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Northrop to Sell Laser Shield Bubble for Airports 648

Posted by samzenpus
from the charge-the-ion-cannon dept.
NeoPrime writes "CNN Money web site has a story about Northrop Grumman forecasting development of a laser shield 'bubble' for airports and other installations in the United States within 18 months. The system will be called Skyguard — a joint venture with Israel and the U.S. Army. It will have the capability to generate a shield five kilometers in radius."
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Northrop to Sell Laser Shield Bubble for Airports

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:28PM (#15709773)
    What do you mean, does it work? Of course it's working, you don't see any tigers do you?
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:29PM (#15709778) Homepage Journal
    Gentlemen (and ladies), unpack your Atari 2600's.

    Protect those cities!
    • Re:Missile Command! (Score:2, Interesting)

      by nickheart (557603)
      This seems to be the closest that any of the current posts have gotten to the actual product that is being sold.

      Yes it seems funny to have a real-life space invaders defence, but it's not the worst idea in the world.

      We know that light is faster than any other Surface to air defence we currnetly employ, but also that it follow a (reletively) straight line.

      i think that with enought testing and debugging, you should be albe to knock a missle out of the air even when it's raining/snowing - in reply to a diff

    • Can we please take this seriously? These devices are intended to defend against very credible threats. I mean, really... won't somebody think of the children!?!
  • by Rude Turnip (49495) <valuationNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:31PM (#15709786)
    I see "laser" and I see "bubble." Clearly, this plan involves some frickin sharks at some point.
  • What happens if it snows or rains in the area?
    • Re:So, (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      What happens if it snows or rains in the area?


      It may affect visibility, and if you're outside you might get wet.

    • Re:So, (Score:5, Insightful)

      by smchris (464899) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:22PM (#15710036)

      Don't worry about it. If decades of Star Wars have taught us anything it is that (1) you always run tests under artificially optimal conditions, and (2) it doesn't actually have to work to get more contracts.
       
      • Re:So, (Score:4, Informative)

        by Martin Blank (154261) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:00PM (#15710203) Journal
        Actually, THEL has been rather quietly developed by the US and Israel since it's a tactical system more than a strategic one. The Wikipedia article is horribly out of date, but its success ratio was very good, in that it was able to shoot down rockets, artillery shells, and mortar shells. One of the challenges has been to get the system shrunk down to a reasonable size. At some point, there was hope of getting it to a size suitable for mounting on a Bradley APC or perhaps even a Humvee, in hopes that it would provide small units protection against certain airborne threats. Whether they've managed to do that, I'm not sure.

        If this is feasible, I wouldn't be surprised to see it mounted in places where mortars, Katyusha-style rockets, and RPGs are common -- places like the areas surrounding Israel, and in the cities of Iraq. Removing the major ability of insurgents to use such mobile weapons may reduce overall casualties and introduce a frustration factor strong enough to either get them to do something easier to do but less likely to succeed (roadside or suicide bombs), or even get some to give up altogether. (Yes, it's optimistic, but still possible.)
        • by A nonymous Coward (7548) * on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:58PM (#15710440)
          So, make it hard for mortar shells and Katyushas and Qassims ... a Cessna in the landing pattern with a few hundred pounds of explosives won't be detected as dangerous until it is too close to be stopped. Ditto for cars coming to the curbside loading zones.

          I have always marveled at the willingness of the military industrial complex to come up with expensive ways of guarding against rogue cruise missiles, which are expensive and unlikely compared to the simplicity of stealing a Cessna and cruising over the border like any other returning drug plane. Or pack your nuke into a stolen cargo ship, packed down in the hold under enough metal barrier cargo to keep its radiation hidden, and sail right into a harbor.

          Osama bin Laden is notorious for doing things cheaply. I can't believe he has much interest in stealing cruise missiles when he could steal Cessnas or a cargo ship.

          This recent North Korean volley of missiles made me wonder if anyone at the top actually was worried about it. I think rather they saw it as a wonderful opportunity to spend more money on useless weapons to make it look like they were defending liberty. Osama bin Laden and his ilk have nothing to retaliate against and nothing to lose. North Korea and Iran do. Their glorious leaders may be crazy, but they're not stupid. If they actually did land a warhead in the US, even just a few hundred pounds of dynamite, there would not be a single dissenting voice trying to talk the US out of pulverizing their countries. They know that, and we know they know that. Even their own citizens know that.
          • by Martin Blank (154261) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @02:12AM (#15710889) Journal
            There is no technology that is going to protect against all threats. THEL removes certain opportunities, forcing would-be terrorists to deal with a smaller attack profile. Just because the THEL concept doesn't work on all threats doesn't mean that it's an invalid concept.

