Friday, October 27, 2006

Peace Through Light

Airborne Laser in the news:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The head of the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency on Friday hailed what he cast as epochal progress toward putting a high-energy laser aboard a modified Boeing Co. 747 to zap ballistic missiles that could be fired by North Korea and Iran.

The Airborne Laser has been developed at a cost so far of about $3.5 billion with the aim of destroying, at the speed of light, all classes of ballistic missiles shortly after their launch. If successful in flight testing and deployed, it would become part of an emerging U.S. anti-missile shield that also includes land- and sea-based interceptor missiles.
I remember hearing over and over, years ago (from Democrats, mostly), that missile defense was a waste, because the likelihood of facing a small number of missiles from a "rogue state" was ridiculously low.

Who's laughing now?

More effort sooner and we might have been ready by now instead of in a few years.

But the naysayers are once again out in force. Where once they said, oh, it'll just start an arms race and the Chinese or whoever will just send too many missiles to shoot down.

I always said, ok, make them do it!
But the Pentagon's former top weapons tester poured doubt on the project, saying it faced major technical hurdles and might be defeated by a simple countermeasure.

Philip Coyle, the Pentagon's chief weapons tester under former President Bill Clinton and now at the private Center for Defense Information, said in an e-mail reply to Reuters that the ABL's effectiveness appeared doubtful.

"If a laser can be developed with enough power to penetrate the atmosphere and still be lethal once it reaches a target, an enemy would only need to put a reflective coating on the outside of its missiles to bounce off the laser beam, making it harmless," he said.
Simple countermeasure?

Ok, make them do it!

Will every missile in the world be retrofitted with this magical coating that reflects infrared light (these high-powered lasers are more like heat rays than beams of light) and doesn't char even at high temperatures?

Highly unlikely.

I wonder if Mr. Coyle would take a dare to stand in front of a megawatt-class laser with a three-foot aperture with a sheet of reflective mylar for protection.

Somehow, I doubt it.

The official word is:
A Missile Defense Agency spokesman, Richard Lehner, in an e-mailed reply to Reuters, responded that "abrasion" during the early stage of a missile's launch would erase the reflective capabilities of any such coating.
These articles are always rather useless, interesting mostly for how much they omit or miss the point entirely.


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