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Congress Wants To Resurrect Laser-Wielding 747

Unknown Lamer posted more than 2 years ago | from the it-works-on-tee-vee dept.

Shark 302

Harperdog writes "Noah Schactman has a great piece on the Airborne Laser, the ray gun-equipped 747 that became a symbol of wasteful Pentagon weaponeering. Despite sixteen years and billions of dollars in development, the jet could never reliably blast a missile in trials. Now the House Armed Services Committee's Strategic Forces wants the Airborne Laser to be used to defend us against the threat of North Korea's failed missiles."

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what better... (5, Funny)

Sebastopol (189276) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851809)

...to shoot down a failed missile than a failed missile-defense program?

Re:what better... (3, Funny)

Jeremiah Cornelius (137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851845)

That laser can burn a hole through a gnats brain from an altitude of 30,000 feet.

This fact was demonstrated on one of the Pentagon's top generals.

Re:what better... (4, Funny)

supremebob (574732) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851985)

If 80's movies have taught us anything, they're also good at popping giant balls of popcorn and destroying the homes of asshole professors.

Re:what better... (4, Funny)

TWX (665546) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852081)

Yeah, but it'll take a real genius to figure out a better use for it...

Re:what better... (3, Funny)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852293)

But first, may I compliment you on you choice of footwear.

Re:what better... (3)

Sez Zero (586611) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852639)

It's a penis stretcher.

Re:what better... (4, Funny)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852735)

Chris: So, if there's anything I can do for you, or, more to the point, to you, you just let me know.
Susan: Can you hammer a six-inch spike through a board with your penis?
Chris: Not right now.
Susan: A girl's gotta have her standards.

Re:what better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852767)

The only thing I can't figure out is how to keep the change in my pockets... I've got it! Nudity.

Re:what better... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39853197)

fuck it. Just send a bunch of copies of Real Genius to North Korea with a note that reads: "Don't fuck with the US, bitch. We've got a laser defense system." They won't know any better.

Re:what better... (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852955)

Actually, the reports were inconclusive, no evidence was produced that the general had ever had a brain.

Re:what better... (4, Interesting)

lgw (121541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851903)

Eveyone always complains abut missile defense, and like all military-industrial-complex spending, it's full of bloat and corruption. But we still need missile defense - more and smaller powers are getting 50-year-old missile technology now.

Missile defense is hard. The airborn laser approach is a good and useful one, IMO, because of the psychological deterrent effect of shooting down enemy missiles while they're still boosting (ideally, while the folks who launched them can still see them). After all, the best way to win any war is to convinve the enemy that attacking you would be just insane and certain to fail (ideally before any shots are fired, but failing that, when the first shots are fired), and they shouldn't even try.

We should certainly do something like this. Do we need to roll the dice again; to try a different group of consultants, engineering companies, and pork-harvesters, in the hope that the new group will be less corrupt and actually deliver something workable? Definitely.

Re:what better... (1)

interval1066 (668936) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851973)

Much cheaper and more likely to work are drones armed with conventional ABMs, why is this not a thing?

Re:what better... (4, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852193)

I don't think conventional ABMs work during boost phase (it's really hard to catch a raocket once it gets going), but that's when a rocket is very easy to target - unlike when a cluster of warheads and decoys and chaff are in free-fall. (Also, it makes the point very strongly that you picked the wrong fight if your missiles are all shot down before they get anywhere).

But drones are getting better and better, and if there's an appropriate weapon (for a boost-phase kill) that would fit on one, it's a much better plan IMO.

Re:what better... (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852461)

Nuke it from orbit.

It's the only way to be sure.

Re:what better... (4, Insightful)

Kreigaffe (765218) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852607)

Space lasers would be best, actually.
Here's the problem.

Nobody wants us to do that.

China is FUCKING CRAZY. China's demonstrated that they'll destroy any orbiting thing they don't like -- they "tested" their anti-satellite capabilities once, and I think were it to come down to it.. they'd do it again. Or proxy and have N. Korea launch a real satellite, er, a "real" satellite, that "accidentally" would collide with our space lasers.

Kaboom. Space is gone. They'd shatter the skies and leave so much debris orbiting our planet that we'd be stuck close to this rock for longer than you or I will live.

it's a great idea, throw lasers in space... but it's potentially disastrous.

