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Le Patriot est un missile à la fois classique et mythique, — parce qu’il s’agit d’un classique des revers catastrophiques de la technologie et d’un mythe du montage virtualiste pour faire croire à ses qualités imparables de système de technologie avancée. On a vu par ailleurs une récente analyse sur les “performances” du missile dans la guerre qui vient de se terminer, — performances qui pourraient être jugées comme catastrophiques malgré les assurances du contraire qui ont accompagné le développement et le déploiement de la version modernisée, dite PAC-3.
Nous publions ci-dessous trois textes qui éclairent l’évolution de la perception du Patriot, la façon dont ce système d’arme fut présenté, les polémiques qu’il a déclenchées et ainsi de suite. On voit notamment qu’Israël joue un rôle très particulier dans cet historique, dans la mesure où ce pays eut beaucoup affaire au Patriot, et de deux façons. Opérationnellement, les Israéliens ont toujours eu, et à partir d’expériences précises, une piètre idée des capacités du Patriot ; politiquement, ils furent souvent conduits à cacher ce jugement pour satisfaire les Américains, et particulièrement le complexe militaro-industriel dont on sait qu’ils dépendent de façon fondamentale. Le dernier texte présenté à cet égard est particulièrement savoureux, à la lumière de ce que furent, quelques semaines plus tard, les performances du PAC-3 dans le conflit qui vient de se terminer.
Les trois textes sont les suivants :
• Un article d’Aviation Week & Space Technology datant du 12 avril 1992, qui représente la première publication de réputation “sérieuse” à exposer les doutes graves sur les capacités du Patriot. (Par “sérieuse”, nous n’entendons pas nécessairement compétente, mais plutôt comme une source reconnue par l’establishment. On peut ne pas être sérieux et être compétent, et vice-versa. On peut aussi être sérieux et compétent à la fois.)
• Ce récent article de WSWS.org (du 7 février 2003) expose la recension d’un document télévisé portant notamment sur le cas du Patriot. Nombre d’intéressantes précisions sont apportées, on y trouve la position extrêmement critique des Israéliens. On comprend combien la guerre du Golfe-I a été utilisée, au travers de résultats délibérément amplifiés, comme argument massif d’exportation du Patriot. Effectivement, les ventes de Patriot furent considérables après 1990-91, essentiellement auprès de pays arabes.
• Le troisième article, de Defense News, paru également le 7 février, est assez curieux. Il expose l’évolution de la position israélienne, en cours de négociation avec les Américains, dont l’un des effets serait d’abandonner toutes les critiques israéliennes contre le Patriot et de proclamer que le missile, notamment dans sa version PAC-3, marche superbement. C’est un des cas les plus évidents de démarche virtualiste dans le domaine de l’évaluation des performances des systèmes d’armes que nous connaissions. Littéralement, les Israéliens disent, à la demande des Américains et parce qu’ils ne peuvent pas leur refuser de tels services en ce moment : oui, nous allons dire désormais que le Patriot marche bien, alors que nous avions dit le contraire jusqu’ici. Les Israéliens semblent même prêts à en acheter (c’est-à-dire qu’ils seraient obligés par les Américains à utiliser une partie de l’aide US dans cet achat). La réalité est considérée de façon délibérée, sans aucune dissimulation, comme un élément complètement accessoire (ce pourquoi nous parlons de virtualisme). Les performances du PAC-3 en mars-avril 2003 ont été une douche froide à cet égard et des indications récentes disent que les israéliens achèteront bien des Patriot, peut-être moins que prévu, et les entreposeront sans intention de les mettre en service actif.
By David F. Bond, Aviation Week & Space Technology, 12 April 1992
The U. S. Army has moderated its assessment of Patriot performance against Scud ballistic missiles during the war against Iraq, but outside experts and partisans kept debate on the subject as lively as ever last week.
Maj. Gen. Jay M. Garner, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations and plans, force development, said the Army new believes more than 40% of Patriot air defense missile engagements in Israel and more than 70% of the engagements in Saudi Arabia destroyed or disabled the target warhead or diverted its impact outside the defended area.
As recently as February, in estimates developed for an evaluation of future Patriot improvements, the Army claimed more than 50% success in Israel and more than 80% success in Saudi Arabia. The new estimates, submitted Apr. 7 at a House Government Operations subcommittee hearing, followed a search for new data in Israel and Saudi Arabia and an assessment of how confident the Army could be in the data available to it.
