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Directed Energy Weapon Downs Ballistic Missile

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the sharks-as-witnesses dept.

The Military 297

A**masher writes "In a test off the Califoria coast late last night, Boeing's Airborne Laser successfully destroyed a sub-launched ballistic missile. 'This was the first directed energy lethal intercept demonstration against a liquid-fuel boosting ballistic missile target from an airborne platform,' reported the Missile Defense Agency. It should be noted that destroying a liquid-fueled ballistic missile is generally considered easier than killing a solid-fueled equivalent due to the relative fragility of the fueling and other systems."

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Popcorn and other practical applications (4, Funny)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112774)

Some people may worry that a laser this powerful could be used to build some sort of spaced-based precision bomber. But don't worry, you'd have to get someone to build you optics for a phase conjugate target tracking system to do something like that. And no one is stupid enough to do that without realizing the implications.

Re:Popcorn and other practical applications (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112834)

Whether or not the people who sign the contracts are stupid isn't the issue, its how greedy they are, and I think we all know the answer to that.

Re:Popcorn and other practical applications (1, Troll)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112938)

Let's be practical. As of today, if we want to take out an enemy threat, we send a big ol' bomb after them. If they happen to have surrounded themselves with 20 innocent people, collateral damage ensues. This is acceptable to pretty much everyone (except maybe the loved ones of the innocents who died.) Even if this system were to be put into use as a single-fire human target eliminator, it would be replacing a tool that is far less 'evil'.

Oh, and I know you and the GP were trying to be funny, Real Genius, et. al.

Re:*more* evil (2, Informative)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112952)

Even if this system were to be put into use as a single-fire human target eliminator, it would be replacing a tool that is far more 'evil'.

fixed that for me

Re:Popcorn and other practical applications (1)

bsDaemon (87307) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113020)

I've actually never seen that movie.

Re:Popcorn and other practical applications (0, Flamebait)

Doc Ruby (173196) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113196)

The greed in writing Star Wars "missile defense" contracts for the past 30 years has cost many $BILLIONS.

It's primary purpose was bankrupting the Soviet Union in an arms race, which it did, at the cost of bankrupting the US, which the US was able to (kinda) recover from, but the SU could not. We won the Cold War with the Star Wars budget as the atom bomb.

The greed today is even worse. The Cold War greed was sustainable, or at least survivable, working within limits. And the Cold War US economy had money to burn, so we did. But we have burnt all our money on a pyre of Terror War greed that has already crashed the economy worse than we could stand.

Counting on the greed being less than what we can stand is a recipe for sending the US the way of the Soviet Union. With the exact same weapon.

Re:Popcorn and other practical applications (1, Insightful)

aurispector (530273) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113288)

Have you ever even LOOKED at a breakdown of the budget, or do you parrot idiocy as a hobby?

Re:Popcorn and other practical applications (5, Insightful)

mozzis (231162) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113822)

To both the idiot who wrote this and the idiot who wrote its parent: One of the most compelling arguments for directed energy weapons, a point I have seen made time after time in briefings, is the reduction and/or elimination of "collateral damage" they will enable. In fact, no one I know in the military even uses the phrase "collateral damage" without a visible reaction of repugnance. The US military, as a matter of strategy and of tactical planning, abhors the idea of killing anyone who is not actively engaging in trying to kill us first. So the billions spent on this project reflect a commitment to that principle, which will be achieved both by the precision of the weapon (especially when used in a tactical engagement) and by its speed and range, which are unique and could possibly eliminate the threat of long-range nuclear weapons forever. THAT was the vision that motivated SDI and the ABL from their beginnings.

Re:Popcorn and other practical applications (1)

DJRumpy (1345787) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113118)

Can I get a *Woosh*? ;)

Re:Popcorn and other practical applications (1)

chill (34294) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113300)

Yeah, it would take a Real Genius not to spot that reference.

Re:Popcorn and other practical applications (1)

gadzook33 (740455) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113082)

Of course, you'd also need a large spinning mirror.

Re:Popcorn and other practical applications (1)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113960)

How about naked with a bowl of jello?

Re:Popcorn and other practical applications (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31113136)

That's popcorn. I hate popcorn, put it away.

Re:Popcorn and other practical applications (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113500)

***Some people may worry that a laser this powerful could be used to build some sort of spaced-based precision bomber.***

Rather the reverse doncha think? Might be a dandy tool for shooting holes in space-based military systems.

There's a difference between controlling the high ground and climbing a tree. It's always seemed to me that putting weapons in space was sort of the equivalent of climbing a tree with a sack full of grenades then watching a tank haul over the horizon with a large chain saw mounted on the front.