            Consider network security. We use firewalls to deal with certain connectivity threats. We use IDS/IPS to deal with certain threats that go through connectivity that must remain open. We use antivirus to deal with certain e-mail and file-based threats. We use logs to look for deviations from accepted activity within systems. None of those on its own will deal with all of those threats on its own.

            Consider the threats faced out in the world. Whatever you think of the background reasons, Katyushas, RPGs, mortars, and even artillery shells are real risks to soldiers on the ground as well as to civilians near threat zones (think Israel, Iraq, and maybe Turkey). The ability to knock these down in flight, at least in the small quantities used by guerillas, saves lives and property. And to clarify for those that may not know, the Qassim and Katyusha rockets are not cruise missiles. They're simple rockets that can be constructed with the tools found in a basic machine shop. While THEL can knock down cruise missiles, that's not what they're intended for here.

            Your mention of cars, light aircraft, and ships are another threat entirely, and much harder to deal with. Stolen ships are a less-likely vector, because a stolen ship is a lot harder to hide, especially when you're trying to get into port. It's more likely that it will be legitimately purchased by a shell company and then sailed under legal registration. In any case, THEL is not intended to deal with those threats. Those have to be dealt with largely by eyes. As a would-be pilot and an occasional commercial flier, I have the most concern with the light aircraft and the car bomb at the loading zones. I have no desire to deal with a plethora of additional FAA regulations to deal with just to rent a Cessna or a Piper, nor do I want to have to take a shuttle two miles from another drop-off point (which just moves the target) to the drop-off point.
            • The expectation is that the terrorists need to learn how to fly first. So long as we are dealing with people stupid enough to fall for the Islamo-fascist brainwashing of Al Quaeda, we are faced with a massive, naive enemy. There is considerable doubt that this mass includes people wealthy enough to have their own pilot's license ahead of joining "the cause." If Zaccaharius Moussawi (sorry about the spelling) is any evidence, the local "crop duster" pilot school is going to be suspicious of zealous, reclus
  • by ScentCone (795499) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:32PM (#15709795)
    By which I mean actual, migrating waterfowl. They'll fall out of the sky right into the Orange Terminal's food vending area, where Duck a la Orange will still sell for $50, right next to the $50 sandwiches. This is convenient, because that's what it will take to finance the laser equipment.

    Luckily, Reagan National, in DC, can just use shark-mounted lasers swimming in the Potomac River.
  • by aschoeff (864154) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:33PM (#15709800)
    ...and I propose they do this via some sort of dedicated network that controls them all, say, Skynet?
  • by aslate (675607) <[planetexpress] [at] [gmail.com]> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:33PM (#15709802) Homepage
    Unless this "shield" protects the airport from terrorists attempting to board a plane, what use are they? When was the last time a plane crashed into an airport building? Now if this was the White House or tother big military places, sure, but your standard domestic airport? Why?
  • by corndogg (741610) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:33PM (#15709803)
    Just imagine... juicy cooked tidbits will simply drop from the sky... time to buy a convertible!
  • by mikael (484) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:36PM (#15709806)
    Do not look into laser with remaining eye
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:37PM (#15709809)
    I don't think that we should trust a protective shield with a metric radius in the U.S.
  • The company I work does more airport approach clearance surveys than anyone else in the United States. I'm not sure how Northrop can claim they will be able to offer 20km protection against shoulder-fired missiles. I'm not sure how they could offer 2km protection.
    While most airports have a great view of everything more than 20-30 feet in the air, many are in congested areas where there is no way they would be able to see an individual with a Stinger. Since shoulder-fired missiles seem to be the most plausible form of attack, I simply can't see how this system offers much protection at all to urban/suburban commercial airports.
  • Do they work? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by SeanMon (929653) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:40PM (#15709827) Homepage Journal
    I would like to see solid evidence that they are effective and that they eliminate a threat before the government pours billions into this technology.
  • Spelling (Score:3, Funny)

    by whitehatlurker (867714) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:40PM (#15709831) Journal
    I believe that the other nation named is usually spelled "Israel".

