Since the missile age began in the latter days of World War II, scientists and engineers have been trying to develop effective anti-missile systems. By 1945, the British had already deployed air defenses against the V-l missile-an unpiloted aircraft, essentially a cruise missile. Yet today there is still no effective defense against ballistic missiles-particularly medium- and long-range ballistic missiles that pass through outer space on their way to distant targets.
During the war in the Persian Gulf, the Patriot air defense system was strategically effective against Iraq’s Scud missiles, for it foiled Saddam Hussein’s effort to provoke Israel into retaliation and thus split the Arab coalition allied with the United States. But from a tactical point of view, the Patriot (which employs 1960s technology) was ineffective in killing the Scud, a direct and little-changed descendant of the German V-2 missile. Perhaps SA-10s and SA-12s developed by the former Soviet Union may be more effective than the Patriot, as senior Russian officials have claimed. But in any case, modern American technology can certainly do much better, if permitted.