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Boeing Successfully Tests Anti-Missile Laser 868

Posted by timothy
from the where-was-gary-sinise-the-whole-time dept.
dankinit writes "MSNBC is reporting that a 'Boeing Co.-led team has successfully fired for the first time a powerful laser meant to fly aboard a modified 747 as part of a U.S. ballistic missile defense shield.' The test called 'First Light' has a budget of $474.3 million in the fiscal year 2005 and is part of a larger $10 billion dollar missile defense system."
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Boeing Successfully Tests Anti-Missile Laser

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  • by Limburgher (523006) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:18PM (#10810221) Homepage Journal
    will be "Sharks", in fulfillment of the prophecy of Dr. Evil. . .
  • by thegoogler (792786) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:19PM (#10810229)
    Calling it star wars? and are they going to get sued for that now?
  • by intangible (252848) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:20PM (#10810233) Homepage
    And apart from a loud "BOE-ING" sound when the laser was discharged, all went well.
  • by mr_don't (311416) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:20PM (#10810234)

    Oakland can use, oh, say $20million of that. That's all. Geez.

    Oh yeah, and can it stop dirty bombs in suitcases, or monitor Oakland's ports for suitcase nukes? Nope.

    Ballistics, while scary, are not our biggest problem.

    • Yeah, let's have the Federal government take over all local schools. That way they can also achieve the high standards of the Washington D.C. school district.
  • The Official Site... (Score:5, Informative)

    by the_mighty_$ (726261) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:21PM (#10810240)
    The official site about this laser is here [boeing.com]
  • by FunWithHeadlines (644929) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:22PM (#10810246) Homepage
    Relax, nothing to see here. This is just a test to show they can move things forward another inch toward their 1000-mile goal. By moving that inch, they get to apply for more money, which is the real point of this.

    ""It showed they work," Kenneth Englade, an agency spokesman, said of the laser's six identical, pickup-truck-sized, modules linked to fire as a single unit. "The rest is fine-tuning."

    For "fine-tuning" read: "everything the system is supposed to ultimately do." It's like writing the first 10 lines of code in a large project and saying "the rest is fine-tuning."

    "Philip Coyle, the Pentagon's chief weapons tester under former President Clinton and a critic of early missile defense deployment plans, described the test on Wednesday as very important to people working on the program.

    "They deserve a lot of credit for having gotten this far," he said in a telephone interview. "But they've still got a long way to go" to demonstrate shoot-down capability."

    That's all this is, something important to the people working on the program. They want more funding. But as far as actually shooting anything down, well that's an entirely different matter:

    "Among other technical challenges, Coyle said, engineers must figure out ways to fire the laser for the longer time needed to zap a missile without damaging the optics through which the beam passes -- a kind of technical Catch-22."

    Details, details. But give us money and we'll happily explore the Catch-22 for a lot longer!

    • Thousand Miles? Their goal is on the order of 200. Even that's really pushing the limits of adaptive optics (basically mirrors that correct for atmospheric distortion) at the speeds they need. Remember the ABL is a theater weapon; Star Wars is the global solution.
    • See sciam.com (Score:4, Interesting)

      by tunabomber (259585) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @12:16AM (#10810844) Homepage
      1000 miles is right.

      Even if they do get this laser working the way it's supposed to, it will still be insanely expensive to have 747's aloft circling the "trouble areas" of the world 24/7. Due to range limitations, it might be impossible to take out a missile launched from the center of Iran or China without leaving international airspace. Also, these 747's better have some pretty good countermeasures onboard to prevent the
      enemy from just shooting them down before an attack.
      Anyways, even if the entire system works as advertised, a "rogue state" could still get the nuke to the U.S. using a ship, submarine, or simply stashed away in one of the million cargo containers that arrive here each day. If highly-enriched uranium is used to make the bomb (that's the route Iran is taking), a simple lead shield would make the bomb undetectable without entirely dissasembling the cargo.

      For a very detailed analysis of the technical hurdles blocking the completion of a missile defense shield, check out this article [sciam.com].
  • Any problems? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by liquidpele (663430) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:22PM (#10810248) Journal
    Did it accidently fire into some guys house and make popcorn explode out the windows and stuff?

    Seriously, this is cool, but I personally feel that we should be working towards a small scale solution. I think the whole laser idea is so they can shoot down thousands of missles, which if that ever happened, man we must have pissed off someone pretty big. I think a smaller scale defense with 99.9999% accuracy, common sense in keeping good relations with larger sane countries, and decent border security to keep terrorists from smuggling bombs in is a bit more important than spending all this money on a laser that's nowhere near done.
  • Fools..... (Score:4, Funny)

    by Dr Reducto (665121) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:23PM (#10810250) Journal
    Using a whole 747, when a shark is more than capable of wielding a laser of "frickin" spec....
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:26PM (#10810273)
    ...can it shoot down a suitcase? Because that's where the bombs are gonna be...
    • by Kohath (38547)
      That's very silly reasoning. Because no single solution can fix every problem, lets not try to solve problems at all.