    Eye used Opera's spell cheque on the post

  • by dbIII (701233) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:41PM (#15709839)
    First thing - this technology has never actually worked in a carefully controlled test, but it will be on sale!

    Remember folks - it does not actually have to work when the criteria is to spend money on anti-terrorism devices to show that you care. It is just more silicon snake oil - what more can you expect in an environment where intelligence agencies are using voodoo such as polygraph tests and pretend they are a highly accurate way of telling the truth, reading minds or whatever is the fashionable delusion these days.

    We need better science education to stop the people who control the public purse getting sucked in by confidence tricks.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:42PM (#15709841)
    Number of US airports (http://www.cia.gov/cia/publications/factbook/fiel ds/2053.html): 14,893
    Major US airports (http://www.fly.faa.gov/flyfaa/usmap.jsp): Approx. 40
    US airports with international flights (http://aerospace.web.mtsu.edu/usinternational.htm ): At least 72

    Minimum likely cost using low-ball $25 million per airport figure and only major airports: US$1 billion
    Mid-range likely cost using higher $30 million per airport figure, and all international airports in the US: US$2.16 billion
    Realistic projection, expecting a 50% cost overrun, and ~100 airports: US$4.5 billion
    Potential maximum even if cost per airport is reduced to 1/10th the lowest projection, and only 1 in 4 US airports is protected: US$9.3 billion.

    All this just to stop something that's never happened on US soil, and AFAIK never successfully happened elsewhere (terrorists using a missile to shoot down a commercial passenger aircraft). Who said terrorism was bad? It sure as heck is good business if you're Northrop...
    • by Aaron England (681534) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:27PM (#15710320)
      I sympathize with your skepticism of this project's value. But I disagree with attitude of discounting the threat. For starters there have been several instinces throughout history where terrorists have used missiles to shoot down passenger aircraft. But more to the point, if insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan can use RPGs or MANPADs to bring down military aircraft, I think it's safe to say the same tools are just as a capable of bringing down a commercial. In fact, given that commercial airlines are relatively unmanueverable as well as the fact that they don't carry any countermeasures, you have to assume increased plausability.
      • by Breakfast Pants (323698) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @12:11AM (#15710498) Journal
        If we spent the 9 billion putting up guard rails around roads with drop-offs that don't have them we would save thousands more lives.
        • putting up guard rails around roads with drop-offs that don't have them we would save thousands more lives

          Spent that way, you'd likely cause more severe injuries and cost more lives. At least the laser system is less likely to actually cause as much additional harm.

          From wikipeda [wikipedia.org]:

          It is important to note that guardrail had frequently ranked as among the highest sources of injury and fatality in a fixed-object crash (1). Among the primary reasons for this is the type of treatment used at the leading end of the

      • if it happens every 5 years, and maybe a thousand people lose their lives, your billions will save a thousand lives. But how many thousands die every year in road traffic accidents? or through preventable diseases? I know the UK (pop 60 million) loses 3000 a year to road accidents.
        Im not saying you shouldnt do anything about terrorist attacks, but on a cost-benefit analysis basis, spending this much money on this system, rather than (for example) better healthcare, or road safety measures, is just inefficie
  • I see a new fast-food chain based on that: JFK Fried Chicken, (or ducks... or whatever..._)
  • Pointless. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by darkmeridian (119044) <william.chuangNO@SPAMgmail.com> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:46PM (#15709861) Homepage
    Given what we have seen of insurgent guerilla tactics in Iraq, popping RPGs at departing flights would bring do wn a plane. Perhaps not everyone on board will get killed because of the low altitude, but terrorism is all about terrorizing a population. That laser shield isn't going to do much, is it? Moreover, the laser is pointless unless it is deployed at all airports because terrorists with a man-portable surface to air missile would certainly do enough research to figure out which airports do not have the defense system and act accordingly. Or they would just go to Japan and knock down a plane bound for the United States. This appears to be more comfort food for a worried nation's spirit.
    • Re:Pointless. (Score:4, Informative)

      by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:05PM (#15709962)
      Given what we have seen of insurgent guerilla tactics in Iraq, popping RPGs at departing flights would bring do wn a plane. Perhaps not everyone on board will get killed because of the low altitude, but terrorism is all about terrorizing a population. That laser shield isn't going to do much, is it?