Congratulations (1)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112818)

To all engineers involved.

And a careful pat on the back for not blowing up the project for all managers

Interested but limited. (1, Interesting)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112824)

The missile they shot down was liquid fueled and not solid. Solid fuel targets may be a little harder to take out.
On the plus side Russia and a lot of other nations still use a large number of liquid fueled missiles. I also wonder how well it will work with say cruise missiles, UAVs, and or aircraft.

Don't be interested yet, headline is incorrect (1, Interesting)

RingDev (879105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112934)

Nothing was destroyed or shot down and the laser weapon was not fired.

FTFA:

The plane's battle management system issued engagement and target location instructions to the laser's fire control system, which tracked the target and fired a test laser at the missile. Instruments on the missile verified the system had hit its mark, Boeing said.

For all we know at this point the "Battle Management System" is a 2nd lieutenant with binoculars and the "Test Laser" is a Private with a laser pointer. Odds are it's better than that, but the last time I heard about this laser system it was still significantly too heavy (with power source) to mount in a 747 and the best firing they had performed was with it stationary on the ground shooting at a stationary dummy target 10 feet away.

I like it more than the "missile defense shield", but only marginally.

-Rick

Re:Don't be interested yet, headline is incorrect (4, Informative)

RealErmine (621439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113054)

Nothing was destroyed or shot down and the laser weapon was not fired.

This article says that you are wrong [mda.mil] .

Finally, the ALTB fired its megawatt-class High Energy Laser, heating the boosting ballistic missile to critical structural failure...

Less than one hour later, a second solid fuel short-range missile was launched from a ground location on San Nicolas Island, Calif. and the ALTB successfully engaged the boosting target with its High Energy Laser, met all its test criteria, and terminated lasing prior to destroying the second target. The ALTB destroyed a solid fuel missile, identical to the second target, in flight on February 3, 2010.

Summary: the ALTB engaged and destroyed a liquid fueled target and then engaged, but did not destroy, a solid fueled target. The megawatt class laser was fired in both cases.

Apparently Reuters Fails at Journalism (0, Redundant)

RingDev (879105) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113164)

The Missile Defense Agency article does sound much more impressive. I am surprised to find that the Reuters rehash of the press release was so sloppy. I'd really like to see an independent journalist's description of the events though.

-Rick

Re:Apparently Reuters Fails at Journalism (1)

RealErmine (621439) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113592)

The Missile Defense Agency article does sound much more impressive. I am surprised to find that the Reuters rehash of the press release was so sloppy. I'd really like to see an independent journalist's description of the events though.

That would be hard to find. There really isn't such a thing as an independent journalist where military testing is concerned. They're not just going to let any publication send a reporter.

Re:Apparently Reuters Fails at Journalism (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31113648)

The Missile Defense Agency article does sound much more impressive. I am surprised to find that the Reuters rehash of the press release was so sloppy. I'd really like to see an independent journalist's description of the events though.

Translation: events do not correlate to my ideology, therefore I will continue to move the goalposts for acceptable evidence.

Re:Apparently Reuters Fails at Journalism (-1, Flamebait)

mozzis (231162) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113666)

Reuters is increasingly a hack agency driven by left-wing politics, so their reporting is less and less reliable.

Re:Apparently Reuters Fails at Journalism (1)

Attila Dimedici (1036002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113674)

I am surprised to find that the Reuters rehash of the press release was so sloppy.

Why? My experience is that Reuters stories are generally very sloppy. They often seem to distort information to reflect a certain bias.

Lasers vs. Railguns (4, Funny)

Xest (935314) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113106)

My money is on railguns being the most practical weapon first:

http://gizmodo.com/351467/navy-rail-gun-test-destroys-everything-it-touches-at-5640-mph [gizmodo.com]

Besides, lasers are a bit girly, they're just like overpowered flashlights ;) There's something more manly about accurately launching a solid lump of metal 200 miles at just short of mach 8!

Re:Lasers vs. Railguns (2, Funny)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113554)

Lasers may be girly but they are a whole lot sexier than railguns which is basically just a gun that shoots really fast bullets

Re:Don't be interested yet, headline is incorrect (1)

garg0yle (208225) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113114)

The /. article is definitely wrong, given that the missile was fired from an island, not a sub. However, the linked article contradicts itself - first it says "The Missile Defense Agency demonstrated the potential use of directed energy to defend against ballistic missiles when the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) successfully destroyed a boosting ballistic missile" (emphasis mine) but later in the same article it says what you said.

So either it was destroyed or it wasn't, but it was fired from an island, not a submarine. Unless we're parking the things on dry land now?