The Army assigned high confidence te, some data collected by Patriot operators-track amplification printouts made during some engagements, for example, and a digital data recording system added at the battalion level in Riyadh. Television coverage of engagements and verbal reports were rated low in confidence.
Representatives of the Congressional Research Service and the General Accounting Office, who reviewed the Army's earlier estimates ai the request of the subcommittee, said the service has improved its analyses.
But both experts-Steven A. Hildreth of CRS and Richard Davis of GAO-said it still is net clear how much confidence can be placed in the new Army assessments. Hildreth said he still thinks available data show only one definite Scud kill in engagements over Israel. He added, however, that the Army ''is moving in the right direction.''
Chairman John Conyers, Jr. (D.Mich.), continued to urge declassification of Army data and an independent evaluation of its analyses. He said the subcommittee staff found that Army analysts did net account for Scud warheads that were duds or missed their targets, and that classified infrared film shot by the Israeli military shows large miss distances in some engagements the Army scores as warhead kills.
''Ironically, the more information we have, the less successful the Patriot seems,'' Conyers said. Garner said Patriot remains ''a terrific success story'' despite reduced estimates of success.
Reuven Pedatzur, an Israeli journalist and lecturer at Tel Aviv University, said Patriot has ''a promising future'' as a ballistic missile intercepter, but said no more than one or two Patriots hit Scud warheads over Israel. In a letter submitted by Garner, Brig. Gen. Itzchak Gat, the Israel Defense Forces chief of engineering and logistics, said Patriot's contribution was ''meaningful.''
Professer Theodore A. Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the leading challenger of the Army's Patriot assessments, said the success rate could net be higher than 15%-25% and might be as low as zero. He said the Army may never have data good enough to support an overall assessment of the system's performance during the war.
Postol has analyzed unclassified data on ground damage and videotapes of Patriot engagements broadcast on television. He showed the subcommittee videotapes of what he said were engagements in which interceptors missed their targets by hundreds of meters.
Peter D. Zimmerman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies agreed that a number of Patriot missiles missed their targets, flew into the ground or blew up. However, he said Postol's video analyses are ''intrinsically flawed'' because they are based on broadcast videotape, which records 30 frames per second, instead of the 250 frames used in precision systems that record flight tests.
Commercial systems cannot follow high-speed events, Zimmerman said. Playing high and low-speed tapes of a single intercept test, Zimmerman showed that a direct hit on a warhead could be seen clearly at 250 frames per second but appeared to be a miss when taped at 30 frames per second.
Postol agreed that hits could appear to be misses at broadcast-tape speeds. He added, however, that this phenomenon would net account for the large miss distances apparent in the tapes.
The broadcast tapes provide ''very important information,'' Postol said. ''There is very little evidence to believe that Patriot had anything but a very low intercept rate.'' Zimmerman and Charles A. Zraket of Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government argued, however, that even a 10% success rate would be impressive. A rate of 40%-50% would be ''terrifie,'' Zraket said.
Hildreth of CRS dismissed Postol's challenge. ''If I have problems with the Army's [data], I have mountains of problems with his,'' he said. ''I think his case is worthless.''
By Henry Michaels, WSWS.org, 7 February 2003
On Wednesday [5 February] evening, the same day that US Secretary of State Colin Powell addressed the UN Security Council, a Canadian television program provided a timely reminder of the lengths to which the US government, assisted by a servile media, went to deceive American and world public opinion during the 1991 Gulf War.
In a report entitled “The Best Defence,” the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s documentary program, The Fifth Estate traced one set of lies told by the previous Bush administration and the Pentagon during the 1991 conflict. It replayed footage of both President George Bush the elder and Desert Storm commander General H. Norman Schwarzkopf declaring that the US military’s Patriot missiles had achieved a 100 percent success rate in destroying Iraqi Scud missiles headed for Saudi Arabia and Israel.
The claims were a crucial part of Washington’s propaganda effort to create the impression of high-technology precision weaponry that would ensure a rapid victory with few US casualties, while causing limited Iraqi civilian deaths. Billions of dollars were at stake for Raytheon, the company that manufactured the Patriots, and, by extension, the entire military industry upon which the US economy depends heavily.
In briefings that were featured by every American TV network and most media outlets around the globe, Schwarzkopf and other Gulf War commanders displayed video footage and aerial photographs boasting not only that every Scud had been intercepted, but that mobile Scud launchers had been blown to pieces with unerring accuracy by guided missiles.