What would be nice is if they could downsize this airborn laser and fit it into.. hmm, maybe an older, super-high-speed airframe, maybe something that's pretty hard for most nations to detect, maybe something like the SR-71 -- there's still gotta be a few of those somewhere, drag them out of mothball and replace their surveillance payload with a giant laser? It'd solve one problem, being that the time between launch detection and the end of boost phase is so short that a 747 would have to be in the area before the ICBM was launched to be useful.

Maybe just stick them in subs. Not many nations really have much of a sub fleet anymore. There's China again, sure, but... while I don't suggest underestimating China's capabilities, their shit is still made in China, yanno?

Re:what better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39853237)

we'd be stuck close to this rock for longer than you or I will live.

Unfortunate reality check... we're already stuck here longer than you or I will be around.

"cluser" means easy (1)

poppopret (1740742) | more than 2 years ago | (#39853009)

It's easy to destroy all the warheads, decoys, and chaff. This is a trivial problem, really. None of those can deviate far from any of the others, and in space there is no place to hide. One ABM warhead can take out the whole bunch. Yep, nothing says an ABM system can't also be nuclear. Not that North Korea or Iran will be deploying advanced end-of-cold-war ICBMs any time soon of course, but the solution is trivial if they ever do.

Re:what better... (1)

PaulBu (473180) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851997)

What you are saying can be said to be good and reasonable, but, hmm, does not really mesh well with your signature, or does it?

How about letting all our state-based smaller-power enemies know that we can make their homeland a glass parking lot many times over, I do not know, send them a telegram, or some such? ;-)

How about acknowledging that some small al Qaeda group does not really have technical sophistication to even maintain, much less to build a working ICBM?

Even better, how about trying not to make enemies with all those people, and, maybe, just maybe, try to trade with them and slowly become friends? Or course, it can start when we get the heck out of Middle East militarilly... And NK will implode by itself, if not, it will be SK/China's problem, not ours! Their reason for aggressive stance is to go against the biggest bully in the world, what if bully decides to play nice and just ignore them?

Paul B.
 

Re:what better... (4, Insightful)

lgw (121541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852131)

How about letting all our state-based smaller-power enemies know that we can make their homeland a glass parking lot many times over, I do not know, send them a telegram, or some such? ;-)

Nope, our current policy (which I like) is to say "nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons - we treat these all the same, and we won't be the first to use them (but the whole glass parking lot thing if you start)". More important IMO to use our nukes as a nuke deterrent than a general deterrent.

How about acknowledging that some small al Qaeda group does not really have technical sophistication to even maintain, much less to build a working ICBM?

It's not Al Qaeda, it's the next Suddam, Iran, or NoKo to come along. The tech only gets easier and cheaper over time, and will be in reach for smaller state actors before much longer IMO.

Even better, how about trying not to make enemies with all those people, and, maybe, just maybe, try to trade with them and slowly become friends?

"Try to trade with them and slowly become friends" is the stated reason for some of the international dislike for us right now (to whatever extent stated reasons are ever true). Some people really seem to dislike us for trying to "forfully export our culture". (Also, some people are really just assholes, and will attack you just because they can, no matter how nice you are. Dictatorships seem to select for assholes, so it's a real problem).

Re:what better... (5, Insightful)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852559)

It's not Al Qaeda, it's the next Suddam, Iran, or NoKo to come along. The tech only gets easier and cheaper over time, and will be in reach for smaller state actors before much longer IMO.

Really - who?

Even basic ballistic missile tech is hard. Saddam could barely launch SCUDs which they bought from Russia. India is just getting off boosters that qualify as ICBMs (barely). And that's a huge, technologically advanced country. Iran has some theatre capable missiles and again, the barest ICBM level capability. Another fairly advanced nation. Then there is the problem of the warhead. Tossing rocks across continents may look impressive, but strategically it's nonsensical.

So our fascination with the idjits in Pyongyang notwithstanding, there isn't much of a strategic need for ICBM level defense at this time. Unless you think we can create enough of functional shield to significantly degrade a Chinese or Russian strike.

Given the limited amount of defense funding available, it's better to work on some more realistic weapons and perhaps some basic research into alternative resources like oil (which is the basic reason for much of the dick waving these days).

Re:what better... (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852997)

Nope, our current policy (which I like) is to say "nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons - we treat these all the same, and we won't be the first to use them..."

Actually, no. Your current policy is that you WILL be the first to use them if the situation warrants it [youtube.com] .

