From “Star Wars” to “Sky Wars” in Development of Aircraft-based Anti-Missile Laser

Article written: 19 Dec , 2008
Updated: 24 Dec , 2015
by

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We remain on track to complete a lethal demonstration in 2009,” says an Airborne Laser (ABL) developer. “There’s nothing like flaming missile wreckage to show the world the system is viable and that it works.”

Indeed, and it looks like the initial dreams of having an anti-missile laser system have come one more step closer to reality, but not quite as envisioned in President Regan’s “Star Wars” project as announced in 1983 as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). Rather than having an orbital laser, the USAF and a group of military contractors have test-fired a powerful, missile-melting laser housed inside a Boeing 747. It may only be a stationary test, but in an effort to deal with the threat of missile launches from rogue nations, the ABL is one more step closer to completion…

On reading a recent article about the ABL, it became abundantly clear as to the priorities of the US government: defending the nation against the possibility of an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) being launched from one of the growing number of “rogue nations” or well-funded terrorist factions. Having just written a few articles about NASA budget concerns, the development of the military ABL sounds more like the recent media coverage of NASA’s Mars Science Laboratory (MSL). Woefully behind schedule and grossly over-budget. But in the case of the ABL, there appears to have been little concern (so far) as military budgets are more generous than NASA’s.

After 12 years of development, sucking up $4.2 billion, the most powerful military laser could be collecting its first airmiles as soon as next year. However, this isn’t what President Regan had in mind when he announced the Cold War era Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) 25 years ago. The SDI has since been watered down (due to the break-up of the Soviet Union), and ambitious projects have taken a back seat. Although the dream of having an orbital laser defence platform has since been deemed technically difficult and expensive, the laser-in-an-airliner concept appears to be an ideal compromise.

And so, at Edwards Air Force Base on November 24th, the military and defence contractors Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, watched the first test of the weapon on a stationary target. It appears that it worked and, although details are sketchy, it worked very well. This is a huge milestone in the 12-year development of the system as this is the first time the laser was fired from its winged transportation. All that is required is a full-flight test of the system and the US will be a lot closer to the remote protection against ICBM attack.

laser_timelineSo how does it work? During times of tension when missile launches are a threat, the laser-carrying 747 will fly in a holding pattern a few hundred miles away from the location of missile silos or mobile scud units. Should the heat signature of a launching missile be detected by satellites or ground-based military units, the ABL will spin its nose-mounted turret at the launching missile. On firing, the megawatt laser (the precise energy is classified) will hit the accelerating missile. The incident radiation from the laser will melt, bend and buckle the missile during the very early stages of launch, guaranteeing its break-up. The threat will therefore be neutralised. As the computer systems used are so advanced, and as laser light travels at the speed of light, it is hoped this weapon will have a near-instantaneous reaction time.

The scope for the ABL doesn’t stop at ICBMs. There is a huge potential that it may be used to target satellites, possibly rendering spy satellite systems useless during times of war. However, the ABL targeting system is set up to target the missile launch heat signature, but this may be developed to include a satellite targeting system. Weapons analysts have also pointed out that the ABL could be used against other aircraft, possibly making jet dogfights a thing of the past. This may lead to an era of entirely laser-fought battles.

It is essential the military project explores all the possibilities for the ABL as Obama’s transition team will be looking closely at this expensive endeavour, possibly leading to its cancellation if its use is exclusive only to ICBMs…

Source: New Scientist


62 Responses

  1. The Occupant says

    The trouble I see is that they have to be rather close to the target to take it down, possibly within enemy lines, and someone with a few shoulder ground to air missiles could easily take the 747 down. It is certainly geek-tastic, but that isn’t exactly a good measure of a good weapon of war.