Re:Don't be interested yet, headline is incorrect (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113242)

It had to be launched from an island or ship. The US has never launched a liquid fueled ballistic missile from a sub. Cruise missiles yes but ballistic no.

Re:Don't be interested yet, headline is incorrect (3, Informative)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113374)

It's a poorly written article:

6th paragraph:

The airborne laser weapon successfully underwent its first in-flight test against a target missile back in August. During that test, Boeing said the modified 747-400F aircraft took off from Edwards Air Force Base and used its infrared sensors to find a target missile launched from San Nicolas Island, California.

7th paragraph

The plane's battle management system issued engagement and target location instructions to the laser's fire control system, which tracked the target and fired a test laser at the missile. Instruments on the missile verified the system had hit its mark, Boeing said.

The statement about the current test is the fifth paragraph. So TFA 'discusses' two tests. The current one where a liquid fueled booster was destroyed and the previous test where destruction of the booster was 'verified by instruments'. No wonder people don't read the TFA.

Re:Don't be interested yet, headline is incorrect (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31113322)

This article references multiple liquid and solid fuel missiles launched from both land and mobile sea platforms.

http://www.krqe.com/dpps/military/US-airborne-laser-destroys-test-missile_3234909

Slashdot, Reuters, and above comment: all wrong. (1)

Jurph (16396) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113420)

Deeply deeply misinformed. The Missile Defense Agency [mda.mil] press release is better than the Reuters article and a thousand times better than the Slashdot headline blurb. Some corrections:

1. Two targets were destroyed - one liquid and one solid fueled. This puts the lie to the above comment, and the Slashdot article that implies that they only shot a liquid-fueled target because it was easier. Furthermore, the solid-fueled target was identical to one that the ALTB had destroyed in flight a week earlier.

2. The first target was launched from a "sea platform", not a submarine, and is much more likely to have been a SCUD or SCUD simulator on a barge. The U.S. Navy has never permitted liquid-fueled missiles aboard their submarines because a fuel or oxidizer leak could kill the crew.

Re:Slashdot, Reuters, and above comment: all wrong (2, Informative)

mr_snarf (807002) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113762)

1. Two targets were destroyed - one liquid and one solid fueled. This puts the lie to the above comment, and the Slashdot article that implies that they only shot a liquid-fueled target because it was easier. Furthermore, the solid-fueled target was identical to one that the ALTB had destroyed in flight a week earlier.

The press release you link to states that they only shot down one target in this test - the liquid fueled one.

Less than one hour later, a second solid fuel short-range missile was launched from a ground location on San Nicolas Island, Calif. and the ALTB successfully engaged the boosting target with its High Energy Laser, met all its test criteria, and terminated lasing prior to destroying the second target. The ALTB destroyed a solid fuel missile, identical to the second target, in flight on February 3, 2010.

So it fired its high energy laser at the second target, but switched off the laser before actually destroying it. However they had previously destroyed an identical target.

Re:Don't be interested yet, headline is incorrect (1)

vtcodger (957785) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113608)

***I like it more than the "missile defense shield", but only marginally.***

Yeah, pretty much.

Except that a missile defense shield built with current technology is pretty much useless against any opponent with any sophistication at all.

But this could be the precursor to a system that will -- after 20 or 30 years of additional hard work -- stand a reasonable chance of looking at cloud of warheads, tank fragments, decoys and lord know what else, and taking out the warheads before they reach their target.

Re:Don't be interested yet, headline is incorrect (2, Informative)

RavenChild (854835) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113628)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uZ_WxTiP--c [youtube.com]

Just found this video, clearly shows the laser in action at the ALTB.

Re:Interested but limited. (1)

ircmaxell (1117387) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112980)

I would think it would be quite effective. Cruise missiles and aircraft generally travel much slower than a ballistic missile. On the other hand, their flight path is also less predictable and they are typically better armored (aircraft at least). The big thing is that they were able to track and hit the missile with the laser. It makes me wonder what stage of flight that they hit it in. Was it right after launch while it was still accelerating (and may have been subsonic), or was it in full cruise (where it may have been going hypersonic)? If the former, what are the chances that this thing would be able to detect and engage a missile that close to launch. If the latter, well, that's freaking cool...

Re:Interested but limited. (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113204)

It was in boost phase. Figure about a 200+ mile range so this is really going to be limited to battlefield missiles.

Re:Interested but limited. (0)

MoralHazard (447833) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113720)

"The big thing is that they were able to track and hit the missile with the laser."

Sorry to spoil the fun, but no, that's NOT a very big thing. You don't even need to know much about physics to understand why. In short, the actual damage capability of the laser is heavily dependent on how long you can keep the beam tracking on a defined (small) area of the target's surface. Hitting the target momentarily doesn't say much about the weapon's effectiveness, which may still be quite limited.