Re:what better... (1)

bzipitidoo (647217) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852487)

Make more friends? One of the best things the West could do is curb the excesses of its corporations. If you think they behave badly in the US, read about some of the things they do in other nations. US corporations have an unhealthy amount of influence and power. Everyone knows they have the implicit backing of the US military if worse comes to worst. When they commit an atrocity, they don't just make themselves look bad, they make the US look bad. The US compounds matters by letting them off lightly. What will happen to Walmart for this recent bribery scandal in Mexico? Probably nothing at all in the US. Will the US cooperate with Mexico by honoring requests for extradition? Probably not. Warren Anderson, CEO of Union Carbide during the Bhopal disaster, is still wanted for trial in India. So far, the US has refused to extradite him.

There are quite a few nations where you will put yourself in considerable danger if you wear a shirt with a logo of a US corporation. Do NOT wear a Union Carbide shirt in India. You'd be safer in an Uncle Sam costume than in a shirt like that.

Re:what better... (1)

rogueippacket (1977626) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852023)

But we still need missile defense

[Citation Needed]

Re:what better... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852063)

The best defense is a good offense. Having 10 more F-22s would be cheaper and better for our defense.

Re:what better... (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852129)

An F-22 is useless against ballistic missiles. You need to be able to deal with a wide range of threats, not just deal really, really well with one threat and ignore the others.

Re:what better... (1)

AK Marc (707885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39853085)

An F-22 is useless against ballistic missiles.

But quite useful against those who would fire them at us.

Re:what better... (1)

Almandine (1594857) | more than 2 years ago | (#39853187)

Those F-22s won't have a home to return to though.

Re:what better... (1)

darthdavid (835069) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852221)

1) Why is OK to throw money down the hole on something that might save lives in a highly unlikely set of circumstances when there are much more pressing issues where that money could definitely be used to save lives, especially given that you seem to have a problem with government spending in general given your sig. Unless you only have a problem with the government spending money when it's on things you don't like?

2) Assuming we actually need to be spending money on this, why do we need lasers in this roll at all given that Nike-Zeus was making contact intercepts on the sort of missiles you're worried about in the 1960s?

3) Assuming we need this sort of system and must use pew-pew lasers to do it why should we be using giant, finicky and expensive chemical lasers when we could be spending that money on solid-state systems instead?

Re:what better... (2)

lgw (121541) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852655)

See upthread - there may be better ways now, since drones are taking over (and as I said - I think it's imoprtant that we do somehting in the space, not that we do the chemical ABL thing specifically). Having a way to make a boost-phase kill is key, IMO.

As far as the cost - deterrence is cheaper than fighting, and technological breakthroughs tend to be good long-term investments in that regard (much better than building lots and lots of hardware). Heck, often you get some civilian technology out of the research.

Re:what better... (-1, Troll)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39853199)

Why is OK to throw money down the hole on something that might save lives in a highly unlikely set of circumstances when there are much more pressing issues where that money could definitely be used to save lives, especially given that you seem to have a problem with government spending in general given your sig.

No one actually objects to government spending. They only object to spending it on poor people.

Defense contractors aren't poor people.

Re:what better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852373)

After all, the best way to win any war is to convinve the enemy that attacking you would be just insane and certain to fail (ideally before any shots are fired, but failing that, when the first shots are fired), and they shouldn't even try.

No the best way to win a war is to convince the neanderthal to attack you while you still have superior technology and he he still has antiquated technology. Then you get to wipe the floor with them before they develop technology you cant counter. Do you want to fight fish in a barrel or Nazi's? I'll take the fish myself.

You can also install a less war prone form of govt in the toppled dictatorships stead. Not that I'm condoning any wars or forms of govt in particular.

Re:what better... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852703)

But we still need missile defense

Um... Why?

Why don't you follow Lincoln's advice and eliminate your enemies by making them your friends?

Re:what better... (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39853183)

Eveyone always complains abut missile defense, and like all military-industrial-complex spending, it's full of bloat and corruption. But we still need missile defense - more and smaller powers are getting 50-year-old missile technology now.

More importantly, we need to throw more money at the defense industry, so we can claim we "support our troops" without actually having to support them.

Re:what better... (1)

jimbirch (2621059) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851941)

My failure outfails your failure. Whoopee! I lose!