  2. William Patrick Haines says

    I must congradelate those who pointed to the vulnerabilities of this weapon system. I remember hearing that in WW II the US had superiour training and tacttics that over came a superiour weapons platform ie the Sherman versus the the Tiger and Panzers
    To think that any fool proof weapons system is invulnerable to countermeasures is a delusion ie the tank armour peircing bullets then rocket propelled grenades and recoiless rifles, bullet proof vest teflon coated bullets ,and castles versus canons besides using a 747 due its lack of speed and agility makes it a sitting duck to both sams and stingers and fighter planes also missles have mervs who’s to say viable counter measures could not be delevoped simply and quickly

  3. Ohohoho that is awesome!! I’ve been waiting for the first test for years. Hopefully they won’t waste much time between now and the first test on a moving target.

  4. pantzov says

    it’s a very interesting step. the dogfight application is quite interesting.
    what is the government doing to counter the threat of short-range nuclear missles fired from a sub? i’m just a nobody but if it was my job to strike a first world nation with nukes, i would use subs.

  5. Thomas says

    About this thing being vulnerable.

    I’m sure it can defend itself from missiles fired from the ground.

    As for attacking aircraft, I would hope this thing has defensive escorts.

  6. M Ahsan says

    I wonder why they needed a large jumbo jet for this technology. I assume smaller aircraft could be more efficient, hard to detect, less costly in terms of fuel, could exceed the altitude limit of Jumbo jets. There are many factors which smaller (but extremely modified i.e., stealth or VLA aircrafts) could serve the purpose better than 747.

    But I also assume US is more smarter than any other country in the world, they must have a good cause of using 747. But unfortunately this smartness has given more destruction to world than knowledge and peace. Or, even if 747 uses more fuel, they will however extract it from muslim countries (as legal or illegal, good or bad, moral or immoral, has no sense in US foreign policies).

    Thanks

  7. Trevor says

    Next step: mount the lasers on satellites. Wouldn’t it be great if this technology could make nuclear missiles obsolete?

    A network of pinpoint accuracy lasers could keep any ballistic weapon from reaching its target, itself unable to wreak mass destruction.

    Just a nice thought…

  8. The Occupant says

    @ pantzov : I would use bomb in a cargo ship, or even in a small fishing trawler if I felt it could evade notice, but that is just me. I would only use a submarine if I was say Russia or some other former member of the Soviet Union. Or if I was China. Still frickin’ lasers are frickin’ cool.

  9. Feenixx says

    This is the first time an article at UToday doesn’t quite “go down well” for me.
    Astronomy, Astrophysics, and Cosmology, to me, are part of a peaceful pursuit of knowledge… like a child’s curiosity, but for adults – it’s the same kind of fascination, if you know what I mean.
    I accept defense issues as relevant for some people, I never realised there was actually a (small) “Military” category here…. it seems a little out of place, though.

    Not that I’m going to walk away in disgust… just thought I’d mention my feelings… and it DID provoke some thoughts for me – how closely the great technology for furthering our understanding of the World we live in ties in with technology for fighting among people and nations. I got a little lump in my throat now.

    Seasonal Greetings and Peace to all, whatever your Spiritual Path or Denomination may be!

    And special thanks to UT for an excellent service.

    🙂

  10. josephdietrich says

    M Ahsan, it needs to be a jumbo jet because the laser itself is really, really big.

  11. Essel says

    “M Ahsan Says: I wonder why they needed a large jumbo jet for this technology. ”

    Presumably for firing the megawatt laser (the precise energy is classified) a large power plat will be required and also lots of equipment for tracking. Initially 747 has been chosen for this purpose. They may use a much smaller plane as they are able to cut down the equipment size.

    ” The Occupant Says: and someone with a few shoulder ground to air missiles could easily take the 747 down.”

    Ostensibly, an advanced weapon system that is designed to track and neutralize a nuclar capable ICBM missile with near-instantaneous reaction time can definitely take on the shoulder fired ones.

  12. Spoodle58 says

    M Ahsan Says:
    I wonder why they needed a large jumbo jet for this technology.

    Cause lasers that powerful don’t come in size small yet.