Accompanied by the media corps, the first President Bush traveled to where the Patriot missiles were manufactured, the Raytheon plant in Lexington, Massachusetts, to publicly congratulate the assembled employees. “It is thanks to the patriots here that the Patriot has achieved such success,” he stated.
It is now clear from The Fifth Estate program that when he made that boast, Bush knew it to be a lie. Just before his appearance at the Raytheon factory, he received an urgent visit from Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Arens, who warned him that Israel was about to enter the war against Iraq because the Patriot missiles had proven completely ineffective.
Interviewed by The Fifth Estate, Arens said he told Bush that, at best, the Patriots had intercepted 20 percent of the Scuds, a figure that soon turned out to be generous. Bush was desperate to forestall the Israeli threat, which could have inflamed the Middle East. He called in Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, who insisted that the US military had reliable evidence of its “100 percent” hit rate.
But by the time the 40-day war ended, 39 Iraqi Scuds had struck Israeli territory, killing two people and wounding hundreds, despite constant fire from US-operated Patriot batteries near Tel Aviv. American soldiers also became victims of the Patriot cover-up. In the most serious incident, 28 were killed when a Scud missile hit a barracks in Saudi Arabia.
Conducting their own investigations, the Israelis quickly established that the Patriot missiles had probably failed to knock out a single Scud. Closer examination of Schwarzkopf’s presentations established that the mobile Scud launchers he showed being bombed were, in fact, fuel or water tankers.
The Fifth Estate claimed that Bush may not have been aware of the Patriot’s failure. Arens himself stated that Bush appeared to be stunned by his comments. Yet, if Bush appeared surprised, he quickly gained his composure. On his much-publicized visit to the Raytheon, he did not depart from his prepared script, hailing the performance of US military technology.
Throughout the 1990s, the Pentagon, the Bush and Clinton administrations and the mass media contrived to prevent the story of the Patriot debacle becoming widely known to the American people. They buried a 1992 report by a House of Representatives Operations of Government subcommittee. After hearing expert testimony, the committee concluded:
“The Patriot missile system was not the spectacular success in the Persian Gulf War that the American public was led to believe. There is little evidence to prove that the Patriot hit more than a few Scud missiles launched by Iraq during the Gulf War, and there are some doubts about even these engagements. The public and the Congress were misled by definitive statements of success issued by administration and Raytheon representatives during and after the war.”
While the committee, chaired by Michigan Democrat John Conyers, was careful to clear Bush and Schwarzkopf of any personal culpability, its own report showed that the Patriot’s utter failure must have been known at the highest official levels.
By the time the committee convened, the Army’s official assessments of the Patriot’s success rate in the Gulf War had fallen from 100 percent to 25 percent. Generals admitted relying on intelligence reports of ground damage that were unverified, contradictory, erroneous and misleading.
When properly examined, the media’s video recordings of supposed Patriot “hits” showed clearly that the Patriots were not hitting the Iraqi warheads—in some cases they were missing by hundreds of meters. One expert witness, Dr. Theodore Postol of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, concluded from his analysis of video tapes of roughly 25 Patriot intercept attempts that most missed by “hundreds of meters or more.”
Other independent reviews, even using the Army’s own methodology and evidence, indicated that Patriots hit no more than 9 percent of the Scud warheads engaged. Many of the targets turned out to be debris from the poorly designed Scuds as they broke up in flight. It became apparent that at least 45 percent of the 158 Patriots launched in the war were aimed against debris or false targets.
In addition, it emerged that the Army had relied on Raytheon to conduct its postwar analysis of the Patriot’s performance, paying the company $520,000 for its services.
Nonetheless, the official cover-up extended through the 1990s, enabling the Clinton administration and Raytheon to sell or deploy hundreds of Patriot missiles around the world. Having paid $117 million for two batteries of Patriots in September 1990, a month after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Israel later ordered a third battery, for delivery in March 1994.
President Bill Clinton personally arranged the sale of two Patriot batteries to Turkey when visiting that country in 1994. Other substantial customers included Taiwan and South Korea. Last month, Bahrain joined the list, in preparation for the planned US invasion of Iraq.
These sales continued even after serious problems developed with the second and third generations of Patriots, known as PAC-2 and PAC-3 missiles. In March 2000, the US Army announced that it had replaced hundreds of PAC-2s in southwest Asia and Korea, due to breakdowns in “hot” missiles that had been powered up and ready to fire for months on end.