Re:what better... (1)

0100010001010011 (652467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852135)

It sounds more like some Congressmen are getting lazy at funneling money into their constituents.
"Hey. I'm finding it hard to send money back to my state of ________. Economy is down, everything is made in China."
"Remember that program from the 80s that spent billions of dollars and did absolutely nothing?"
"Brilliant! [whyweprotest.net] "

Tada. You have a program resurrected. Look at the committee [house.gov] . Most are states that are hurting for money and/or industry. I'm sure the guy from Washington had nothing to say about Boeing's involvement. I wouldn't be shocked to find boeing suppliers or subcontractors in any of the other states that make up that committee.

Guess what? It worked. But too much $$$ (4, Informative)

daveschroeder (516195) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852219)

The United States is incredibly dependent on its space assets in support of national objectives. Directed energy weapons can not only provide offensive ASAT capabilities, but can serve as a significant defense against missile- or even space-based kinetic ASAT weapons. The advantage of a directed energy weapon is that it has the ability to travel at the speed of light and target missiles during their vulnerable boost phase within seconds. During the 1990s and 2000s, the United States pursued directed energy weapons based on megawatt-class chemical lasers. Two of systems, the Airborne Laser (ABL) and Space-Based Laser (SBL), were complementary, but never made it beyond the early testing phase.

The concept of the Airborne Laser came to fruition on a modified Boeing 747 known as the YAL-1A Airborne Laser Testbed (ABLT). In early 2010, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced that ABLT successfully destroyed two test missiles [reuters.com] , saying at the time that "The revolutionary use of directed energy is very attractive for missile defense, with the potential to attack multiple targets at the speed of light, at a range of hundreds of kilometers, and at a low cost per intercept attempt compared to current technologies." Unfortunately, ABLT was $4 billion over budget and eight years behind schedule. Political and economic realities meant that the US could "no longer continue to do everything and explore every potential technology". On February 14, 2012, MDA announced that the ABLT program was terminated [mda.mil] , transitioning into long-term storage at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis Monthan AFB — "the Boneyard".

The Space-Based Laser (SBL) concept is the notion of locating a high-powered laser in space, with a similar ability to target missiles in their boost phase. A constellation of 20 SBLs would be able to provide continuous global coverage, and target nearly any launch -- including ASAT weapons. A test firing of a Space-Based Laser Integrated Flight Experiment (SBL-IFX) was originally schedule for 2012 to demonstrate SBL's capabilities. This project became so complex and expensive that MDA suspended research and development in 2002 [missilethreat.com] — another victim of economic priorities, and a desire to focus resources on existing, proven kinetic systems.

If such systems are thought to have so much potential and capability, why are they no longer pursued? The answer is primarily one of cost. Further, if the US possessed such a comprehensive anti-missile and anti-ASAT capability, it is unlikely that an adversary would use a kinetic ASAT weapon. As adversaries such as China, Russia, and Iran turn to cyber, it becomes more likely that cyber, conventional jamming, and EW capabilities would be used to target US space systems. It is reasonable that the US response should be in kind. One example: China is currently fielding the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). Instead of using complicated missile defense systems or directed energy weapons to target it, and the current US strategy is indeed one of jam, spoof — and then shoot, if necessary [wired.com] , with the idea being to "break as many links as possible" in the chain, including via cyber and EW. Cyber can act as a significant force multiplier against even conventional weapons systems — which can work both for and against us. China has already demonstrated [guardian.co.uk] the potential effectiveness of cyber capabilities against US space systems. Resources devoted to enhancing our offensive and defensive cyber capabilities in the context of space systems and missile defense is money well spent.

Re:Guess what? It worked. But too much $$$ (1)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852611)

Exactly. The ABM projects are a 21st Century solution to a 20th Century threat that no longer exists. The threat of a wave of ICBMs is over, and no country is going to send a single or handful of missiles our way, fail to neutralize our response, then suffer the annihilation that would be our response. As you point out, it's conventional military operations hampered by cyberwarfare that is the hot threat with economic+cyber warfare being the cold threat.

Re:what better... (2)

linatux (63153) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852389)

I'm convinced there are people out there somewhere saying "We're not broke enough - how can we blow another $10 billion without starting a riot?"

"I know, lets try lasers on 747's again - spectacular success last time"

"Good - but when we're asked why we need them..."

"Those new fake missiles in NK could be a threat"

"Brilliant!"

Failed missiles deserve failed defense... (1)

snowsmann (313238) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851819)

I suppose that because N. Korea failed to launch them correctly... a jet which fails to protect correctly is fitting...

Works as intended! (0)

s.petry (762400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851821)

Now the House Armed Services Committee's Strategic Forces wants the Airborne Laser to be used to defend us against the threat of North Korea's failed missiles."