      It's not a 'shield' (dome) over the airport.
      "Northrop described Skyguard as capable of destroying rockets, mortars, artillery shells, unmanned aerial vehicles, short-range ballistic missiles, as well as cruise missiles. Against shoulder-fired missiles, which are relatively easy to heat with a laser and destroy, the protective shield would extend to a 20-kilometer radius"

      Or they would just go to Japan and knock down a plane bound for the United States.

      ""If it goes that path, it's a very large market," he said, citing potential demand from Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and what he called virtually any country facing a threat from a neighbor."
  • by Geoffreyerffoeg (729040) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:49PM (#15709878)
    Airports with frickin' lasers on their heads!
  • But why... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Digitus1337 (671442) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <sutigid_kl>> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @09:51PM (#15709892) Homepage
    Why do airports need shielding from lasers?
  • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:00PM (#15709932)
    Is it 100% ready for full, zero defect deployment? Probably not. But then neither were aircraft, at first. Nor cars. Nor microwave ovens. Nor pretty much anything you can name.

    Give it time. Some of these defense mechanisms WILL work. And work quite well.
  • by ridgecritter (934252) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:05PM (#15709960)
    For example - the (normal) northbound departure from San Jose goes over about a jillion small industrial buildings and hard-to-inspect back alleys. A single person on one of the roofs under the departure route could badly damage departing aircraft with a rifle. A .223 or better would hole a wing (and fuel tank) with no trouble, and with good marksmanship, I doubt the Kevlar blade containment shields would stand up to a 50 cal round. No missile needed. No help from the can of laser whupass. Hell, the jihadi would probably even get away, although I understand that's supposed to be optional. How many billions are we going to spend on this? Do you feel safer? I didn't think so.
    • by kognate (322256) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:42PM (#15710129)
      You, my friend, have been watching too many Prime-Time news specials.

      It is NOT easy to hit an aircraft with a rifle. This is why anti-aircraft guns are
      machine guns or cannon. On approach, a 747 is traveling quite fast (around 170 knots, or 314 kph). It has four engines.
      A Barrett .50 cal has a 10 round clip. That means you have 2 rounds per engine, plus two rounds. The recoil on that rifle
      is PROFOUND. You probably couldn't shoot down a CRJ-6000 effectively with one of these, let alone an
      inbound heavy.

      Also, Since the effective range of a B.50 is 2000 meters (2 km), you would have about 22 seconds to make all eight shots in the best conditions. That may seem like a lot, but it's not. Especially considering your target is moving erratically (turbulence), is far away
      (you have to begin shooting at the edge of the range of your weapon), and people are going to notice this firearm being discharged.

      And this is with a .50 cal, not even a .223 (the effective range of which is _way_ less than 2000 meters). Think about it: if you could shoot stuff down with .223, why even issue MANPADs? Your average Jihadi would just use his trusty AK-47-like weapon.

      Why be afraid? The world is dangerous, but fear of someone shooting down a jet with a pop-gun doesn't help anybody.
      • Think about it: if you could shoot stuff down with .223, why even issue MANPADs?

        For defense, you need to be able to shoot planes down reliably. For terror, even a rare hit would be sufficient.

        you would have about 22 seconds to make all eight shots in the best conditions

        Why would a terrorist need more than a single hit? It seems to me that there are lots of vital structures on an airplane that, when hit by a single bullet, could cause serious problems.

        Why be afraid? The world is dangerous, but fear of some
        • by AJWM (19027) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @02:20AM (#15710913) Homepage
          Why would a terrorist need more than a single hit? It seems to me that there are lots of vital structures on an airplane that, when hit by a single bullet, could cause serious problems.

          Um, no.

          Commercial aircraft are designed with multiple redundant systems. They are designed to withstand things like engines disintegrating and spewing turbine blades all over the place, bird strikes and other random foreign object impacts, lightning strikes, landing gear tire explosions, and miscellaneous failures like random hydraulic line ruptures or doors not properly latched. An Aloha Airlines 737 successfully flew to an airport and landed after a large section of fuselage ripped off because of excessive corrosion and pressurization cycle stress fractures.

          Boeing learned aircraft design lessons by examining WW II bombers that returned from missions full of flak damage. Were the holes were, they knew they'd designed it right. In areas where no damage was found, they knew that aircraft that had been hit there hadn't made it back -- so they redesigned that area.

          Most places on an airliner where a bullet hit would probably go unnoticed until the ground inspection crew noticed the hole or dent.