    Feenixx Says:
    This is the first time an article at UToday doesn’t quite “go down well” for me.

    It is space related, even though killing each other with clubs and lasers isn’t my cup of tea either, if you think about the only reason humans ever went to space was in the context of War. New technolgy and progress, (sad as this may seem) only tend to improve when we want to kill each other.

    Happy Holidays to All.

  13. Maxwell says

    There’s no reason it cannot attack the missiles launcher as well as the missile… besides politics.
    Its easier to sell as a defensive weapon than as a “make all your enemies spontaneously combust into flame” weapon… altho the latter does tickle my fancy.

    Its literally the future in action.
    Lasers are green, scalable, instantaneous. No stray bullets or left over explosives, and no more damage than intended (if used properly).
    This could revolutionize everything from how aircraft fight to how ships defend themselves at close range.
    It could also affect how spacecraft move and interact with any debris they meet. I’m curious if this may be the answer to our space junk problem.

  14. Eric Ramos says

    This will make America truly powerful. With this we will fulfill our dream of planetary domination. Why spend on diplomacy, progress or science? Or is science a trickle down from military spending? More useful money down the drain. Rouge nations are cultures with problems we don´t care about or want to figure anything about. Why spend on learning about them, their problems with us? This thing will clear our guilty conscience for sure. We are truly learning from our very recent experiences. How will this system discern between military and nonmilitary launches? Will it be so intelligent? Will a threat be made before a launch….? I doubt it. Was it recently only to have shot these planes with cheap ground to air missiles? Think about the spending on keeping these things up and running permanently. Is space tourism only viable from the USA? Virgin Rockets? Will we be shot down inadvertently if we launched from any other place in the world. What will the new weapon´s collateral damages name be…? Ground Grazing Laser body meltdown?
    Will this system shut itself down when the bubble level indicates below horizontal? You´re right, i’ m not american. I should be tar and feathered for saying this and i definitely won´t shoot my firecrackers up this season as i´ll hate to see any sudden green flashes damaging my newly painted house filled with my rouge kids; those that you will never get to know. It´s time to come down to the ground and see the whites of our eyes. Human contact, not photon to human contact.

  15. Andrew says

    Someone above noted that lasers are “green.” They are NOT. The power source is what makes a technology green. What kind of “green” power source can release megawatts of power in milliseconds?

  16. marcellus says

    #1. My laser pointer is green.

    #2. I do not have a guilty conscience.

    #3. The United States of America and its beloved Marine Corps, always.

  17. LLDIAZ says

    This is a first of many steps to a global shield something The U.S. has worked on since before Reagan a little after WWII I believe. Military technology will be obsolete in the coming generations and air superiority will be a thing of the past “there will be no air combat at all”. If you put it into perspective what the military is trying to do is level the playing field so that when and if a strike does happen we are in the best possible position. With that in mind ask yourselves who is supreme in the sea? U.S. Navy/ who dominates space? U.S. and with the latest developements there will be an envelope of all known tactical land forces. Strategic air dominance assured my friends, There will be no WWIII if this takes off..

  18. Maxwell says

    >Someone above noted that lasers are “green.” They are NOT.

    That would be me.
    In context of what we use now, lasers actually are very green weapons in the same manner a lithium ion battery powered car is green transportation.

    Yes at present they use noxious chemicals reacted in a giant battery (for lack of a better power supply, which will change when the military demands it and puts a few billion in the research kitty). But bear in mind these materials stay in vats aboard the aircraft and can be unloaded for proper disposal back at base.
    This is pit against devices that would use chemical propellants, high explosives, lead or dep-uranium cored ammunition and by their various natures are left scattered all over the battlefield after use.

    The old way its alot of crap to clean up, dangerous crap. The new way we leave the warzone in fairly the same condition we found it… except for the smoldering holes in the landscape, naturally >_>;

    Sometimes green is good even for the warrior caste. The military has shown interest in space solar power, hybrid vehicles, and things like fuel cells for its own purposes (one less fuel truck in the field = that much less vulnerability + more manpower for other missions).