N. Korea fired a missile, it fell apart. Pretty much just like the program. As long as N. Korea has failing missiles, why not keep a failing program? Seems logical to a politician!

Re:Works as intended! (2)

kenaaker (774785) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851945)

But, we already have a failing missile defense system. The Memorial Richard M. Perle Missile Defense system that is deployed in Alaska to protect us from North Korea and Iran. The last report I read said the system had never had a successful intercept without a transponder on the target.

I don't think we need two failing missile defense system. That's just starting down the slippery slope of competing, failing missile defense systems. If one isn't enough, then two won't be enough and pretty soon you're spending 20% of GDP just on failing missile defense systems and there's nothing left to fund Homeland security.

Re:Works as intended! (2)

s.petry (762400) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852069)

We have similar problems with the giant money sink the EU has been pumping in to the European Missile Defense Shield. Honestly, I was being sarcastic. Theory is nice, but we long ago lost the point of common sense in spending.

Re:Works as intended! (1)

darthdavid (835069) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852249)

Don't let them know that. If we play it right we'll finally be able to fly without getting felt up by a rent-a-cop again...

Re:Works as intended! (1)

ColdWetDog (752185) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852613)

I've got a better idea. Let's get NK to put transponders on their ICBMs! We could offer them a couple of hundred tons of rice for each transponder. Win-WIn!

Re:Works as intended! (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852145)

And what do we do when the Norks have a successful test? They're bound to get it right in a few years, with help from Pakistan and Iran. At some point we're going to need to deal with North Korean ballistic missile capability, one way or another.

Freakin Lazer beams! (1)

cyachallenge (2521604) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851829)

It may not be economical, but dammit lazers are cool! Congress won't give us a space program anymore, but they love weapons. Why not compromise with boeing 747s with huge freaken lazers?!

Re:Freakin Lazer beams! (1)

cyachallenge (2521604) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851897)

I added the Z for extra emphasis? Ah, shit.

Re:Freakin Lazer beams! (1)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39853207)

It may not be economical, but dammit lazers are cool! Congress won't give us a space program anymore, but they love weapons. Why not compromise with boeing 747s with huge freaken lazers?!

Cheaper to mount them on sharks' heads.

Possibly more effective, too.

Old Joke (3, Insightful)

StefanJ (88986) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851853)

There was a joke (I guess) that circulated pretty much up until the end of the Cold War:

"If the USA wanted to cause the Soviet Union to collapse, it should drop millions of Sears catalogs in major Russian cities."

I wonder if something like this would work with the DPRK.

Although, come to think of it, anyone seen touching the things would be shot for subversive activity.

Re:Old Joke (1)

networkBoy (774728) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852015)

so it would still work, as everyone would be picking them up to see what the EvilWest has, thus removing their population base, and without that you have no army.

Re:Old Joke (1)

timeOday (582209) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852563)

The US has been broadcasting sunshine/propaganda into Cuba for decades without too much apparent effect, and it does have risks [msn.com] for diplomacy and the agents who conduct it.

Re:Old Joke (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852591)

Kinda close to what happened. Only it was satellite TV in place of the Sears catalog.

I was also kinda hoping the internet would liberate the world, but alas it will suffer the same fate as all the mass communication devices of the past

How, then to protect ourselves? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39851859)

How, then, should we protect ourselves, you sanctimonious hippy? Oh, and by the way, the thing *works*. The physics of it are scientifically sound, and it has worked. Maybe we can disarm ourselves and hope really, really, really hard that our enemies do too?

Wickedlasers (2)

AlienIntelligence (1184493) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851889)

Re:Wickedlasers (1)

JoeMerchant (803320) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852123)

Seems like they should perfect the shark deployment before going on to other things...

But there is more! (5, Funny)

oldhack (1037484) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851895)

The 747 can then also fingerprint conflict minerals.

Republicans LOVE Wasteful Spending (0, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39851907)

Republicans like Mitt Romney and the Tard Party love wasting money on military boondoggles.

This, along with an almost zen-like alternate reality marked by bigotry and lies drive the modern republican, and his domesticated woman.

It's a rich tradition of corruption and stupidity that we can all be proud of. Well... absolute fucking retards like George W Bush can be proud of it.

Re:Republicans LOVE Wasteful Spending (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852047)

I have to agree this particular thing would be a waste. But there's wasting money and then there's wasting money. The military budget is about 5% of government spending. This pales in comparison to the debt that Obama has racked up in such a short time.

