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Boeing Successfully Tests Anti-Missile Laser 868

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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  • 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.
  • Money (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Deliveranc3 ( 629997 ) <deliverance AT level4 DOT org> on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:30PM (#10810300) Journal
    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 HOPE of reprisals.
  • by Performaman ( 735106 ) <Peterjones&gmail,com> on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:32PM (#10810307)
    This isn't such a big deal. All they did was fire a laser from a fuselage-sized building/room. They have not proven that it will work at high altitudes, much less actually hit the target.
  • by zaren ( 204877 ) <> 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 vudufixit ( 581911 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:46PM (#10810379)
    That we're doing this as a hedge against a resurgence of hostilities against Russia. Russia's already increasing its spying in Britain back to Cold War levels.
  • honest question (Score:2, Interesting)

    by I7D ( 682601 ) <> on Saturday November 13, 2004 @10:57PM (#10810447) Homepage
    I'm posting as AC because i'm embarassed to ask this, but if a missile is "chromed", does it still absorb the lasers heat?
  • Re:Missile Defense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by aldoman ( 670791 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @11:01PM (#10810477) Homepage
    I'm slightly confused. This system seems to deal with 'sidewinder'-style missiles - ie: small, very fast, and can easily destroy a tank/plane/humvee.

    I know for a fact that i'd prefer one of these to take out any RPG shots that might be fired towards me if I were in Iraq.

    This is how the US is going to win the 'war on terror': simply make their weapons totally useless. At the moment, RPGs are probably the biggest danger to a soldier moving around. With this, it's not a problem anymore. I'm sure they could work on a system that could eventually shoot down bullets in mid air, and then finally make it small enough so that soldiers can carry it. Virtually invincible soldiers.

    Terrorists are probably not going to be able to kit out their soldiers with this. Sure, they can use suicide bombs, but it's certainly not as easy as setting an RPG a half-mile away, firing at a passing patrol and killing 5 soldiers.
  • Re:Missile Defense (Score:2, Interesting)

    by katharsis83 ( 581371 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @11:31PM (#10810630)

    If, say, an invasion of South Korea failed, I could easily see him launching missiles on the rest of the world. -- As far as US intelligence/any intelligence whatsoever knows, North Korea doesn't have any nukes or missiles; they're trying to build them, but failing. They are incredibly far from missiles that can hit anywhere close to the US.

    Who's to say that China will never invade Taiwan. -- The only reason China would invade Taiwan is if Taiwan declares independence, in which case the UYS is not going to defend them - look up the treaties. I seriously doubt China, in addition to attacking a heavily armed Taiwan, would also want to aggravate the strongest military power in the world.

    Who's to say that India or Pakistan won't try to start a nuclear war. -- Neither India nor Pakistan have ICBM's capable of hitting the US, not even mentioning the fact that both are allied with the US, albeit loosely in Pakistan's case. Again, noen of the US' business.

    Missile defense systems shouldn't defend just the US, they should defend our allies around the world -- No one has asked the US to play world police. Perhaps defending American allies can start with doing less things to piss off everyone in the world.

  • by Prophetic_Truth ( 822032 ) on Saturday November 13, 2004 @11:39PM (#10810655)
    I dont know..if I was getting shot at I would like to be on the plane with the laser that shoots down missles.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday November 13, 2004 @11:40PM (#10810662)
    The whole point is to have multiple systems which can defeat incoming missiles at all points. If it passes one then the next system gets a shot. We start with the boost phase and 747, then we go to space based, then finally a ground based.

    Each is going to have its own limitations, but also its own benefits.
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @12:02AM (#10810751)
    > Uh, huh. That would be why the Quran refers to Jews, Christians and Muslims as all "children of the book."

    Uh, huh. That would be why the same book refers to Jews as the sons of pigs and monkeys, and you secular folks don't even wanna think about what that book says about what should happen to the atheists.

    Also says its cheif prophet married a 7-year-old when he was in his 50s, but he was nice about it and waited 'til she was 9 before he "took her as his bride". (Well, at least I can see why Michael Jackson is rumored to have up :)

    > Let me clue you into something - the muslim extremists are about as Islamic as the KKK are Christian. Taking what they say as representative of the religion is a great way to delude yourself, and justify all kinds of terrible things.

    Let me clue you into something - it may be full of guys who fuck their cousins and their sheep (sometimes it's hard to tell the difference), but the KKK isn't within two years of completing a nuclear weapons development programme.

    > So, just who now are we suppossed to be rooting for?