          (Heck, even a shoulder-launched SAM might not do significant damage. There was a great photo in Aviation Week some years back, of a private jet (Gulfstream? Citation? I forget which) owned by some African country (presidental plane) that had been fired on and hit. Blew one of the engine pods apart. The rest of the aircraft, and the pilots, essentially treated at as a "routine" catastrophic engine failure and continued on to friendlier territory on the remaining engine.)
      • bullshit (Score:3, Insightful)

        by aepervius (535155)
        Firstly anti aircraft gun are not for commercial passenger flight, they are for military craft. Secondly, I live near an airport. I can assure you that at landing the craft is in a quite straigth line, your erratically "moving" is only happenning in strong wind condition, which is certainly NOT the norm at any airport I know (well maybe not denver :)). Especially if you are in the alignement of the landing/take off strip. I have no idea how easy it is to fire a gun, and a better argument would be that you
      • a few dozen planes and helicopters were shot down in Vietnam by AK 47s. The NVA even trained specialists for that purpose. I personnaly met an old man who had received a special medal for one of these feats.
      • If Oswald could do it, then hitting a low flying plane should be a snap.
        • If Oswald could do it, then hitting a low flying plane should be a snap.

          It's not the question of simply hitting a target but doing damage. Oswald was what? 120 yards out, maybe? Shooting at a vehicle moving nearly straight away from him traveling at about 8 miles an hour shooting at a soft target. If rifles were too pathetic to pull that off we wouldn't even have firearms today. But in this case we're talking about doing enough damage to a commercial airliner to either destroy it, make it crash or kill pe
      • Also, Since the effective range of a B.50 is 2000 meters (2 km), you would have about 22 seconds to make all eight shots in the best conditions.

        If acting alone, yes. However, this attack scales linearly with the number of terrorists involved... and getting together eight terrorists and training them to be good marksmen seems considerably easier than getting 20 terrorists to become pilots, which has been done. Plus you could always add more terrorists for redundancy.

        Which would also make for a great acrony
    • by RobertNotBob (597987) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @09:59AM (#15712247)
      I doubt the Kevlar blade containment shields would stand up to a 50 cal round.

      .

      Actually, the failure they are designed to protect against is much more energetic than a 50 cal bullet. Sure, I will agree with your general sentiment that a 50 is quite a destructive force. But it isn't actually even in the same league this particular equipment. So, without even addressing the rest of your comment, I can tell you that you're already off course right here.

      I would also argue that with tank design and modern fuel additives even serveral dozen holes in the gas tanks of 0.2 inches would not present a critical hazzard to a modern liner, but I would have to admit that I have no scientific data on that particular topic.

  • Terrible idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mcelrath (8027) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:17PM (#15710017) Homepage

    Weaponizing civilian installations such as airports is a horrible idea. Sooner or later this system will accidentally shoot down a civilian aircraft. It's like weaponizing cars. You think there won't be mishaps? Increasing the number of ways an airplane can crash does not decrease the overall airplane accident rate.

    Perhaps we should concentrate our efforts on finding people who want to commit homocidal acts and imprisoning them.

    Or maybe stop international policies which cause people to want to commit homocidal acts against our airports.

    While I'm at it...maybe we should stop trying to identify all the people that are not homocidal maniacs in a brain-dead attempt to find the homocidal maniacs by a process of elimination...

    Does fear run your life?

  • Impractical (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Goonie (8651) * <robert.merkel@benamb r a . org> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:22PM (#15710035) Homepage
    This makes more sense than equipping every airliner in the US with anti-missile countermeasures, but not much.

    I don't have an exact figure, but there are roughly 500 airports with commercial flights into and out of them in the United States. Some of them only have a couple of scheduled flights a day. At, say, $25 million a pop, it will cost $12.5 billion dollars to equip all those airports with such a system, plus operating costs (presumably you have to have at least one guy babysitting the thing).

    And you pretty much have to install these things everywhere an airliner flies. Terrorists aren't stupid (well, actually the evidence is that most of them are, but that's another story. Assuming they're stupid isn't a good idea IMO). They'll realise that if these systems exist, they should pick somewhere that's unlikely to be equipped with it. So while the planes at LAX and La Guardia land and take off with laser-guarded safety, our friendly local terrorists cruise on down to Bum's Rush, Iowa, and take potshots at the one RJ that lands there every day.

    But assume these things *do* get installed in every airport in the country. What do our terrorists do? They scrap plan A - missiles at airplane takeoff - and go to the equally lethal plan B, a couple of tonnes of explosives under the grandstand at the local high school football game. Or any one of plans C through ZZ. So we've blown 10 billion dollars to achieve very, very little.