Last June, the Pentagon’s Ballistic Missile Defense Agency reported that the PAC-3, manufactured by Lockheed-Martin, had failed in three out of four tests in intercepting dummy ballistic missiles at the Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands.
Yet before the end of the year, the Defense Acquisition Board formally approved the production of 208 PAC-3 missiles for 2003 and 2004. Last December this order was accelerated because of the impending war, adding $120 million to the price tag. A Pentagon official told CNN the military was “increasing production of the PAC-3 missile because of things that may happen.”
Once more, the media hype is being cranked up, with Pentagon officials insisting that the new missiles are far superior to the old Patriots. Whereas Patriots exploded near an incoming threat, officials declared that the PAC-3’s improved sensors and newer radar would allow it to “categorically destroy a Scud missile in flight.”
As in 1991, these claims are made for the most cynical, politically motivated reasons. Because of the breadth of popular opposition to the planned war, the myth of US invincibility and high-tech accuracy is even more needed than it was a decade ago. Israel’s government, now headed by Ariel Sharon, must also be restrained again. In addition to supplying Israel with batteries of PAC-2s and PAC-3, Washington has spent $2 billion jointly developing with Israel another anti-missile system, the Arrow, which is designed to intercept targets at higher altitudes, 50 kilometers above the ground.
Not the least consideration in the ongoing Patriot debacle is the protection of the gigantic profits of military supplier companies such as Raytheon and Lockheed-Martin. Over the past two decades, Raytheon, which specializes in anti-missile and aerospace systems, has become a global giant, boasting 77,500 employees worldwide and $16.9 billion in 2001 revenues.
Far more is at stake than simply the Patriot and Arrow contracts. The Patriot revelations throw into doubt the Bush administration’s entire multibillion-dollar missile defense shield program. Having exposed the flaws in the Patriot, scientists such as the MIT’s Theodore Postol have condemned the program as futile. Responding last December to the White House’s latest announcement of a plan to deploy interceptor missiles in Alaska, Postol said the system could be “paralyzed by the simplest methods you can imagine.”
Drawing on the inherent problems revealed by the Patriot project, Postol explained that the interceptor missiles could be easily and cheaply tricked by releasing decoys or wrapping warheads in radar-absorbing materials.
The Fifth Estate stopped well short of accusing Washington of deliberate deception. It raised nothing about the corporate and economic interests driving the renewed war campaign. Nevertheless, intentionally or otherwise, it gave a glimpse of the hypocrisy, corruption and fraud that dominate the political and military establishment now headed by George W. Bush.
By Barbara Opall-Rome, Defense News, 7 february 2003
Twelve years ago, when U.S. forces were leading a decisive, allied effort to rid Kuwait and the region of Iraqi aggression, proclamations by then-U.S. President George H. Bush of the invincibility of the U.S.-built Patriot defensive system prompted outrage and resentment here among Israeli leaders and the public at large.
From Israel's perspective, Patriot batteries deployed here by U.S. troops were hardly the panacea to the ballistic missile threat from Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. On the contrary, official Israeli Ministry of Defense (MoD) data shows the system scoring one intercept out of 39 Scuds launched during that five-and-a-half week reign of terror in early 1991.
Today, as U.S. President George W. Bush prepares a rematch with Baghdad, changing attitudes, technological advances and new concepts of operations are converging in a renewed appreciation for the Patriot. Although Israeli officials still bristle at claims by the U.S. Army and Patriot prime contractor Raytheon Co. of a 40 percent success rate here during the earlier war, ail are willing to focus on a future in which the Patriot system plays a critical role as the lower tier of Israel's two-tiered national missile defense system.
“Claims in the beginning were incredibly high, and therefore the disappointments were quite big. Our records show the Patriot may have hit one missile, and that was at the end of the war,” said Uzi Rubin, then-director of the Israel Missile Defense Organization.
Retired Brig. Gen. Arie Fishbein, then-commander of Israel's first Patriot battalion, said hardware and software improvements have earned the Patriot renewed respect and appreciation in Israel.
“Even back then, I preferred to think of the Patriot's performance as a partial success rather than a partial failure. The fact is, it made contact several times with incoming missiles, even though those 600-kilometer surface-to-surface threats exceeded its original design,” said Fishbein, today a senior consultant for Wales Ltd., a weapon systems analysis and engineering firm here.