Re:Republicans LOVE Wasteful Spending (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852155)

Not quite. 54% of the budget goes to the military to pay both present and past obligations such as payroll, pensions, R&D, and reparations/rebuilding after invasions.

http://www.warresisters.org/pages/piechart.htm

Re:Republicans LOVE Wasteful Spending (3, Informative)

gstrickler (920733) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852371)

It's easy to look these thing up on wikipedia [wikipedia.org] . You should try it rather than making a terrible estimate. The military is actually slightly over 20% of the US government spending.

Re:Republicans LOVE Wasteful Spending (4, Informative)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39853255)

I have to agree this particular thing would be a waste. But there's wasting money and then there's wasting money. The military budget is about 5% of government spending. This pales in comparison to the debt that Obama has racked up in such a short time.

You may want to look at this [thinkprogress.org] and this [crooksandliars.com] and this [crooksandliars.com] .

Or you could just get all your "facts" from FOX.

Republicans love to proclaim that they're deficit hawks, unlike the tax-and-spend Democrats. But if you look at what they *do* instead of what they say, it becomes obvious that they're tax-(less)-and-spend-(more) hawks.

They only object to spending money when it won't help someone who doesn't need it.

Re:Republicans LOVE Wasteful Spending (5, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852169)

Yes, let's just ignore the fact that there are 7 Democrats as well on the subcommittee that is pushing for this. I'm sure they had nothing to do with this.

Re:Republicans LOVE Wasteful Spending (1)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852437)

Supply the voting record and you might have an argument. Until then, your comment is a strawman.

Re:Republicans LOVE Wasteful Spending (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852645)

And so is the OPs until he can show that no Democratic member of the committee supported this push.

Re:Republicans LOVE Wasteful Spending (1)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852785)

Nope. The OP has historical record and odds of repetition to immediately support his statement.

Re:Republicans LOVE Wasteful Spending (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852181)

Democrats like Barack Obama and the Occupy Movement love wasting money on green energy boondoggles.

This, along with an almost zen-like alternate reality marked by political correctness and "social science" drives the modern democrat, and his "liberated" woman.

It's a rich tradition of ridiculous stupidity that we can all be proud of. Well... absolute fucking retards like the social science faculty at your local university can be proud of it.

Re:Republicans LOVE Wasteful Spending (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39853049)

LOL. Is this the same old story about Solyndra, a company that actually produced a factory, while ignoring the 5-10 times as much wasted on contracts in Iraq that were never produced? Solyndra had a product, and it failed not because of its own direct faults, but because of Chinese subsidies that empowered the competition. Contrast this to Halliburton which did what? Oh yeah, never even built the stuff they were supposed to build. Or Enron, which shut down power plants in order to make a profit.

If there's anybody with an alternate reality marked by its own version of political correctness and "social dogma", it's the modern Republican and his "conservative" patriots. Yes, the right-wing does have its own version of politically correct speech, combined with its share of shibboleths.

It's a rich tradition of ridiculous stupidity that we can all be proud of. Well... absolute fucking retards like the fawning worshipers of right-wing Jeebus at your local ultra-conservative church can be proud of it.

Re:Republicans LOVE Wasteful Spending (1)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852781)

Republicans like Mitt Romney and the Tard Party love wasting money on military boondoggles.

Possibly.

Alas, this doesn't prove your point. TFA describes it as requiring the military to figure out how much it would cost to maintain and/or perfect the hardware used in the research program.

It does NOT include any money allocated for the purpose....

Re:Republicans LOVE Wasteful Spending (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39853079)

Republicans like Mitt Romney and the Tard Party love wasting money on military boondoggles.

Except this wasn't a boondoggle to the astro-physics community. The development of this system has led to greater understanding of how light travels through the atmosphere. With this understanding, ground based telescopes and now correct for atmospheric distortion.

We must not allow... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39851923)

... a failed military technology gap!

summary vs. Related Links (2)

poppopret (1740742) | more than 2 years ago | (#39851965)

Biased article on Slashdot? No, never! Hmmm, the Related Links for this story include...

  • Airborne Laser Successfully Tracks, Hits Missile
  • Airborne Boeing Laser Blasts Ground Target

Re:summary vs. Related Links (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852211)

Yep. It works, to some degree. And if they continue development it will work better. I remember in the '80s groups of physicists were signing petitions against ABM programs because there's no way you can "hit a bullet with a bullet". Except you can, just like you can make a laser that burns missiles out of the sky.