    I think if they are going our way on technology or environmental concerns, we might as well goad them into spending their massive budget to research things we can use too.
    Better batteries and powerful lasers are two such things.

  19. Huygens says

    “We remain on track to complete a lethal demonstration in 2009,” says an Airborne Laser (ABL) developer. “There’s nothing like flaming missile wreckage to show the world the system is viable and that it works.”

    Can’t you just smell the testosterone coming out of that developer.

    A powerful laser could be used to signal intelligent beings in our galaxy – but, nah, let’s blow up stuff with it instead!

    More evidence that our world is being run by teenage males with way too much time on their hands,

  20. bse5150 says

    I remember when Reagan first proposed laser defense and he was ridiculed as an idiot – which was where the term ‘Star Wars’ comes from in relation to this technology. Now we see it is close to working from satellites – there is hope these things could render nuke missiles ‘mostly’ obsolete. A previous poster had a good point with what to do with short range missiles for example – fired from a sub that snuck up to your coastline. Would Patriot – style batteries work? Assuming you knew someone was actively seeking to fire from just off your coastline…

  21. Hex says

    Useless against suitcase terrorism.

  22. William Patrick Haines says

    Well Sdi did produce some sciencifitic benefits like all research projects . How ever it really did not produce all the intended results .How long has it been in existence since Gerald Ford .
    Promminent scientists have been highly crtiical of this Wiley Coyote contraption . It’s more productive to come up with a fully reusable spacraft and interplanetary spacecraft

  23. CinIN says

    “they have to be rather close to the target to take it down”

    “missles have mervs (sic)”

    Multiple Independently targeted reentry vehicles (MIRVS) are not deployed until a ballistic missile is well out of the atmosphere. The reason for the forward positioning of this weapon system is probably not due to range limitations but so missiles can be targeted during the launch phase before MIRVS or decoys can be deployed.

    From the article: “The incident radiation from the laser will melt, bend and buckle the missile during the very early stages of launch, guaranteeing its break-up.”

  24. MarkB says

    How long until a little “blue on blue” action with this thing? oooops sorry SpaceX we thought you were a “bad guy”

  25. bill says

    Hi,
    Couple of things.. It’s in a 747 because the “whale” can hold a lot. It needs to hold things such as a whole bunch of fuel to loiter on station for days??? also the laser is chemical powered with different tanks holding different laser fuels that i guess are large. Also larger aircraft are steady when smaller are not ,good for shooting. Also think for crew rest stations areas will be important. This platform was always in the plan of sdi and was the first to be seen as a feasable laser system. Every one gets it that the laser energy gets dissapated by the atmosphere and by the time you get above 20,000 ft you can shoot lasers far. The space based systems run into trouble due to things like repairing,refueling in space and anti sat stuff. People say is a big target??? what about an AWAC or air tankers?? for that matter an aircraft carrier?? Hog wash.. if you attack it the fight is on allowing conventional forces to destroy your command/leadership structures, you mom and dads house as well as launch sites. Now when this system is operational any time some 3rd worlders test launch fails in boost stage they can blame America.

  26. Huygens says

    It’s about waving the biggest equipment around, not what is the most effective.

    Size, money, and power get results, no matter what the feminists tell you otherwise.

  27. lawmc says

    doesnt the fact that the ABL will only be in the air at times of tension render it moot. I thought the whole point of the threat from terrorists is that the attack could come at anytime… the same applies to rogue states.

  28. Thank you Ronald Reagan.

  29. T-1000 says

    Skynet will become self aware in the foreseeable future. By the way, have you seen a guy named John Connor?

  30. Obama is cutting the budget for this I read.

  31. RetardedFishFrog says

    law mc said, “doesnt the fact that the ABL will only be in the air at times of tension render it moot. I thought the whole point of the threat from terrorists is that the attack could come at anytime… the same applies to rogue states.”

