Magazine article The Nation

Technofantasy

Magazine article The Nation

Technofantasy

Article excerpt

Technofantasy

The left has a regrettable tendency to share the right's technofantasies about the performance of military equipment: e.g., obsession with the (useless) U.S. "electronic battlefield" in Vietnam; deference to Defense Department claims of nuclear missile accuracy; and, a grave fault of David Pearson's analysis of the K.A.L. 007 affair, childish faith in the supposed efficiency of U.S. surveillance and communication systems. A fresh example is provided by the contras' howls for shoulder-fired heat-seeking missiles, claiming that only thus can they prevail against the Nicaraguans' Soviet MI-24 helicopter gunships. The Reagan Administration has denied the request for now, but I sense among the pwogwessive forces a feeling that if they wver get such missiles the contras' fortunes could revive. The pwogwessives need not quake.

The first of this type of weapon on the field of battle, the Soviet SAM-7, was used by North Vietnam in the mid-1960s and initially obtained a kill ratio of one in three. But U.S. pilots soon learned to decoy the missiles with flares and to mask the heat source of their helicopters. In the 1973 Yom Kippur war the Arabs fired more than 5,000 SAM-7s and, on the official Israeli count, scored somewhere between one and three kills.

The U.S. equivalent of the SAM-7 was the Redeye, made by the Pomona division of General Dynamics and later "upgraded," with a fantastic escalation in price, into the Stinger. In the early 1980s the United States gave some to the Chadians, who complained bitterly that they were useless. …

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