Usually, a given laser device has a fixed, constant output power level (power = energy/time). Laser pointers are normally 1 MW and 1,000 MW).

The AL works by heating the missile's skin and structure, which are made of metal and therefore lose tensile strength at higher temperatures, to the point where the missile can't withstand normal flight stresses and breaks apart. (Kind of like the failure of structural steel during bad high-rise fire.) In order to heat the missile sufficiently, the laser needs to deliver a enough energy, and do it faster than the missile can shed the excess heat via radiative and convective cooling.

The total amount of energy delivered is the beam's output power multiplied by the amount of time the beam is held on target. If the targeting system can only keep the beam aligned with the (rapidly moving) missile momentarily, for 1/100th of a second, then a hypothetical 500 MW laser will only deliver 5 MW to the target. Even if the beam's output power is sustainable for a longer time interval, the tracking system's limits are the real ceiling on effectiveness.

Now, WP describes the AL's primary laser as having a 3-5 second output interval (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boeing_YAL-1#Intercept_sequence). But neither WP nor TFA tell us how long the laser can actually track the missile-in-flight. Did they keep the laser on target for 3 seconds, or 5 seconds, or 0.001 seconds? Even a 1 GW laser beam would only deliver 1 MW to the target, in 0.001 second. Unless you know that critical little statistic, you don't know jack shit about what the AL's real capability is.

And then there's the issue of how tightly the beam can track a particular point on the missile's body. If the contact area wobbles up and down the length of the fuselage, the delivered energy gets spread out over a larger area than if the contact point was entirely confined to (say) a 1 cm^2 area. The more diffuse the contact area, the lower the heating of any one part of the missile. In order to reliably induce break-up, you need to raise a certain-size area of fuselage to a certain critical temperature. A targeting system might be able to keep the beam on the target object for 3-5 seconds, but not keep the beam on the same spot over that whole time period, and therefore not destroy a missile.

For all we know, the technical hurdles involved in tracking a target for 3-5 seconds are 1,000x worse than hitting it momentarily. Or maybe their targeting is just too wobbly to reliably destroy anything. It wouldn't be the first time a defense contractor engages in optimistic PR to defend the continued existence of a big-budget military project.

Re:Interested but limited. (1)

nedlohs (1335013) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113142)

Thanks for repeating the summary for us.

Re:Interested but limited. (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113834)

North Korea and Iran use liquid fuel IRBMs. China's long range ICBMs (the ones that can reach the continental US) are liquid fuel based. China has been working on a long range solid fueled ICBM family for some time now but have been having some issues.

Re:Interested but limited. (1)

cheesybagel (670288) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113894)

Oh, and they destroyed a short range missile with solid fuel as well.

Why troll ? (1)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112846)

"It should be noted ... blah blah" . If they hit the thing, that's the hard part. Adding 1.21 Gigawatts to the existing laser (to destroy a solid fuel rocket) is the easy part.

Re:Why troll ? (1)

MozeeToby (1163751) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113158)

Putting said 1.21 Gigawatts power supply light enough to mount on an airplane however is anything but easy. In fact, since laser tracking that accurate has been possible since the 80s and since no ones ever made a laser that powerful while still being relatively light, I'd say that the hard part is going to be getting the weight down, not hitting the target.

Re:Why troll ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31113858)

Oh, it's easy, you just have to get a bolt of lightning to hit the plain. The problem is getting knowing the exact time and place that a bolt of lightning will strike. That, and keeping the airplane from overloading the flux capacitor and going back to the future.

Re:Why troll ? (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113636)

Depending on weather conditions couldn't an airplane agitate the atmosphere and attract lighting and dump lighting into a capacitor
 
Granted it isn't as on demand as this kind of system would need to be

Obvious vulnerability is....obvious? (1)

Smidge207 (1278042) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112864)

Will the laser platform be available for launch when the need arises? IMHO, the airborne laser platform is vulnerable on the ground. An enemy planning a missile attack would likely deploy spetsnaz/special forces-type units to destroy such platforms in advance of their missile launch. Such forces would already be in-country weeks or months before their strike, perhaps organized as a sports team or as individuals on tourist or student visas.

Meh, just my $.02.

=Smidge=

Re:Obvious vulnerability is....obvious? (1)

jeffmeden (135043) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113000)

An enemy planning a missile attack would likely deploy spetsnaz/special forces-type units to destroy such platforms in advance of their missile launch. Such forces would already be in-country weeks or months before their strike, perhaps organized as a sports team or as individuals on tourist or student visas.