    True. A device like this would make sense to use when you expect a missile attack. The first use could come against Iran. One would expect the Iranians to fire missiles as we’re taking out their nuclear weapon facilities. The ABL neutralizes that threat. After all, we can’t take out Iran’s missiles or their nuclear capability by throwing our raging feminists at them.

  32. Vanamonde says

    Okay, hydrogen plus fluorine equals megawatts of directed energy to melt a missile. But then what? Is the exhaust vented? Gawd, I would not want to be downwind from that!

    If it is not vented and contained, then we certainly understand why the beastie needs to be soooo big. The H and F are cryogenic but the result probably is not.

    This is all speculation. I have no clearance for hard data.

  33. pantzov says

    feenix,

    so true.
    happy holidays to you too.

  34. lawmc says

    RetardedFishFrog said “True. A device like this would make sense to use when you expect a missile attack. The first use could come against Iran. One would expect the Iranians to fire missiles as we’re taking out their nuclear weapon facilities. The ABL neutralizes that threat. After all, we can’t take out Iran’s missiles or their nuclear capability by throwing our raging feminists at them.”

    Aha, i didnt think of it as an offensive weapon… hope its not too successful, cos knowing the US, that will mean they have ‘the right’ to go after a nuclear armed country. I guess Russia has a point with its constant protests about the SDI, to which we reply, ‘dont worry, its only for defense’… whereas, its now rather obvious to me that the ABL is also most definitely an offensive platform.

  35. Frank Glover says

    “Aha, i didnt think of it as an offensive weapon… hope its not too successful, cos knowing the US, that will mean they have ‘the right’ to go after a nuclear armed country. I guess Russia has a point with its constant protests about the SDI, to which we reply, ‘dont worry, its only for defense’… whereas, its now rather obvious to me that the ABL is also most definitely an offensive platform.”

    So…just *how* would you use such a weapon of pinpoint destruction in an offensive manner? Unlike their targets, the ABL can hardly fry military complexes and cities by itself…

    (Or anything else beyond line of sight, as opposed to *ballistic* missiles that, almost by definition, must come over the horizon. Unless world peace suddenly breaks out [and not having ABL won’t hasten that], the only alternative is continued reliance on MAD, or surrender. I find neither to be palatable This is no more ‘offensive’ than were the generations of fighter interceptors and surface to air missiles for bomber interception.)

  36. dollhopf says

    to Frank Glover

    Agree! As one can await that China, Russia and every other nation with appropriate possibilities in the near future will develop similar defense mechanisms, so it is obvious that the world will end in a standoff for heavy missile attacks and thus policy of nuclear deterrence will become problematic.

  37. Flaming Pope says

    Well it doesn’t say its chemically powered directly in anyway. It could be powered the same way nuclear submarines are. Though expensive and risk fallout if one of these ever get destroyed – the laser would be able to fire indefinitely without needing to refuel for powering the laser. But that’s only if its nuclear powered.

    What about multiple missiles? Fire 100 missiles, only 10 contain payload = system fail. Assuming its chemically powered. So you have multiple planes up in the air = more cost, and all you would need to due is increase number of dummies- 900 blanks, 100 payloads. Which in comparison to the price of a couple of high tech flying fortresses is a simple yet elegant way to over come the missile shield.

    The other idea of having the laser mounted on the ground is better – its powered indefinitely and no need for pricey planes or fuel. And better on the environment.

  38. w/e says

    Eric Ramos Says:

    “Rouge nations are cultures with problems we don´t care about or want to figure anything about”

    yeah, the Korean dictatorship is just misunderstood!

  39. Scott says

    Just as long as this weapeon is used only for defensive purposes. If this is used for fighing a war,I.E. Killing ground troops for the purposes of changing the opposing government…then the U.S or the other powers that will develop or steal this technology must be held accountable. Too much power mean too many bad things can happen. You talk about “terrorists” getting this, and the game is over. My question is only this. Should we really excercise this option or search for other avenues?