“The problem is, when you fire a missile, you expect an interception. Instead, the defending Patriots often deflected the missiles from their original flight path,” Fishbein said. “That worked well in Saudi Arabia, where you had critical installations to defend with a lot of desert in between. But here in Israel, when we managed to deflect a missile headed for Tel Aviv to a suburb not so far away, the end result was the same. Population centers got hit.”
In an official statement to Defense News, the spokesman's office of the Israel Defense Forces noted a number of technological improvements and modifications to Patriots originally deployed here in 1991. “The technological changes singe 1991 allow for greater effectiveness of the missiles, and the Israel Air Force bas full confidence in the system,” according to the statement.
More importantly, said Arieh Herzog, Rubin's successor at the helm of the Israel Missile Defense Organization, the two nations are cooperating in the technical, operational and conceptual: sphere to ensure Patriot missile batteries are integrated fully into a single, multilayered, national missile defense network. In a Feb. 3 interview, Herzog said Israel plans to establish a national command and control center to coordinate and manage operations of the U.S.-Israeli Arrow anti-missile system as well as the Patriot.
According to Herzog, the command center will operate all radar and launchers associated with Arrow — the upper-tier centerpiece of Israel's national missile defense system — and Patriot, which Israel will use for defense at altitudes or ranges up to 50,000 feet.
Israel presently bas two of its three planned Arrow batteries fully deployed and on high alert, along with another three Israeliowned Patriot batteries tasked to defend against aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and so-called leakers, those incoming missiles that may have penetrated Israel's upper-layer Arrow defenses.
In parallel, Israel's MoD announced Feb. 10 its receipt of two upgraded Patriot Advanced Capability-2 (PAC-2) batteries on loan for two years from Germany.
Additionally, three batteries of the U.S. Army's latest, upgraded versions of the PAC-2 Guided Enhanced Missile (GEM) Plus remain here for Israel's use in the run-up to a possible U.S.-led attack on Iraq. The Patriot batteries from U.S. European Command were brought here as part of the bilateral Juniper Cobra exercise that concluded Feb. 4. The exercise aimed at demonstrating the interoperability of the Patriot and Arrow, and reinforced Israel's efforts to institute an integrated system to command and control the two interceptor elements of its national missile defense network, Herzog said.
So confident are Israeli officials in the Patriot's ability against lower-tier missiles, the MoD has begun discussing procurements.
Israeli and U.S. sources said Israel is considering a forcewide upgrade of ground equipment associated with' its PAC-2 GEM to bring it up to so-called PAC-3, Configuration 3 levels. Deployed by the U.S. Army in 2000, this configuration improves the radar's ability to detect small targets in cluttered environments and to identify missile warheads from among target debris, a major problem encountered by Israeli operators during the 1991 war.
U.S. government and industry sources said upgrading Israeli ground equipment to the PAC-3 configuration will render Israel's Patriot launchers capable of firing America's newest PAC-3 hit-to-kill missile interceptor now undergoing operational testing with the U.S. Army. Maj. Gen. Joe G. Taylor Jr., commander of the Army Security Assistance Command, is expected to discuss Israeli plans for future upgrades and purchases during a visit here in mid-February U.S. and Israeli sources said.
“We know PAC-3 is the next generation of lower-tier missile defense. The question is not if we'll go in this direction, but when and how many we'll be able to buy,” Brig. Gen. Shimon Sarid, director of the Israel Air Forces Materiel Directorate, said Feb. 6.
Tim Carey, Raytheon vice president, Patriot Business Area, said the Lexington, Mass.-based firm has worked with Israeli defense officials to optimize Israel's deployed Patriot batteries. Also, he said, “We continue the dialogue on a regular basis with the Israel Air Force to keep them apprised of all upgrades and changes instituted by the U.S. government.”
Carey said Israel has smoothly established its two-layered missile defense approach. “The Patriot will go after leakers, and this is exactly the kind of construct we were planning for,” Carey said.
Dave Hartman, Raytheon Patriot business development management, and a former U.S. Army battalion commander, spent part of' the 1991 war in support of Patriot batteries deployed here. He said he saw the Patriot “turn one incoming missile into fireworks.”
Nevertheless, Hartman said “Looking at it 12 years in hindsight, there seems to be a lot of confusion in the record. The record is voluminous and very confusing, and let's just say Raytheon is trying not to be in the business anymore of reconstructing the  Gulf War.”