Defense: The Lesson

When the U.S. scrubbed its air-to-ground Skybolt missile, many reasons were given, but one of the most prominent was that it had flunked its early flight tests. One weakness in such reasoning has recently been demonstrated by a flurry of failures in tests of the land-based Titan and Minuteman missiles—upon which the U.S. is still depending heavily.

Three out of the last five Minuteman tests have been at least partial failures. One exploded just after launching, two others failed to achieve their scheduled flight range. In addition, the latest test of the advanced Titan II also fell short of its...

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