  40. Cynthia says

    If you think about it the laser generation is the easy part of the problem. Targeting and tracking a relatively small fast moving object at tens or hundreds of miles – now that’s something impressive!

  41. Andy F says

    Just goes to show there’s always plenty of money available for the military. Just think if a little bit was directed to planetary exploration for the benefit of humanity instead of killing people….

  42. Astrofiend says

    Despite the fact that it is a weapon of war, no objective person could say that it isn’t completely awesome.

    What pisses me off is the way that military pet projects will get endless funding (even the stupid s__t that places such as DARPA work on), and budget overruns seem to be of such little concern that it is almost a congress in-joke: – “…a year over schedule? Throw another couple ‘a billion at it! HAHAHA! I bet those science weenies wish they could get that sort of funding!”

    When non-military science work even slightly runs over on time or budget, in comes the scythe of congress to cut the ‘fat’.

  43. Silver Thread says

    It aught to work great unless the missile is equipped with a mirror, right?

  44. joe says

    GREEN! Who said green weapon system? Are you out of your minds? Is everyone clueless to the fact that a destroyed nuclear missle in flight turns into one GIGANTIC DIRTY BOMB? This wil be devestating to the country that fired it and everyone else downwind for a thousand miles.

  45. joe says

    Just to follow up, having a nuclear missile that you fired at somebody actually get dumped back in your lap as a shot down and now a dirty bomb just as you were all rejoicing your launch would be the biggest deterrent of all.
    This would be much better than shooting down a missile in midcourse where the dirty bomb would impact all the people under the route of the missile. For example shooting down a missile over Europe launched hypothetically from Iran against the US would be devastating to Europe

  46. Mike says

    So, 12 years and $4.2 billion later the US manages another first in the race to obliterate humanity. They are almost ready to combat a threat that had not existed, but now surely will, as the paranoia of other nations grows.

    What this money could have meant to science or humanitarian aid! Instead, it has simply gone to insure further instability in an already unstable world. And this is described as a ‘Dream’?

    There is a much cheaper, safer way for the government to fulfil its duty to its people; it’s called diplomacy.

  47. teded says

    What is the lethal range of this weapon? Like, in case you miss your target and hit whatever is behind it, by hundreds of miles?

    If your target is above the horizon, there are numerous satellites in orbit, including one with humans in it. And passenger filled airplanes scaterred about the horizon.

    If your target is below the horizon (in front of the horizon, with the earth in the background), there are numerous people down there and many facilities too.

    Unless the targeting system is 100% accurate (not a realistic scenario), this weapon could end up producing some serious collateral damage.

    I’m guessing a scenario of someone in an airplane whose last words will be “what’s that red ligh…”

  48. dollhopf says

    Mike, neither military means nor diplomatic efforts alone are able to let the US government fulfil “its duty to its people”, but the mutual use of both.

    America has never used the same cant in concealing its ambitions like many of its counterparts by using the phrases like “peace” and “universal peace” as did the communist propaganda or the propaganda of North Korea or Iran.

    America can simply change itself by elections. How far these change does go depends on how strong the people want it to. States like Iran or North Korea do not change from within. They can only be changed from outside. They made their current political systems as stable as possible against change. There is no real influence of the people foreseen in the Iranian constitution:

    With due attention to the Islamic content of the Iranian Revolution, the Constitution provides the necessary basis for ensuring the continuation of the Revolution at home and abroad.

    ( http://www.servat.unibe.ch/law/icl/ir00000_.html )

    I do not see how “the US manages another first in the race to obliterate humanity”. Nowhere in the world than in modern western democracies does the wickedness, the selfishness of the single individual prevent the whole system from becoming better. We don’t need to blame the governments, because we don’t need to sacrifice ourselves any longer on the stake for our will to change the world. Every country has the government it deserves. As America showed again, change is possible by the people, for the people. And every weapons system that does protect and stabilize this feature of the American political system is more valuable than the mere military aspect offers.

