Feeds

Pentagon's raygun-packing 747 to visit DC

Jumbo wants pork

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

The Airborne Laser, the US Missile Defence programme's raygun-equipped jumbo jet, is to visit Washington tonight in an attempt to drum up support on Capitol Hill.

Airborne Laser aircraft

The Airborne Laser aircraft, intended to explode ICBMs shortly after liftoff.

The Missile Defence Agency says (pdf) the flying energy-weapon platform will fly into Andrews airforce base outside DC from its normal home at Edwards AFB in California. The 747 is expected to make a night landing, before being shown off to politicos, officials, and the media. It will return to the west coast on 21 June.

The Airborne Laser is a modified Boeing 747-400 freighter aircraft intended to use a Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) to destroy a hostile ballistic missile during the highly-vulnerable "boost phase" of its trajectory — the first few minutes after it is launched.

Missiles in boost are full of pressurised explosive fuel, so even a relatively feeble zapping could cause them to explode. Also, attacking a multiple-warhead ICBM at this point will take out all its re-entry vehicles in one shot.

The idea is that the 747's advanced tracking lasers will first locate the target missile before the "primary directed energy weapon" fires up. According to the Missile Defence Agency (MDA), "the chemical laser has had more than 70 successful firings over the past three years, and will be installed aboard the aircraft later this year in preparation for the first shootdown of a ballistic missile target in mid-2009."

Before that happens, however, the missile defence lads need a whole lot of cash to keep the project going - hence the visit to Washington. Democrats in DC have tended to see the jumbo-blaster as risky business at best, foolish sci-fi-in-the-sky at worst, and have previously exhorted the MDA to focus on shorter-term, more basic missile-busting gear. Congress recently lopped 45 per cent off an airborne laser funding request, and the Senate will be looking at defence cash soon.

The Airborne Laser may need to put on a good show tomorrow if it's to make that 2009 deadline. ®

HP ProLiant Gen8: Integrated lifecycle automation

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.
Mobile application security vulnerability report
The alarming realities regarding the sheer number of applications vulnerable to attack, and the most common and easily addressable vulnerability errors.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.