      Solving one problem at a time is no good. Neither is having a bunch of different solutions for the different problems: I criticize each solution for the problems it doesn't solve, ignoring the ones it does.

      • It's no sillier reasoning than spending 10 billion dollars to "solve" a "problem" that has been successfully avoided for the last 60 years via Mutually Assured Destruction instead of funding real solutions for the real threat of domestic nuclear terrorism.

  • shit (Score:2, Funny)

    by swinehearted (818826)
    (U.S. Army Air Defense Solider) looks like im out of the job lmao
  • Money (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Deliveranc3 (629997)
    There hasn't been an attack because the threat of nuclear annihilation forced every war to be a COLD war.

    But now america can threaten other nations with Nukes as much as they want! They have total defensive superiority!

    I imagine the other countries could unite and have a ring of anti missile defense set up around U.S. Soil pretty quick but who wants another arms race? The American's that's who?

    I guess that's why they never honour any treaties, what's the point if they can just NUKE everyone with NO HO
    • Re:Money (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Dr. Spork (142693)
      I think you're almost right... the truth is, building and operating one of these planes has got to be orders of magnitude more expensive than just building a few extra nukes and launchers (and decoys to fool the laser, they're just cheap mylar baloons.) How many times will this be able to fire, once per minute? Whatever enemy we might have will just launch a few extras, just in case this works in real combat (by some miracle). The bottom line is that if we're in a nuclear war, the development of this projec
  • Just think what would happen if that $10 billion went towards a couple of public school systems.
    • I give up. What would happen?

      The local school systems around here get more and more money all the time. Test scores are about the same or down a little.
  • by zaren (204877) <holdthis@mail.com> on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:43PM (#10810367) Homepage Journal
    Anyone remember a few months back when an airline pilot got hit in the eyes by a laser beam while flying? I wonder if that was a mis-fire of this thing, and they tried to cover it up.
  • by ignatus (669972) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @11:02PM (#10810480)
    The test called 'First Light' has a budget of $474.3 million in the fiscal year 2005 and is part of a larger $10 billion dollar missile defense system."

    Jeezes, if you would invest that kind of money in international / intercontinental relations and human aid, the world would be a much better place!

    This starwars project sure cost a lot of money to combat a non-existing threat.

  • Hi Energy BS (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @11:54PM (#10810714) Homepage Journal
    "It showed they work," Kenneth Englade, an agency spokesman, said of the laser's six identical, pickup-truck-sized, modules linked to fire as a single unit. "The rest is fine-tuning."

    Right - after you get the laser to turn on, getting it to shoot down a nuclear ICBM from a 747 (at combined speeds of over Mach 24 [fas.org]) is just "fine-tuning". That is, if you're targeting only hundreds of billions of Pentagon tax dollars, and you've already bullshitted enough of Congress and the media (including, apparently, Slashdot headline writers) to have the contracts signed.
  • I hereby declare (Score:5, Insightful)

    by melted (227442) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @11:57PM (#10810727) Homepage
    Americans are paranoid nuts, and this is incurable. Spending $10B on something that fixes the problem that does not exist while at the same time making airlines seem even less secure than we thought they were - this can only happen in the US. Something tells me the "Star Wars" shit is just around the corner. $200B in military spending that can be defeated by $1M (converted to Russian roubles) in research money.
    • by jd (1658)
      Err, seem? You load a 747 with enough firepower to take out a missile, with software that's massively under-tested, in airspace so crowded that near-misses are common-place...

      When airliners start blasting each other out of the sky, I think we can say it's more than just seemingly unsafe!

      Oh, you were referring to the threats posed by other people! The only countries in which passengers pose any kind of threat to the aircraft are America and Greece. In the last two or three decades, I honestly can't think

    • by foniksonik (573572) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @02:58AM (#10811502) Homepage Journal
      Hmmm.. what happens when this technology is co-opted for use in powering spacecraft? or better yet used to power the space elevator? Interestingly enough we Americans manage somehow to re-use military technology for non-military purposes ALL THE TIME.

      Think of it this way... the US government is contracting a company or companies to figure out how to transfer large amounts of energy vast distances with pin-point accuracy.

      The fact that the primary excuse for developing said tech is to shoot down missiles shouldn't hinder you from seeing the potential applications in other areas.

      • They could use this for assassination.

        Even if the final system can't track a Mach 6 object, I'm sure it can be manually aimed at a stationary target making a speech 300km away.

        Better if you can fire the laser in a nonvisible light wavelength, AND fire it so it passes close to a big thundercloud - ionizing the air and inducing a big visible lightning zap from the cloud to the target. Go look up laser induced lightning.

        Then it'll look like an "Act of God" - the target apparently being killed by lightning.
  • by deanj (519759) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @11:59PM (#10810737)
    "Hello, ma'am. We're from Boeing. Terribly sorry about your dog Fluffy. Our laser misfired."

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