Feeds

Nuke-nobbling US laser jumbo fires test beams

First ray-play day for ICBM sky fry guys

Top three mobile application threats

America's famous nuke-toasting aerial ray cannon jumbo jet has at last fired its first energy beams in ground testing, according to prime contractor Boeing. The Airborne Laser (ABL) system is now complete, and testing will progress to a live intercept against a ballistic missile in 2009.

Boeing's concept of an ABL in action

Does coherent light = coherent plans?

"The achievement of 'first light' onboard the Airborne Laser aircraft is a key milestone for the ABL team," said Scott Fancher, Boeing veep i/c missile-nobbling and face of the raygun jumbo project.

"The team did an extraordinary job preparing ABL for this important test. The program remains on track to reach the missile shoot-down demonstration planned."

The idea of the ABL is that fleets of such aircraft might one day patrol the skies, hundreds of kilometres from enemy missile silos in rogue states - off the coast of North Korea, for example, at some point when North Korea had acquired functional intercontinental rockets. Should the evil dictator or whoever decide to rain destruction on the USA (or perhaps its chums), vigilant laser-jumbos would ray the missiles vigorously as they lifted from their pads, still full of volatile, explosive fuels. This would cause them to explode before their payloads could leave the atmosphere (and perhaps separate into multiple warheads, decoys etc in troublesome style).

Nonetheless, the ABL has its critics. The monster ray cannon uses older chemical laser technology, and needs large amounts of dangerous high-pressure fuels. It also has to contain its equally hazardous and corrosive exhaust products. This means that the proposed ABL fleet's logistic requirements would be exotic and troublesome.

Furthermore, in order to hit missiles in their vulnerable boost phase, the planes would need to fly within a few hundred km of the launch sites. This means that many possible launch locations would be out of reach, unless the ABLs intruded on enemy airspace - perhaps precipitating the very attack they seek to prevent.

Still, Boeing are bullish, seeing "first light" as proof that the prototype ABL is now fully assembled. However, the testing process will be a long one. In fact, no beam has yet even left the aircraft: the "first light" was actually shone into an onboard calorimeter and didn't pass through the ABL's distinctive swivelling nose turret.

But the turret and beam-control system has already seen flight tests using a pointing laser before the installation of the main cannon last year. Thus Boeing are happy that it will work as expected, and remain firm that they will blast a for-real ICBM the year after next. Assuming success at that point, the programme will halt for a time, while the Washington corporately makes up its mind about buying further aircraft. ®

3 Big data security analytics techniques

More from The Register

next story
Fancy joining Reg hack on quid-a-day challenge?
Recruiting now for charity starvation diet
Red-faced LOHAN team 'fesses up in blown SPEARS fuse fiasco
Standing in the corner, big pointy 'D' hats
KILLER SPONGES menacing California coastline
Surfers are safe, crustaceans less so
Opportunity selfie: Martian winds have given the spunky ol' rover a spring cleaning
Power levels up 70 per cent as the rover keeps on truckin'
KILLER ROBOTS, DNA TAMPERING and PEEPING CYBORGS: the future looks bright!
Americans optimistic about technology despite being afraid of EVERYTHING
Discovery time for 200m WONDER MATERIALS shaved from 4 MILLENNIA... to 4 years
Alloy, Alloy: Boffins in speed-classification breakthrough
Elon Musk's LEAKY THRUSTER gas stalls Space Station supply run
Helium seeps from Falcon 9 first stage, delays new legs for NASA robonaut
prev story

Whitepapers

Securing web applications made simple and scalable
In this whitepaper learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.
3 Big data security analytics techniques
Applying these Big Data security analytics techniques can help you make your business safer by detecting attacks early, before significant damage is done.
The benefits of software based PBX
Why you should break free from your proprietary PBX and how to leverage your existing server hardware.
Top three mobile application threats
Learn about three of the top mobile application security threats facing businesses today and recommendations on how to mitigate the risk.
Combat fraud and increase customer satisfaction
Based on their experience using HP ArcSight Enterprise Security Manager for IT security operations, Finansbank moved to HP ArcSight ESM for fraud management.