Feeds

Jumbo-jet ray cannon in missile-vape success

Sidelined sky-blaster finally gets some

New hybrid storage solutions

The US Missile Defence Agency's mighty, jumbo-jet-borne energy cannon, the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB), finally made good on decades of promises last week as it blasted a test missile out of existence above the Pacific. However the ALTB and its chemical laser technology have been relegated almost to the status of a curiosity in recent times, and the belated success is unlikely to see the project resurgent.

According to missile-defence spokesmen:

At 8:44 p.m. (PST), February 11, 2010, a short-range threat-representative ballistic missile, was launched from an at-sea mobile launch platform. Within seconds, the ALTB used onboard sensors to detect the boosting missile and used a low-energy laser to track the target. The ALTB then fired a second low-energy laser to measure and compensate for atmospheric disturbance. Finally, the ALTB fired its megawatt-class High Energy Laser, heating the boosting ballistic missile to critical structural failure. The entire engagement occurred within two minutes of the target missile launch, while its rocket motors were still thrusting.

This was the first directed energy lethal intercept demonstration against a liquid-fuel boosting ballistic missile target from an airborne platform...

Less than one hour later, a second solid fuel short-range missile was launched from a ground location on San Nicolas Island, California, 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.

There will have been champagne corks popping at the missile-defence headquarters over the weekend, but even so we aren't likely to see a mighty fleet of raygun jumbos patrolling the skies near rogue nations in order to blast any threatening missiles as soon as they take off.

Firstly, ALTB type planes would need to be within a few hundred km of the missile launch sites - or within the airspace of Iran, for instance. Secondly, even in the event of energy-weapon defence being seen as the way forward, the now old-fashioned chemical laser tech in the ALTB would probably not be chosen. The raygun jumbo's weapon requires troublesome topping-off with dangerous fuels, and in recent years electrical lasers have gone from strength to strength.

Quite apart from this, the Obama administration has lately de-emphasised exotic missile defence kit such as lasers and mid-course interceptors in favour of cheaper and perhaps more reliable gear like the Standard SM-3 naval interceptor.

Nonetheless last week's test is interesting news. We'll chase upon the reasons behind the aborted second lasing (did the jumbo run out of laser juice?) and let you know. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Square Kilometre Array reveals its 1.6TB-a-day storage and network rigs
Boolardy Engineering Test Array - aka BETA - is about to come out of Beta
LOHAN invites ENTIRE REG READERSHIP to New Mexico shindig
Well, those of you who back our Kickstarter tin-rattling...
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
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.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.