Fuck it, why not just have THEM carry the bombs? Saves you from building the missiles in the first place.

Clearly, protecting these planes will be of extreme priority; they will probably be stored at a completely undisclosed location, that's if they are even allowed to land. It seems practical that these things would eventually be completely unmanned, requiring only an occasional fueling rendezvous to stay aloft for many months at a time.

Re:Obvious vulnerability is....obvious? (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113174)

Planes are just the first step. They'll be mounting these things in satellites once they've got the tech all worked out.

Wrong Platform (4, Funny)

VorpalRodent (964940) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112882)

The article indicates that this is the first demonstration from an airborne platform. However, I am significantly more interested in the application of directed energy weapons from certain aquatic platforms.

Re:Wrong Platform (2, Funny)

TheKidWho (705796) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112958)

The sharks aren't big enough, I think our only chance is to put those in a whale.

Star Trek had it all wrong, the humpback whales didn't go extinct because they're so tasty, nono, they went extinct because we were putting friggin laser beams in them.

Unfortunately (3, Insightful)

hey! (33014) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112910)

these demonstrations aren't exactly peer reviewed.

Not many people doubt that a directed energy weapon can, under the right conditions, shoot down a ballistic missile. The question is whether we'll see on, in our lifetime, shoot down a ballistic missile under realistic conditions. Then being able to that reliably enough.

I'm not doctrinally against developing directed energy weapons, or even anti-missile systems, especially boost-phase systems. But there's been too much fakery and even downright fraud in these programs for me to lend much credence to any "breakthroughs".

Re:Unfortunately (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31113178)

Not many people doubt that a directed energy weapon can, under the right conditions, shoot down a ballistic missile. The question is whether we'll see on, in our lifetime, shoot down a ballistic missile under realistic conditions.

Well, if you'd seen the Antarctic Ancients' outpost, you'd know we're already there.

Re:Unfortunately (1)

Bragador (1036480) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113238)

Well it might or might not be true. That's the point of propaganda. This news is also being revealed while the USA and China are being pissed at each others over Taiwan. It might be a coincidence, but it sure is a useful coincidence.

Re:Unfortunately (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113748)

I really doubt there will be a war with Taiwan, if China starts something the first thing the US will do is say "Yeah, about that $1T we owe you"

Re:Unfortunately (1)

Bragador (1036480) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113984)

Taiwan officially is part of China. The US is part of a minority that recognizes Taiwan's sovereignty. Also, the US are selling weapons to Taiwan so it could be seen as provocation. If the US decides not to pay its debt to China, everyone would see that the US is not a safe place to invest. The US dollar would plummet.

That's just super! We're safe! (1)

Rogerborg (306625) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112916)

I mean, I'm assuming that it detects that dark skinned guy driving the Avocados Primeros y Armas Nucleares truck across the border from Mexico, right?

Boosting (1)

RandomFactor (22447) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112924)

This is nice, but from my lay person's perspective there seem to be a few dampers on this.

During boost you've got a missile speeding up and not at final velocity with a really big heat signature from the exhaust.

Presumably a ballistic missile won't be doing that anywhere near us, but will be...well... 'ballistic' and at full speed when it crosses into the interception zones and so significantly harder to hit.

Additionally, with fuel expended (or at least greatly reduced) the non electronics of the missile will be less vulnerable to being destroyed.

So good start, but we aren't there yet.

Re:Boosting (2, Informative)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113036)

ICBMs go very high so you don't have to be terribly close to get a line of fire to them with a laser while they are still ascending, especially if the laser is mounted on a plane. You cannot intercept them once they reach space and the warheads separate, you've simply got way too many targets then. Laser interception usually works by igniting fuel or explosives on the target, post-separation nuclear warheads don't carry much directly explosive stuff, just enough to initiate the fission (and it will probably be fairly heat resistant since it has to withstand reentry without exploding prematurely). I think for intercepting the warheads your only real choice is a missile to blow them apart.

Re:Boosting (1)

mozzis (231162) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113496)

In fact, for multiple-warhead ICBMs (which most if not all are nowadays) you really have to hit them before they deploy the multiple warheads.

Re:Boosting (3, Informative)

jbeaupre (752124) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113050)

No, this is designed to hit the targets while in boost phase. It's mounted on a plane so that the interception zone is where ever the plane is. Worried about North Korea? Just fly around the Sea of Japan. Worried about Iran? Fly around the Persian Gulf. Worried about China v Taiwan, fly it near the Formosa Straits.

Other systems are intended for ballistic and reentry phases.

Sharks with lasers (1)

Ralz (1634999) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112964)

When will they be adapting these lasers to be attached to the heads of sharks?

