Feeds

Senate to call Boeing's 2009 raygun nuke-zap bluff?

We'll see your $0.5bn, and raise you a laser jumbo

Remote control for virtualized desktops

Senators are planning to cut budgets for the space interceptor portion of the controversial US missile defence programme, according to reports. However, it appears that a complementary scheme to blast enemy ICBMs shortly after takeoff using a giant laser cannon mounted in a jumbo jet will be fully funded.

According to a report by Aviation Week & Space Technology, Senate subcommittee members who have been marking up the US defence spending package gave some hints earlier in the week.

The ABL Boeing 747. Photo: USAF

ABL laser plane. Really big projection screen not included.

It seems that the ground-based mid-course defence layer of the proposed American missile shield will not get the money requested by the Bush administration. In particular, the draft Senate bill will cut appropriations for planned interceptor and radar sites in Eastern Europe.

"The funds can be used better in other areas," according to Senator Daniel Inouye (Democrat, Hawaii).

The Pentagon would like to site a radar in Czechoslovakia** in order to track intercontinental ballistic warheads soaring through space towards the US. The missile-busting brass would also like to have interceptor rockets in Poland to knock the nukes out.

Ground-based defence rocket prototypes have at least carried out successful space intercepts against ballistic missile targets*, though critics suggest the tests thus far haven't been realistic. Using one rocket to hit another is very difficult at orbital speeds, but it's demonstrably achievable.

What hasn't yet been shown is the feasibility of making a missile explode by lighting it up with a raygun, let alone a raygun that has to fit in a plane. But Boeing, leaders of the Airborne Laser (ABL) programme, have their modified jumbo jet all ready to go. They also claim successful ground tests of the necessary laser machinery. The firm recently swore blind that if they got the full budget request, they'd blast a missile using ABL in 2009. (They said 2005 last time, in 2002.)

The idea of ABL is to produce a fleet of raygun jumbos which might patrol near, say, North Korea (just to pluck a name from the air). As the ICBMs lifted up through the atmosphere, the ABL planes would disintegrate them with high-powered lasers from up to 400km away. Being mostly pressurised tanks full of explosive rocket fuel, ICBM boosters are fairly prone to blowing up if even you leave them alone; so this is a bit more feasible than it sounds. That doesn't make an ABL simple to build, though.

It now appears that the Senators plan to call Boeing's bluff; AW&ST report that the subcommittee scribble on the draft bill approves the full ABL request of $549m in the next fiscal year. The aerospace colossus – which is partnered with most of the US arms industry on ABL – may soon have to make good on its promise, if the subcommittee plans are approved.

Full report from AW&ST here

*Usually obsolete Polaris jobs that have been lying about for the last couple of decades

**Whoops: Czech republic. No need for any more rude comments, cheers.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
prev story

Whitepapers

Go beyond APM with real-time IT operations analytics
How IT operations teams can harness the wealth of wire data already flowing through their environment for real-time operational intelligence.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Why CIOs should rethink endpoint data protection in the age of mobility
Assessing trends in data protection, specifically with respect to mobile devices, BYOD, and remote employees.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.