    This is almost a quintessential example of protecting against a movie plot threat [schneier.com].

  • Star wars (Score:3, Funny)

    by Sir_Lewk (967686) <`sirlewk' `at' `gmail.com'> on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:48PM (#15710153)
    Reagan is smiling in his grave.
  • Yeah, good idea... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Pedrito (94783) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @10:57PM (#15710192) Homepage
    How long before one of these things mistakes a passenger jet for a rocket? Who's going to man the thing? I mean, Aegis Combat System [fas.org] is more or less the same thing and it shot down a passenger jet and there's relatively few Aegis systems. Imagine having these things at every major airport. I dunno, I don't think I'd be very comfortable flying with these things up and running.
    • by Eagle7 (111475)
      Other than the fact that it is a weapon system that shoots at flying stuff, AEGIS is nothing like this. Perhaps most obviously, AEGIS (much like PATRIOT) is designed to shoot down aircraft with missiles, not heat up missiles (NOT aircraft) with lasers, as the system in the article does.
    • by MattHawk (215818)
      It shouldn't be too large a problem, even if it does take a shot at a passenger aircraft. This isn't a staw wars-esque deal where the target explodes the second the light begins to hit it. It relies on keeping the laser on-target for several seconds to heat the object up enough to cause fuel or warheads to explode. A passenger aircraft takes quite a bit longer to heat up then an RPG due to the size, much less of its mass is combustible, and there will likely be a human manning the system - as soon as they s
  • by HangingChad (677530) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:10PM (#15710241) Homepage
    You and your pathetic band will die. Behold the power of my fully operational domestic airport!
  • by Null537 (772236) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @11:37PM (#15710362)
    ...to shoot down those snake infested planes.
  • spear and shield (Score:5, Insightful)

    by 2Bits (167227) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @12:08AM (#15710489)
    There's a chinese expression that literally translates to "spear and shield", meaning paradox. There was a weapon merchant selling spear and shield, claiming that his spear can cut thru any shield existed, and that his shield can protect against any spear existed.

    Looks like Northrop Grunman is doing the same thing here, selling on one hand space laser gun that can destroy anything from outer space, and protective shield against laser gun on the other hand.

    Someone is getting screwed somewhere.

  • Mmmmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by maztuhblastah (745586) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @12:21AM (#15710536) Journal
    On one hand, we have a system which tracks fast moving objects, and uses lasers to torch them.

    On the other hand, we have birds, flying past the detectors.

    That's it... I'm bringing Jamaican Jerk spices when I fly next....

    -m
  • by Run4yourlives (716310) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @02:18AM (#15710909)
    A billion dollar security shield to make us feel safe while terrorists take over planes with box cutters.

    Brilliant.
  • Pictures (Score:3, Funny)

    by ijakings (982830) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @05:31AM (#15711321)
    Damn it, why are there never any pictures for kickass storys like a laser shield bubble but every time Microsoft does something I have to look at Steve Ballmers sweaty face...
  • Stupid Idea (Score:5, Insightful)

    by argStyopa (232550) on Thursday July 13, 2006 @08:41AM (#15711809) Journal
    LOL, that's simply an absurd concept. Airports don't have anything to fear from the sorts of 'tactical' battlefield rockets that this would help against, and I'm extraordinarily doubtful that it would do jack *shit* against an RPG.
    Oh, and regarding it's promising utility against shoulder-launched SAMs? Yes, I've seen the test films on laser-missile defense and, in a clear sky with no clutter, no ground interference, it can take out AAMs in a second or two...of course, if Terrorist Abdullah is going to fire a SAM-9, he's not going to wait until that 747 full of people is 2 miles away on a departing vector at 5000' giving the laser a nice multi-second chase solution. He's going to nail it when it's 1000 yards away, 150' in the air, loaded to the gills with fuel, engines on HOT, and the pilot has no altitude to cope with the consequences. This laser system going to detect, track, power up, and fire early enough to kill the warhead in that case? (Not to mention to track and compensate for, I dunno, that landing JAL 747 full of 300 Mall of America shoppers that's about to cross the beam during firing????) Um, no.
    And can you imagine the maintenance contract on a ultra-high powered system with that sort of a hair-trigger, that has to basically sit "charged" 24/7? Egad. Yeah, I BET Northrop is hoping to sell a few of these.

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