Summary Inaccurate (2, Interesting)

hermitian (862901) | more than 4 years ago | (#31112990)

There was not mention of the missile being "sub-launched." That would also be quite difficult for the US since they have no liquid fueled Submarine Launched Balistic Missles (SLBMs). They are all solid fueled.

Re:Summary Inaccurate (2, Insightful)

camperdave (969942) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113140)

I don't think this is being developed so the US can destroy its own missiles.

Re:Summary Inaccurate (1)

hermitian (862901) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113258)

I was implying that I doubted that this test missle was "sub-launched" because our subs can't launch liquid fuel missles. I doubt anybody else's subs launched it for our test.

Re:Summary Inaccurate (1)

jgtg32a (1173373) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113812)

It doesn't really matter but why can't they launch liquid fuel rockets?

Sub-Launched? (1)

kullnd (760403) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113008)

Where on earth did they get "sub launched" from? I read many links on this story and nothing said anything about a sub-launched missile... The ballistic missiles used onboard subs have solid fuel, liquid fuel would be crazy.

Re:Sub-Launched? (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113370)

Actually the Russians used a liquid fueled missiles on subs... I think some of them still are but I have not checked in a while.
I have read that they are using one of the old LHD as a launching barge for missile tests.

Re:Sub-Launched? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31113492)

That's where the vast majority of any and all our ground-to-ground missiles are launched from, the sea. I'd think it was a hoax if it said it was launched from my back yard.

It's the really big ones that are what's in your back yard.

Pink submarine (1, Interesting)

RenHoek (101570) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113046)

I always wondered, would a laser be defeated if you gave the missile a mirror paint coat?

Re:Pink submarine (1)

gadzook33 (740455) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113192)

Sure, and for a brief moment all of the west coast and parts of Canada were treated to the greatest disco party of all time.

Re:Pink submarine (3, Informative)

tokul (682258) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113230)

I always wondered, would a laser be defeated if you gave the missile a mirror paint coat?

If you can create a perfect mirror, which can also stand temperatures of reentry into atmosphere without losing reflective quality, then yes. But we live in a real world and mirrors are not perfect and are not that tough. They don't deflect 100% of light. High power laser beam will melt mirror. Mirror might reflect laser for some really short period of time. Once mirror starts melting, it will stop deflecting laser.

Re:Pink submarine (1)

berwiki (989827) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113362)

yes, if your mirror can reflect infrared/visible and ultraviolet light to a significant percent.

Re:Pink submarine (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113388)

Depends on how good the mirror coating is. No mirror is perfect, so it will absorb some of the energy. If the coating starts to degrade, then you get a runaway reduction in effectiveness until the coating's vapourised. Whether that's on a short enough timescale for the laser to score a hit is the real question.

Re:Pink submarine (1)

Kjella (173770) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113574)

Probably not for long, because mirrors are far from perfect and any dust particles on the missile would also heat up rapidly and as it heats heats up the reflection ability will likely be soon lost.

Re:Pink submarine (1)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113660)

You could accomplish more by rotating the missile in flight fast enough for no one area to heat to the point of structural failure.

Hell, combine both methods!

Re:Pink submarine (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113788)

I thought missiles already rotated in flight, for stability...

Re:Pink submarine (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31113956)

It will have to rotate about an axis. That point will be vulnerable.

Re:Pink submarine (3, Informative)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113828)

I always wondered, would a laser be defeated if you gave the missile a mirror paint coat?

Unlikely. It needs to be a front surface mirror, or else the laser will simply take effect in whatever (glass or plastic) makes up the front portion of the mirror. Even if it is a front surface mirror, such mirrors are very susceptible to scratches, dings, oxidation, and other damage that will render it vulnerable. Even minor amounts of corrosion or staining (invisible to the naked eye) can compromise the protection the mirror provides and you can't put a protective coating on the mirror to protect it from such...
 
Not to mention that such a delicate and vulnerable coating is incompatible with the handling and operational environment of the battlefield missiles the ABL is designed to work against.
 
And, before anyone asks, pretty much the same is true of spinning the missile. Spinning introduces a whole host of significant problems for the missile designer.

Re:Pink submarine (3, Informative)

arielCo (995647) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113890)

It's not so much about being "mirror-like" (polished), but rather about being "white" (reflective). The thing is, nothing reflects 100% of the incoming light - even the reflectivity of pure alumin[i]um's [wikipedia.org] is slightly above 90% for visible light, dips to 85% around 850 nm (near IR), and bounces back to perhaps 97% in the micrometer range (which is what some big lasers give out if I'm not mistaken).

Still, 97% is a lot of wasted energy, and thus the need for high energies and huge lasers on ginormous shar^H^H^H^H planes. But perhaps light is perhaps the only thing that can reliably hit a speeding missile.

