Stats Made Easy

Practical Tools for Effective Experimentation

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The MAD statistics for overkill

Over Christmas vacation I took a tour of the Titan Missile Museum south of Tucson. There, seeing this moth-balled intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) under glass, visitors like me can relive the days when it seemed that nuclear Armageddon could occur at any time. I remember practicing duck and cover drills in grade school during the Cuban Missile Crisis. The exhibit I found most interesting from a statistical standpoint was a detailing of how many missiles the US military planned to launch in order to fulfill the doctrine of mutually assured destruction (MAD). They called this “overkill.”

“The reliability of the first 2 ICBM’s, Atlas and Titan, were so low the military determined they would need at least 4 ICBM’s to hit one target with the assumption of only a 70 percent chance of target strike success.”
-- Len Losik (MilsatMagazine “Military Satellites and Rockets—No More Failures!")

This MAD overkill boggles my mind by its macabre calculations of deathly probabilities.

PS. In my research I came across these intriguing just-published memoirs by General Glenn Kent and his “Thinking About America’s Defense” (made available as a public service by the RAND Corporation).


  • At 12:20 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    4 missles to achieve a 99% hit rate. So what happens to missles that miss? How much do they miss by?


Post a Comment

<< Home