Re:summary vs. Related Links (1)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852395)

Except after 30 years even the kinetic weapons angle still isn't reliable.

The political defense is the proven, and much less expensive, solution.

Need to stick with ships for now (5, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852003)

If I remember correctly, one of the biggest problems with airborne lasers was that of fuel source. It took up a large amount of space, and the chemicals in chemical lasers were very volatile. Not to mention weaponized lasers still aren't very practicable. It makes much more sense to stick with the Navy development of lasers, as they can tap onboard nuclear reactors for power. Maybe once we actually working, reliable, and accurate systems in development we can look at adding them to an airborne platform. But right now this smells more like the chance for some defense-related pork than anything else.

What has me more concerned from the article (I know, we aren't supposed to read the articles here, but Noah's been doing good work ever since his defensetech days) is that the same committee pushing this is pushing for an East Coast missile defense system. Which, living on the East Coast, makes no sense. The only states with operational SSBNs are the US, UK, France, Russia, and China. No land-based ballistic missiles will come over the East Coast, and China's not going to risk a voyage to the East Coast to attack, the West Coast would make much more sense. I don;t think we have to worry about the UK or France, and Russia still has to deal with what's left of SOSUS as well as the French, Scandinavian, and UK navies, and the Atlantic is still pretty much our backyard. I honestly cannot see any remotely legitimate threat or need for an East Coast defense line.

Re:Need to stick with ships for now (1)

tsotha (720379) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852231)

The idea is to eventually replace the vats of nasty chemicals with a solid-state system that can be powered by the engines. Solid state lasers have been getting more capable by leaps and bounds.

Re:Need to stick with ships for now (3, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852285)

True, but like I said, lets start with a much more stable platform that has access to much greater power (a nuclear-powered ship). This also has the benefit of not restricting size as much. Once we have that working, we can develop lasers that have to draw less power and can more easily fit inside a plane.

Re:Need to stick with ships for now (1)

Penguinshit (591885) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852359)

Or put a reactor in the plane.

What could possibly go wrong?

Re:Need to stick with ships for now (3, Informative)

tsotha (720379) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852435)

But the chemicals can do the trick, for the time being, and there is still a lot of work to do on target keeping.

The big question for me has to do less with technology and more with chain of command. I mean, to be useful this thing has to be used in the boost phase. The first minute of flight, say. It's going to take a few seconds to realize the target is there, and then they have to get the beam on it PDQ. That means the system can never work in a surprise attack - the only way you could possibly shoot down a target is if you had standing orders to fry anything that launches.

Re:Need to stick with ships for now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852663)

The real advantage of the 747 is that 500 knots takes care of a lot of the pluming problems. Boats don't have that advantage.

Re:Need to stick with ships for now (1)

careysub (976506) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852687)

The only states with operational SSBNs are the US, UK, France, Russia, and China.

And you can leave China off the list for the time being. No Chinese submarine has ever made a deterrent patrol, even in the Pacific, much less "round the Horn" into the Atlantic. At present China seems to treat its 3 subs as floating Chinese missile fields - more mobile and stealthy than land-based mobile ICBMs, but still operated only where China can provide its own military protection.

Re:Need to stick with ships for now (1)

Nidi62 (1525137) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852995)

A very good point. Especially since, with the end of the Cold War and much of the Russian navy either mothballed and rusted away or sold off, China is pretty much the only left for our SSNs to monitor. I would not be surprised if every time a Chinese SSBN puts to sea there is a US SSN nearby. China's SSBN fleet is pretty small, after all. Wikipedia shows 1 Type 092 in service (with one other having been lost), and 4 type 094s in service.

Re:Need to stick with ships for now (1)

slew (2918) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852859)

If I remember correctly, one of the biggest problems with airborne lasers was that of fuel source...

One of the biggest problems with airborne lasers is power efficiency. Let's say your laser is 30% efficient (a pretty agressive number). You basically blow something up inside your plane to generate the power, 30% of it goes out as laser energy toward the target, and the other 70% of the energy you have to deal with in your plane (probably as heat). Whatever you use as a heat shield to keep your own plane from blowing up, you might only need half of that on your target as a defense, not a great ratio.

