’s image problem with American tourist money.
- Vote for my slogan at IMAO.
However, none of these was the objective of the test, and hence none represents criteria for success. The engineers, who are working on the project, probably have a reasonable idea of where they are in the development cycle. As a matter of fact, the officials indicate (but are not quoted in their own words) as saying:
Three previous flight tests were successful, Taylor said, but they used an earlier version of a system to control the warhead’s aim and maneuvering. Information from the earlier tests was used for a new design of the system, which was used in Wednesday’s test, the Defense Department said. [Emphasis mine]
So the MDA or its engineers redesigned a part of the system and are testing it out for the first time? Note how CNN uses a “but” conjunction in the quote above. I wonder if the second clause, or whatever source from which it came, opposed the first clause. I doubt it. I suspect criteria for the test might have included things like the operations of the independent systems within the interceptor.
No matter the criteria in this individual test, I am glad to see the flaws shaken out before the system’s deployed. If the MDA hadn’t caught this flaw now, it would have made living in Los Angeles or Seattle much more dangerous a couple years from now. Permanent shadows don’t log defects.
Maybe the media should understand the goals and process of testing before they start pontificating.