    Unless you're a moslem, I'd suggest you root for the side that's not trying to kill or force into submission the 4.5 billion of us who haven't drunk its particular brand of theological Kool-Aid.

    If you are a moslem, you're welcome to declare your allegiance with the other 4.5 billion of us at any time you like. But first - clean up your own house. The Hebrews sorta had their conquering urges beaten out of them over the millennia since the Book of Joshua was written. The Christans figured it out 500 years ago during the Reformation. You're welcome to join us, but you're long overdue, and we're getting really fucking sick of waiting.

  • by Peyna ( 14792 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @12:08AM (#10810790) Homepage
    Your complaint centers around the poor quality of teachers. If you paid them more, you'd get higher quality teachers leaving other jobs to come back and teach. Teachers put in about 10-12 hours a day on average, if not more. They spend their summers putting together lesson plans, and usually working other part-time jobs. Most of them don't get any help, or very limited help, on supplies, and spend hundreds out of their own pockets to pick up expenses the school won't pay for.

    If you want better teachers, offer better pay, and better people will apply for the jobs. If we paid high school teachers $50-60k, you'd have some very qualified candidates leaving their current jobs to teach instead.
  • See (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 [].
  • Re:Missile Defense (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Ironsides ( 739422 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @12:24AM (#10810883) Homepage Journal
    No no no, critically challenged was when Germany invaded Poland during WWII with tanks, and Poland sent Cavalry on Horses with Pistols to try to stop them. France, from what I understand, merely didn't have an actual government in power at the time.
  • by dead sun ( 104217 ) <aranach AT gmail DOT com> on Sunday November 14, 2004 @12:44AM (#10810977) Homepage Journal
    While you'd attract some brighter people, you'd attract a whole slew of people that were just after some quick cash. They'd teach to the standardized tests, be quicker than current teachers to keep out realistic measures of their performance, and generally be a nuisance.

    What happened during the dot-com boom of the 90's when there was so much cash sitting around the tech industry it wasn't funny? Morons, dimwits, and people that couldn't code themselves out of a wet cardboard box came running as fast as they could. Many, many students enrolled in CS classes for a quick dollar despite the fact they were incapable of learning a single programming language. They'd lie and cheat their way to graduation, barely pulling C's, and then promptly sucker somebody into hiring them. They're probably clueless managers now sucking in a salary they'll never deserve.

    While I think that perhaps a little more than starting out at about $20k is a worthwhile idea, jacking the salaries isn't going to draw only good teachers. I'm not sure the net effect of seeding morons into the people who get degrees in teaching is, just in order to try to get people in industry with no teaching experience, but I doubt it's as rosy as you're painting it to be. I've been fortunate enough to have some teachers who really love teaching, despite the pay. I think the best teachers will teach as long as they're making enough between them and their spouse to get by.

    Anyway, the way interviews seem to go it's likely the effect of grossly inflated salaries would be something along the lines of, "Well, you have 15 years relevent chemistry experience at MegaChemCorp, but you've never taught before. We're going to award the job to this other guy with a teaching degree that's never seen the real world." Gotta preserve the old status quo of who got you into the easy position, right?

  • by physicsphairy ( 720718 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @12:54AM (#10811020) Homepage
    Teachers put in about 10-12 hours a day on average, if not more.
    Untrue. Most teachers at my school put in the minimum 8 that they're at school. They did not have work to do outside of class because they either had us grade our homework and quizzes in class or had the aides (seniors just needing extra credits) grade the work. The only exception was (some of) the honors teachers.

    They spend their summers putting together lesson plans,
    They spend one summer putting together a lesson plan, and for the rest of their careers that is the lesson plan they use. Heck, you can tell which teachers are longtime veterans by how unreadable their handouts have become.

    and usually working other part-time jobs.
    Which to me just highlights the aburdity of all the vacation time they get paid for.

    Most of them don't get any help, or very limited help, on supplies, and spend hundreds out of their own pockets to pick up expenses the school won't pay for.
    On what exactly? Golden protractors?

    I never had a teacher buy anything for the class except for sometimes the nice ones would get us candy on halloween or bake us something.

    I don't see why you would need to buy anything extra except in lab courses. And the school always covered the expenses for that.

    Heck, if the teachers are pressed for supply money, I don't see why they each need they're own personal computer (which they inevitable need the students' help to figure out how to use). My Chem teacher was the only one who put his to good use: he played games on it while we were doing the assigned labs.