Of course if the target is a small number of warheads like say what a country like Iran or NK would send over, you can increase the dwell time (the amount of time the laser is focused on the target) on each target, so maybe you don't need too much efficiency and still be able to deal with the rogue warhead or two. Of course with a bunch of warheads from a country say like Russia or China, you've gotta try to shoot them down as fast as you can as they probably have countermeasures that make long dwell times hard. If we thought the rogue warhead is the real threat, maybe it makes more sense than it did in the past.

Good news everyone, we have a missile defense (2)

iPaul (559200) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852049)

As long as the missiles we're defending against are inoperable, our defenses should be iron clad.

Debt (2)

fizzer06 (1500649) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852051)

I wonder how much debt will be enough for our dark overlords in Washington?

please don't take away my laser plane... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852085)

http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-april-8-2009/full-metal-budget

APS Study Found These Systems Lacking (4, Interesting)

internic (453511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852157)

I remember that the American Physical Society (the professional organization of physicists) studied various boost-phase missile defense schemes years ago. They found that the various options, including air-borne lasers, weren't likely to be very useful in realistic scenarios (even under otherwise optimistic assumptions).

The press release says [aps.org] :

The Airborne Laser currently in development has the potential to intercept liquid-propellant ICBMs, but its range would be limited and it would therefore be vulnerable to counterattack. The Airborne Laser would not be able to disable solid-propellant ICBMs at ranges useful for defending the United States.

Few of the components exist for deploying an effective boost-phase defense against liquid-propellant ICBMs and some essential components would take at least 10 years to develop, said Study Group co-chair Daniel Kleppner. According to U.S. intelligence estimates, North Korea and Iran could develop or acquire solid-propellant ICBMs within the next 10 to 15 years. Consequently, a boost-phase defense effective only against liquid-propellant ICBMs would risk being obsolete when deployed.

You can also read the full report [aps.org] . I don't know how the relative states of the technologies stand today.

ob rg quote (2)

TheSync (5291) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852233)

"Our studies indicate the weapon is totally useless in warfare."

"It's not intended for use in your kind of warfare, Roy. It's the perfect peacetime weapon. That's why it's secret."

North Korea Refuses to Turn Off Cell Phones During (1)

retroworks (652802) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852239)

Takeoff and landing

You got it all wrong (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852433)

No, they want to use it to defend us from missiles launched by Syria, Iran, etc. They've just learned not to piss the Russkies off by mentioning ever using the system in their neck of the woods - even if it inevitably would be.

North Korea (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852467)

Anyone wonder if they used this on north Korea and just didn't tell anyone?

A flawed concept from the beginning (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852527)

A stupendously bad idea:

1). Line of sight only;
2). Useless in bad weather;
3). The 747 is a giant, defenseless target;
4). How many weeks, months or years does this thing have to be on stationkeeping, before it gets a firing opportunity?
5). The power generation system is a Rube Goldberg creation if there ever was one.

Plus this system violates the dictum that you should take out high value targets with less expensive weapons. I'll bet the customized, loaded 747 is worth 10-100X whatever missile it is put up against.

Worse, existing existing anti-missile systems can likely outperform this thing and at a fraction of the cost too.

Re:A flawed concept from the beginning (2)

couchslug (175151) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852987)

6). The 747 can't stay airborne 24/7 and must undergo repair, maintenance, periodic inspections, etc which can require considerable hangar time.

Re:A flawed concept from the beginning (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 2 years ago | (#39853097)

The 747 is a giant, defenseless target

Um... Isn't Air Force One a 747 variant?

Fixed it for you (2)

jd2112 (1535857) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852599)

Congresscritters seek pork to defend against threats of being voted out of office.

that last sentence (1)

slashmydots (2189826) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852653)

I'm pretty sure North Korea's failed missiles helped defend against North Korea's failed missiles actually. I still want a big ass flying laser cannon though.

it's time to stop (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852719)

producing republican fueled space ranger crap, it makes you all look like a bunch of giant religious retards stuck in the 50's...

Billions for what gain? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39852721)

If you have billions of dollars and want to save lives, fitting lasers to aircraft is something a 4-year-old might come up with. Flying is already incredibly safe. Consider doing something about road accidents or studying heart problems instead.

Of course, the thought that these lasers are primarily intended to keep passengers safe is a bad assumption. What is the real intention?

I'm confused (1)

Grayhand (2610049) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852837)

How do you strap a shark to a 747?

Laser Jets? Pfffffft..! (5, Funny)

vyruss000 (525644) | more than 2 years ago | (#39852959)

Hewlett-Packard has been building LaserJets since the 1980s...

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