Re:Pink submarine (1)

Quiet_Desperation (858215) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113902)

always wondered, would a laser be defeated if you gave the missile a mirror paint coat?

Did you ever bother to look up an answer? I know people who work on weapon systems. The first thing they do is consider potential countermeasures.

There's no such thing as a perfectly reflecting mirror. *Some* energy will be absorbed, and with no place to go, will vaporize the mirror coating, probably within a fraction of a second at these power levels.

But if the enemy wants to coat their missile with a bright, shiny (read: easily tracked) coating, I wouldn't complain. Hell, I'd sell them the paint.

Already Obsolete (Go Navy!) (4, Informative)

tjstork (137384) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113072)

The problem with the ABL is that it is a chemical laser based system and as such it is almost already obsolete in the laboratory. Chemical lasers have huge logistical problems and can only fire so many shots, and require huge space, which is why the ABL has cost a fortune and requires a 747.

The future really belongs to the Free Electron Laser, which is making leaps and bounds. If we were to wave the mantra of intraservice rivalries around, then one should say that while the US Navy has had an awful time actually building ships, they've pretty much been whipping on the US Air Force when it comes to both aircraft and lasers and missile defense systems.

Jefferson labs has pushed a Free Electron laser to 14kw.

http://www.jlab.org/fel/ [jlab.org]

And, the US Navy has Raytheon has been awarded a contract for a 100KW Free Electron Laser

http://raytheon.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=1292&pagetemplate=release [mediaroom.com]

And indeed, some are noting that it will soon be possible to carry these things in the nose of a fighter aircraft, not just a 747.

Re:Already Obsolete (Go Navy!) (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31113292)

Most of the development effort goes into the optics, tracking, guidance, and mods to the aircraft.
Swapping out the laser for bigger/smaller/stronger one later isn't so hard.

Re:Already Obsolete (Go Navy!) (5, Informative)

ZombieWomble (893157) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113320)

Chemical lasers are far from obsolete, and the place they're still useful is this exact type of continuous high-power application. Jefferson may have pushed a FEL to 14 kW, but the laser bolted to the plane delivers megawatts of continuous power.

I have no doubt that FELs will eventually surpass chemical lasers for this sort of application, but right now they're nowhere near ready for this sort of application. And if you think back the 15 years or so to when this project was conceived, they were even less ready. I'm sure the upgrade to FELs will come along sooner or later, but choosing them for the first-generation design would probably have delayed this project quite a considerable amount.

Re:Already Obsolete (Go Navy!) (1)

afidel (530433) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113486)

14kW is two orders of magnitude too small, and you know it. Even 100kW is more than an order of magnitude too small.

Re:Already Obsolete (Go Navy!) (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31113578)

Just FYI, but the Jefferson Lab FEL does not fit on anything even close to a 747! It will be a long while before that system flies or even floats. For the JLab design you have to consider that a lot of cryogenic cooling is needed, which adds logistic as well as severe power constraints. Evaporative cooling on a 747 is not easy.

But hey, I am only working at Jefferson Lab, so what do I know?

Re:Already Obsolete (Go Navy!) (1)

salesgeek (263995) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113864)

they've pretty much been whipping on the US Air Force when it comes to both aircraft and lasers and missile defense systems.

This has been going on since the 1950s.

Navy: F-8 Crusader. Air Force: F-100, F-101, etc...
Navy: F-4 Phantom II Air Force: F-101, F-105 - Result: AF forced to buy Navy planes.
Navy: A-4 and A-7. Air Force: THUNDERCHIEF! followed by A-7 (another AF forced to buy Navy planes)
Navy: Standard Missile (Ground to air) Air Force: Bunch of crap. Nike, Bomarc, etc...
Navy: Sparrow AAM Air Force: Falcon AAM
Navy: Phoenix AAM Air Force: Still Falcon AAM
Navy: Trident Air Force: MX - Guess which one is still in service.
Navy: F-14 Air Force: F-15. Close, but the Navy aircraft had superior long range ability (100+Mile range with Phoenix AAM) and the Air Force craft was a little better dogfighter.

Basically, there are very few situations where the Navy has had inferior equipment to the Air Force since the mid 1950s. When it's close, as in the F-16 vs F/A-18 or the F-14 vs the F-15 (hated seeing the Tomcat wear out, carrier life is rough) usually the Navy aircraft costs a lot less to operate.

Re:Already Obsolete (Go Navy!) (1)

Hurricane78 (562437) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113888)

Umm, and where will those 100kW come from?
Certainly not from any batteries in that jet. Or else it will become so sluggish that it either has to carry huge engines, and become a bomber, or will be shot down by everything that now is quicker.