    You regret that “it has simply gone to insure further instability in an already unstable world”, but that’s a good thing. Yes, let the world be unstable for several regimes of this world!

  49. LLDIAZ says

    Whom ever for a second believes that this instrument of destruction is for defensive purposes only is saddly and I might add dangerously mistaken. Yes it might be used defensively at first but the true target of any military weapon is to inflict damage upon the enemy. This one takes the cake!!!

  50. Maxwell says

    Well its not an instant zap yet. Consider it more of a long range blow torch.
    Also the targeting would have to be intentional unless you were astronomically lucky to both miss a missile at the limits of your range yet hold it over a passing airliner long enough to slice it open.

    Diplomacy works when the person your arguing with cannot gain what he wants by force, theft, or some other means.
    If our enemies cant march over the border with soldiers, cant blast their way through with tanks, cant sneak terrorists behind the lines, and cant lob missiles at us… they’ll probably resort to talking.

  51. Jamie K says

    “There’s nothing like flaming missile wreckage to show the world the system is viable and that it works.”

    Is this the message we want to send the world in 2009? This technology will spread rather quickly to the more industrialized nations ( Lots of money spent) and soon there will be multiple nations with laser capability which will lead to multiple launch decoy based missle systems in advanced nations to overcome this threat. (Proliferation)

    However, according to the web site ‘Atomic Scientist’ , rougue nations only have to put the bomb in a container ship and send it over the pond to one of the overcrowded and under observed ports somewhere in the world. It does not really matter where. The result will be the same. All ports will shut down, trade will grind to a halt and the world will live in fear of letting anything in from the outside.

    They win. The rest of the world loses. I hope they can carry cargo on that 747.

  52. Aodhhan says

    This isn’t the only means of defense the US has. As with anything else, “defense in depth” is a concept used to have many different means and capabilities to increase the survivability during an attack.
    This or any missile defense system isn’t built to combat missiles from Russia or China. They have more than enough to get through any defense anyone could think up. It is designed on taking on rouge nations who have less than 100 missiles.

    The range of the laser is quite considerable; it is designed to attack a missile during its “boost” phase… which is typically from its launch point to about 60 miles above Earth; so no, it doesn’t have to be in a dangerous area to be useful. This is also the best and easiest time to try to kill an ICBM… re-entry being the worst time, since you often have multiple warheads to deal with, many which are decoys.

    Shoulder fired missiles don’t work well against aircraft over 4500 feet. They are a bit slower, noisier, less maneuverable and don’t have a lot of fuel. Your typical SAM missile which can reach 40K feet plus weighs in excess of 1800 pounds; your shoulder fired variety weighs in about 30-55.

    747 is used due to the size of the equipment required to generate the power required to fire a laser through the atmosphere at a range of X miles. The atmosphere is the enemy, as there are many things in it which bend, deflect and in general mess with lights energy. You also want something which can loiter many hours without having to land or be refueled constantly.

    Submarines… again, not used to combat China or Russia. Submarines used by other navies, would be picked up by the sonar network before they could get close. You’d be shocked at how well the US and other large countries can track maritime operations.
    Typically, any large boat in transit from one country to any country in Europe/North America, plus China and Russia is tracked from departure to destination. Any anomoly, and the ship is held up far before it becomes a threat. You think security outgoing at an airport is tough… see what containers have to go through at both ends.

    Waste of money? Guess it depends on what level of protection you demand, and if you are educated enough to know all the variables required to do the risk assessment. However, I have a feeling this program will be continued by the Obama administration.

  53. dollhopf says

    “Submarines used by other navies, would be picked up by the sonar network before they could get close.”

    I am not sure about this since the beginning of operation of type 212 submarines.

  54. Aodhhan says

    No countries which are a threat to the US have this capability, or appear to be anywhere near it. Also, this technology does have a weight limit; which means you won’t see it carrying SLICBM. Perhaps cruise missiles one day… right now its only use it for SF insertion/retraction and general maritime attack.