    If you want better teachers, offer better pay, and better people will apply for the jobs. If we paid high school teachers $50-60k, you'd have some very qualified candidates leaving their current jobs to teach instead.
    You'd have some very unqualified candidates pursuing jobs, too. Which is just the status quo. I had some awesome teachers. It is just that they were grossly outnumbered by the incompetents. It still comes back to getting rid of the bad teachers, which is what I'm proposing. You need a system that is high quality first; then you hire competively to fill the positions that are vacated by individuals that don't meet your standards. You don't arbitrarily increase wages and presume because you do so that you are getting your money's worth.

  • by HiThere ( 15173 ) * <> on Sunday November 14, 2004 @01:53AM (#10811270)
    Actually, if I've read things correctly, a suitcase bomb (dirty variety) can handily kill a city. It just won't kill many of the people that have lived/worked in the city. It spreads a large cloud of radioactive dust, such that nobody quickly gets a lethal dose. But also so that nobody can live there without severe danger of cancer and other mutation diseases. So everyone has to move out. It's really quite impractical to clean it up, as by the time you could have done so, everyone has moved to some place new. Wait 5 years or so, though, and the city can be re-occupied. Even within days a person could travel through it without much problem. You just wouldn't want to stay there for a week or two.

    So cities is primarily what they would kill. Not people.
  • If it shouldn't be bailing out the school system, it should stop taking the taxes that used to go to support the schools.

    Fat chance.

    Personally, I agree totally. The schools should be supported locally. Unfortunately the taxes that used to be spent on the schools have been hijacked by both the Feds and the state (different tax sources) on the grounds that they could "redistribute it more fairly". (I forget who I'm quoting...sorry. Rumsfield perhaps?) HAH! They took the money, and returned only a fraction of it. The result was the schools with marginal support has less than marginal support. This has been happening increasingly since the 1950's, perhaps slightly earlier, but not before 1940. Now the schools are down to being supported by property taxes, which are essentially frozen (2/3 vote required for any increase, and many people don't have kids). Every once in awhile the govt. mandates a new program, and makes a temporary grant of enough money to run a test program, but not enough money to really run it. Currently it's testing. Everybody is focused on passing multiple choice tests. Everyone. Because that's what the school budgets depend on. And they have to do better every year, or the budget is cut, but the requirement for testing doesn't get dropped. Can anyone see where this leads?

    Of course, it's not really that good. Certain programs have been dropped because of the focus on testing. Like PE. Like anything that isn't on the test. Because that's what the budget depends on. So the teachers "teach to the test" regardless of what their students need. And regardless of whether their students can speak english. (I think we have 17 languages in the average school. And many of those kids ONLY speak their native language. Good luck in getting them to pass the test. But if you don't, your budget gets cut...)

    Budget gets cut. Many of the schools around here run out of toilet paper partway through the year. There wasn't enough money in the budget. Teachers sometimes bring their own roll, and have the students check it out and back in.

    It's no wonder to me that every person who can afford to is sending their kids to a private school. The public schools have been turned into something much worse that what caused me to hate school when I was growing up. Not that kid gangs are under control. Most parents try to keep their kids inside all the time. The streets are too dangerous.

    Yes, we have a really fine government. One that's really caring and effective.

  • Re:Missile Defense (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord Kano ( 13027 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @02:25AM (#10811369) Homepage Journal
    Remember what happened to the technically challenged French in WWII? I believe they call that "steam rolled..."

    Actually the word is "flanked" []. The guns on the Maginot line couldn't turn around. The French didn't see any need to be able to aim the guns back at their own country. Why would they ever need to aim their guns back at their own territory? Well, they weren't being creative enough in their planning.

    The Germans flanked the Maginot line, they got behind those big ass guns and forced the soldiers inside to surrender.

    That's the perfect example of what can happen to you if you don't "think outside the box".

    It may seem like a waste of money to spend $10 billion. In the long run it may be, but I'd rather be able to shoot down a home rolled cruise missile in 10 years than to have one slam into a nursery school.

    Who knows, maybe the advances we make in chemical lasers will have new applications in bringing laser surgery to third world countries.

    So many military developments have transitioned into civilillian progress that we could scarcely count them.

  • rotation? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by jkondel ( 822420 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @03:51AM (#10811691)
    I remember reading a long time ago that a low-tech solution to laser-based missile defense was to have the warhead/missile/etc... rotate. In order for the laser to be effective, it would have to be hitting the same spot no?

    PS - There was a good article in this past months Discover Magazine regarding the Missile Defense Initiative, and how low-tech solutions can beat most if not all of the US's tactics at this point.