Works Great! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31113128)

No ballistic missiles have landed in my backyard since the test.

One thing I'll never understand about this (3, Interesting)

MikeRT (947531) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113272)

is why people get so concerned about "wasting money" trying to develop a system that could make a significant amount of nuclear weapons functionally obsolete. Money spent on the missile defense systems is not even remotely analogous to the waste like when some senator tries to create 10k new jobs by ramming 500 new planes down the Air Force's throat or something like that. Most of it is trial and error, basic science and engineering, trying to figure out how to defeat a threat that could, in one blow, murder millions of Americans.

MAD got us to this point, but the knowledge that the US could, in 20 years, not only knock out all of your incoming warheads, but unleash its own reprisal would effectively end the threat of a large scale nuclear conflict between state actors. A successful missile defense system would mean that the enemy would have to use sneakier, harder tricks like slipping nukes into cargo containers. For state actors, that's a non-starter unless they get really lucky or have a death wish like the Iranian ruling class seems to have with their badly veiled threats against at least one nuclear power (Israel).

Re:One thing I'll never understand about this (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113678)

Along those lines I would argue that a solution is to ban nuclear weapons development (and redevelopment) point blank but permit nuclear countermeasure development. Knowing that they can't boost their capacity for offense any more, a countermeasure arms race will ensue amounst the nuke-holding powers until the entire world's nuclear arsenal is literally useless. It can then be decommissioned.

Re:One thing I'll never understand about this (0)

L4t3r4lu5 (1216702) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113724)

... [T]he knowledge that the US could, in 20 years, not only knock out all of your incoming warheads, but unleash its own reprisal would effectively end the threat of a large scale nuclear conflict between state actors.

Did you think about what you just said? You want the US to be the only nuclear power.

That would make everybody else extremely edgy. Bad, bad idea.

Re:One thing I'll never understand about this (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31113868)

Ballistic missiles are not the only vector for nuclear bomb. Classical bombers (more or less sealth to radar) can be used for that purpose. Remember the good old 50's with the massive bombers on permanent patrol over europe. Have ABL, you'll have this back.

On a side note, destroying a missile on the upward course is quite easy. Destroying a missile launched from a silent submarine somewhere that takes an orbital course before falling on you at 10x supersonic speed is another problem.

Re:One thing I'll never understand about this (1)

tmosley (996283) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113990)

If you make nuclear weapons obsolete, you reopen the door to global total war that was closed at Nagasaki. If nukes can't penetrate the defenses of warring nations, they will be free to send armies across their borders.

Or did you think the world suddenly became more civilized after WWII ended?

More successful (1)

mozzis (231162) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113434)

A liquid-fueled missile was destroyed. A solid-fueled one was also engaged but the test stopped short of destroying it (probably for safety reasons.) A previous test did destroy a solid-fueled target See: the article at mda.mil. [mda.mil]

WW3 comes - cannabis will still be illegal (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31113476)

"This was the first directed energy lethal intercept demonstration against a liquid-fuel boosting ballistic missile target from an airborne platform, reported the Missile Defense Agency"

Wow, now why not use these same resources to investigate cannabis for its positive effects? Perhaps in the mindset of defeating cancer and other diseases? Let's declare a war on cancer!

25 years to show Star Wars might work (1)

peter303 (12292) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113600)

$300 billion and counting. We could probably buy all the enemy's missiles at this rate.

Re:25 years to show Star Wars might work (1)

cormander (1273812) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113642)

And then they'll have money to make even more.

Re:25 years to show Star Wars might work (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#31113880)

Source please? I don't think we've ever really funded this as much of a national priority until the last few years. Also, we needed technology to evolve to make lasers that were powerful enough, imaging systems good enough, and tracking computers fast enough to do this.

On another note (1)

sectionboy (930605) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113770)

direct energy shots down a mosquito. "The idea behind the "Death Star" laser is that it could be used to control mosquito populations in developing countries in hopes of reducing the number of deaths due to malaria, a disease frequently carried by the flying insects. The device was shown off during the TED 2010 conference and does in fact appear to be capable of tracking and killing mosquitoes. Oh, and it was built out of parts found on eBay." http://gizmodo.com/5470148/this-is-a-mosquito-getting-killed-by-a-laser?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+gizmodo%2Ffull+(Gizmodo)&utm_content=Google+Feedfetcher [gizmodo.com]

Usefulness (0, Troll)

kurt555gs (309278) | more than 4 years ago | (#31113790)

I can see where this multi zillion dollar thing would be useful against the $3.00 mud huts of the Taliban.

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