    Also, while they are virtually invisible to mobile sonar and pressure signature sweeps… fixed systems are quite a bit better at detecting objects. 🙂

  55. Astrofiend says

    dollhopf Says:
    December 22nd, 2008 at 3:45 am

    “Every country has the government it deserves.”

    Pig’s arse. Just a fecking stupid and meaningless little soundbite there buddy. I hope you realise how stupid that sounded.

  56. dollhopf says

    Astrofiend wonders about “I hope you realise how stupid that sounded.”

    What? The term “Pig’s arse”? Certainly, but joking aside!

    —- BEGIN OF joking aside NOW —-

    The meaninglessness of universal statements in an empirical context depends on its falsifiability.

    —- END OF joking aside HERE —-

    The generalisation “every” in the sentence “every people [replace the term country by people] has the Government it deserves” should be sufficient to constitute an universal statement. Thus the operationalization of “deserve” is critical for testability.

    As long as you are only able to claim the stupidity/meaninglessness of the above statement by casting invectives on it you …em… don’t really show its metaphysical content.

  57. LLDIAZ says

    “Every country has the government it deserves”

    I’m gonna bandwagon this one and say thats the DUMBEST thing I’ve ever heard. It shows you have no clue of foreign issues if you did you would know that corruption is A BAD THING that should not be taken lightly. Not petty corruption like Blagojevich I mean cruel corruption like Mugabe that is evil that noone deserves. Now enough dumb politics and let us look back to the stars….

  58. Aodhhan says

    Nobody says the airborne laser isn’t/can’t/won’t be used for other things. However, its primary mission is missile defense; since there is nothing better at what it does.
    Can it pick out other things flying through the air or things orbiting the planet? The answer is obvious.
    Can it be used to hit ground targets? The atmosphere becomes a lot thicker and filled with dust and other small debris which inhibit light. Guess we’ll have to wait and see. My guess is, “not very well or efficiently”. To destroy a missile moving 16,000+mph you only have to breech the hull and let forces destroy the structure.

  59. amir tal says

    when are we going to evolve as a race?

    I was hoping this site would be a small step in that direction.

    But as for now…we not only fight…but we fight fire with fire…

    It’s silly, really…bigger mirrors for bigger lasers…the most intelligent and precise lens workers work on this stuff…instead of more telescopes and scientific instruments…what a waste of time and effort.

    Go open your eyes to what is really going on and take part in shaping the future…NOW…

  60. dollhopf says

    Estimado Señor Diaz,

    do the people of Zimbabwe deserve Mugabe?

    With your answer, which is a clear “NO”, you claim to have falsified my assertion by a singular statement.

    What you did not consider is the fact, that “deserving” needs an interpretation. And indeed, you claim conformity where there is none. You never talked with me about the content of the terms used in the assertion. But you think that you are allowed to condemn due to your (narrow-minded) interpretations.

    Do the Zimbabwean deserve Mugabe?

    Yes, if they are gawky enough to let him keep his power. No, if they wholeheartedly tried to get rid of him, but could not due to his overwhelming power.

    If you can demonstrate that they tried to get rid of him but could not succeed, then I will agree that you have questioned my assertion with a singular statement. Meanwhile, the stars must wait for you to gaze at them …

  61. Mr. Obvious says

    Who cares? I didn’t come here to create “Political Science Today”.

    If you aren’t intelligent enough to remain on topic, then don’t comment. It only proves you have some rediculous agenda to spew all over the Internet. Go to another site.

  62. dollhopf says

    If you don’t mind I would like do reuse parts of your comment. Do you claim any rights on it? Mr. Obvious Said:

    “you aren’t intelligent enough”
    “you have some rediculous agenda”
    “Who cares?”
    “don’t comment”
    “Go to another site”

    Happy Christmas, Mr Obvious!

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