  • Re:Troll much? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TyrranzzX ( 617713 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @04:41AM (#10811838) Journal
    Put it to you this way; the american government is openly calling and implying protestors are terrorists and moving to profile and prosecute them, subdue them with non-lethal weapons of which several have been shown to be quite lethal on several occasions, and suppress our rights further and further while people become poorer and poorer.

    What sparked the american revolution if 1770? The british went from door to door, collecting taxes, and shot 5 tax protestors when they refused to pay at point blank range. Not everyone joined in at first, but just about everyone knew that was wrong, and enough were outraged to organize and begin taking back towns.

    Now, lets take this scenario. We've got a large protest, say, 1 million people in new york to protest, say, a draft. The cops, wanting to test their new toys, take out some, for example, taser guns and fire them at the croud to get it to back up. Lets say the tasers want through the croud, jolting 400 people, and 20 people don't wake up ever again.

    What's the probability of that night, someone who just lost their relative taking out an automatic weapon and hunting down some cops? Get some buddies together, find a cop car, ram it to the side of the road, get out your gun, fill it up with holes. What's the probability after that, of bush calling red alert and finding protestors, arresting them, and putting them into concentration camps without a trial? What's the probability of those protestors friends heading over to the local governmental building and demanding that they pass legislation blocking the patriot act from working in their area and stopping the government from passing it? What's the probability of the government moving in with the military into the "rouge state" of some little town in Montana and reinstating democracy?

    All of that is, of course, speculation and fud, but seriously, it isn't too far off. There are ways we can avoid a civil war, namely, if people at the local level begin organizing and activly resisting the governments advances, and at the national level, take time to set up organizations and political parties who are alternatives. But frankly, I don't think you'll be able to find a political scientist that won't tell you that the foundation of every single insurrection is a combination of poverty, available weapons, and a state tyrrany.

    I don't think the guy was a troll, I think he was angry. I am too; I know guys who are ready to hop in their cars and take strafing runs at buildings. I get angrier when I see people doing stupid shit which affects me and they don't want to listen. I guess if you give into the consensus mentality whereas everything is ok and lie to yourself when it isn't, you will have fun time when the world goes to hell in a handbag because you ignored your problems.
  • Re:rotation? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by BSDevil ( 301159 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @05:32AM (#10811948) Journal
    A while ago I saw a Discovery Channel show on these things, which explained how spinning won't cut it. Apparently, it's a short blast of high energy that is what does the damage, which a spin wouldn't effect. The analogy given was shooting a balerina with a shotgun - no matter how fast she spins, the brief high-energy hit does the job.

    (Note this was from a special some months go - my memory could be fading)
  • by BSDevil ( 301159 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @05:38AM (#10811959) Journal
    What about Califonia's fucked-up experiment in direct democracy, leaving the legislature with almost no control of what it can spend money on - think that might be a bit of a problem as well?
  • Re:Missile Defense (Score:3, Interesting)

    by True Grit ( 739797 ) * <> on Sunday November 14, 2004 @05:54AM (#10811991)
    The idea that static lines didn't work in the Second World War is false. The did work, but they were not wonder weapons.

    No, I don't believe they did work, certainly the Maginot failed to do what its creators thought it would. By 1943/44 the amount of firepower being used on the battlefield was such that *any* static defensive line could, and was, breached by a determined enemy. The only time such a static defensive line could work was when the terrain was on your side, or the location was such that the enemy had a difficult time getting the resources it needed in place to breach the line.

    Its popular for everyone to point to the German fortification of the Italian Alps as proof of a defensive line which "succeeded". Well, it "succeeded" only in delaying the attacker, not stopping him. Few are aware that US/British troops from the Italian front were actually in, and advancing through German territory when Hitler killed himself. And this was perhaps the best place in Europe for such a defensive line. Maginot would have fallen in love with Italy's southern Alps and its terrain, yet in the end it only slowed down a determined enemy, it didn't stop them.

    In the face of enormous firepower from mobile armies relying on maneuver warfare, defenses merely prolong the agony of defeat. If you have the ability and resources, the best defense is a powerful offense of your own.
  • by TheLink ( 130905 ) on Sunday November 14, 2004 @10:48AM (#10812745) Journal
    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.

    Why shoot down missiles if you can shoot the person that orders them to be launched and make it look like it was a freak incident?

    Potential apps? Sure, I can see plenty. In fact I wonder if assassination could actually be one of the main apps (secret of course - rather politically incorrect).

All science is either physics or stamp collecting. -- Ernest Rutherford