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Subject: CEP estimation
TrustButVerify    7/11/2008 7:45:13 AM
Just how did the CIA, NSA, DoD agencies, etc. estimate the CEP of Soviet ballistic missiles? It's not as if the Strategic Rocket Forces would paint a giant bullseye in Kamchatka; the US could certainly observe the launches and monitor the telemetry, but this doesn't necessarily lead to knowing that the warhead was meant to hit (x,y) and landed (z) kilometers away. To what extent was the CEP estimation based strictly on guesswork? You may recall that supposed improvements in Soviet ICBM CEP were hailed in the 70s and 80s as a major threat to US ICBMs, leading to the whole MX, Midgetman, etc. business.
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TrustButVerify    Sorry...   7/11/2008 1:06:10 PM
...about the triple-thread post. The site gave me an error on the first two tries.
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displacedjim       7/11/2008 2:23:30 PM
In years past, USAAC/USAAF/USAF target ranges often had large bullseyes that often had a small hut at the center.  Thus arose the slang for hitting dead-center as having "shacked the target" and in general for using the slang "shack" to mean the same as "on the nose," "exactly," or "on target."
I suggest that you should not be quite so hasty with some assumptions in your first paragraph--although I am not suggesting they painted huge bullseyes a mile in diameter, either.  Also, the accuracy of a missile can be estimated as a collection of error budgets related to the critical timing of each stage shutdown and the next stage ignition, and ability to make velocity (not just speed) corrections in flight, the accuracy of the position data for the target, the launcher, and the missile, etc.--which assessments may be fed by all the typical range of sources of intel.
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TrustButVerify       7/12/2008 8:23:55 AM
Andrew Cockburn raised the question in The Threat, published in 1983, and didn't bother to give any alternatives to his "guesswork" explanation. Thanks, dj, I'd say you've cleared it up for me.
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