Laser anti missile test


U.S. successfully tests airborne laser on missile


Fri 12th Feb 2010

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. high-powered airborne laser weapon shot down a ballistic missile in the first successful test of a futuristic directed energy weapon, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said on Friday.


The agency said in a statement the test took place at 8:44 p.m. PST (11:44 p.m. EST) on Thursday /0444 GMT on Friday) at Point Mugu's Naval Air Warfare Center-Weapons Division Sea Range off Ventura in central California.

"The Missile Defense Agency demonstrated the potential use of directed energy to defend against ballistic missiles when the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) successfully destroyed a boosting ballistic missile" the agency said.

The high-powered Airborne Laser system is being developed by Boeing Co., the prime contractor, and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

Boeing produces the airframe, a modified 747 jumbo jet, while Northrop Grumman supplies the higher-energy laser and Lockheed Martin is developing the beam and fire control systems.

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

The airborne laser weapon successfully underwent its first in-flight test against a target missile back in August. During that test, Boeing said the modified 747-400F aircraft took off from Edwards Air Force Base and used its infrared sensors to find a target missile launched from San Nicolas Island, California.

The plane's battle management system issued engagement and target location instructions to the laser's fire control system, which tracked the target and fired a test laser at the missile. Instruments on the missile verified the system had hit its mark, Boeing said.

The airborne laser weapon is aimed at deterring enemy missile attacks and providing the U.S. military with the ability to engage all classes of ballistic missiles at the speed of light while they are in the boost phase of flight.

"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 (miles), and at a low cost per intercept attempt compared to current technologies," the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said.

(Reporting by Jim Wolf and David Alexander, Editing by Sandra Maler)



Beam weapons almost ready for battle

Directed energy could revolutionize warfare, expert says

Image: Space laser
A laser fires from space toward Earth in this artistic rendering. The Air Force Research Laboratory’s Directed Energy Directorate is conducting research in a wide variety of laser weapons technologies.
Combat in the cosmos
The militarization of space
By Leonard David
Senior space writer
updated 12:10 p.m. ET Jan. 11, 2006

LOS ALAMOS, N.M. - There is a new breed of weaponry fast approaching — and at the speed of light, no less. They are labeled "directed-energy weapons," and they may well signal a revolution in military hardware — perhaps more so than the atomic bomb.

Directed-energy weapons take the form of lasers, high-powered microwaves and particle beams. Their adoption for ground, air, sea, and space warfare depends not only on using the electromagnetic spectrum, but also upon favorable political and budgetary wavelengths too.

That’s the outlook of J. Douglas Beason, author of the recently published book "The E-Bomb: How America’s New Directed Energy Weapons Will Change the Way Wars Will Be Fought in the Future." Beason previously served on the White House staff working for the president’s science adviser under both the Bush and Clinton administrations.

After more than two decades of research, the United States is on the verge of deploying a new generation of weapons that discharge beams of energy, such as the Airborne Laser and the Active Denial System, as well as the Tactical High Energy Laser, or THEL.

"History has shown that, without investment in high technology, fighting the next war will be done using the 'last war' type of technique," Beason told Space.com. Putting money into basic and long-range research is critical, Beason said, adding: "You can’t always schedule breakthroughs."

A leading expert in directed-energy research for 26 years, Beason is also director of threat reduction here at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. However, he noted that he was expressing his own views rather than the policy of the laboratory, the Defense Department or the Energy Department.

Ripe for transformation?
Though considerable work has been done in lasers, high-power microwaves and other directed-energy technologies, weaponization is still an ongoing process.

Image: Airborne Laser
An artist's conception shows a reddish beam emanating from an Airborne Laser system, with another beam being used against missiles in the background. In reality, the beam itself might be invisible.

For example, work is continuing in the military’s Airborne Laser program. It utilizes a megawatt-class, high-energy chemical oxygen iodine laser toted skyward aboard a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft. Purpose of the program is to enable the detection, tracking and destruction of ballistic missiles in the boost phase, or powered part of their flight.

Similarly, testing of the U.S. Army’s Tactical High Energy Laser in White Sands, N.M., has shown the ability of heating high-flying rocket warheads, blasting them with enough energy to make them self-detonate. THEL uses a high-energy, deuterium fluoride chemical laser. A mobile THEL also demonstrated the ability to kill multiple mortar rounds.

Then there’s Active Denial Technology — a non-lethal way to use millimeter-wave electromagnetic energy to stop, deter and turn back an advancing adversary. This technology, supported by the U.S. Marines, uses a beam of millimeter waves to heat a foe’s skin, causing severe pain without damage, and making the adversary flee the scene.

Beason also pointed to new exciting research areas underway at the Los Alamos National Laboratory: Free-electron laser work with the Navy and a new type of directed energy that operates in the terahertz region.

Niche for new technology
While progress in directed-energy is appreciable, Beason sees two upfront problems in moving the technology forward. One issue has to do with "convincing the warfighter that there’s a niche for this new type of weapon," and the other relates to making sure these new systems are not viewed as a panacea to solve all problems. "They are only another tool," he said.

Image: Ground-based laser
Northrop Grumman
This is a conceptual look at putting a solid-state laser on an armored ground combat vehicle for potential use in the U.S. military’s Future Combat Systems program.

Looming even larger is the role of those who acquire new weapons. "The U.S. could put ourselves in a very disastrous position if we allow our acquisition officials to be non-technically competent," Beason explained.

Over the decades, Beason said that the field of directed-energy has had its share of "snake-oil salesmen", as well as those advocates who overpromised. "It wasn’t ready for prime time."

At present, directed-energy systems "are barely limping along with enough money just to prove that they can work," Beason pointed out. Meanwhile, huge slugs of money are being put into legacy-type systems to keep them going.

"It’s a matter of priority," Beason said. The time is now to identify high-payoff, directed-energy projects for the smallest amounts of money, he said.