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United States Science Technology

Anti-Missile Laser Weapon Successfully Tested 636

Posted by timothy
from the how-fair-was-the-test dept.
xPertCodert writes "A latest attempt to build a futuristic laser weapon appears to be a success. Joint Israeli-US developed laser destroyed a large caliber rocket in a latest New Mexico test. The press release also contains links to some interesting video and photo material, related to THEL (Tactical High Energy Lasers) defense systems."
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Anti-Missile Laser Weapon Successfully Tested

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  • A few flaws (Score:5, Funny)

    by nacturation (646836) <nacturation@@@gmail...com> on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:43PM (#9097719) Journal
    The test went fairly well, but it wasn't without incident. After reviewing the field test, the project lead recommended adding the following warning label:

    "Do not look into laser with remaining eye."

    Sorry, it had to be said. :)
    • Man, those "benai zonote" (sons of bitches for those of you who aren't fluent in Hebrew) are really on the cutting edge. I wonder when the portable version will be coming out. heh heh
    • by Rob.Mathers (527086) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:55AM (#9098093) Homepage
      "Aim missile away from face"

      (from the one where Bart spots a comet headed towards springfield)
  • great... (Score:5, Funny)

    by arctan1701 (635900) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:45PM (#9097726)
    now all we need are the sharks...
  • Tiring work (Score:5, Funny)

    by KanSer (558891) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:45PM (#9097727)
    I'm glad they figured out how to balance the phase variance in the polaric energy they had to run through the deflector array to fire up the phaser arrays. Ver admirable work, but it's no match for my Klingon Disrupters!
  • by boomgopher (627124) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:46PM (#9097732) Journal
    Why do peace-types protest defense systems like this so much?
    I've never understood the logic. Defensive weaponry helps reduce the threat of war.


    • This system defends against balistic missiles. The only countries that have missiles capable of reaching US soil are Russia and China. Both of these nations are friendly towards the US currently. This is an example of the military preparing to fight the last war.

      Now, don't look at me like I'm a peacenik, I am all for the developement of weapon technology for the obvious combat advantage and the spinoff technologies. BUT, this technology is completely irrelevent to counter-terrorism. Even if a terrorist gro
      • by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:16AM (#9097904)
        Terrorism is not the only threat out there. Not all countries are friendly with all other countries. China, for instance, may make a play for Taiwan at some point in the future.
        North Korea may shoot another missile across Japan's bow.
        I'd imagine both of those countries would like to have this type of defense.

        IR and radar guided missiles were gimmicky at first, too. GPS was pie in the sky. The airplane istelf was considered to be of little military use at first.

        OBTW, it's also for artillery size shells, not just ballistic missiles.
        • by Naffer (720686) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:46AM (#9098050) Journal
          "To throw bombs from an airplane will do as much damage as throwing bags of flour. It will be my pleasure to stand on the bridge of any ship while it is attacked by airplanes." - Newton Baker, US minister of defense (1921)
          • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 09, 2004 @02:10AM (#9098389)
            "Airplanes can barely keep themselves in the air. How can they then carry any kind of load?"
            - William Pickering, Astronomer (1908)

            "Airplanes suffers from so many technical faults that it is only a matter of time before any reasonable man realizes that they are useless!"
            - Scientific American (1910)

            "No flying machine will ever fly from New York to Paris."
            - Orville Wright.

            "Airplanes are interesting toys but of no military value."
            - Marshal Ferdinand Foch [Professor of Strategy, Ecole Superieure de Guerre] (circa 1911)
            He was Supreme Commander of Allied forces, 1918

            "Aviation is good for sport, but for the Army it is useless!"
            - Marshal Ferdinand Foch

          • by general_re (8883) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @03:20AM (#9098618) Homepage
            Newton Baker, US minister of defense (1921)

            One of those apparently sourceless quotes made all the more suspect by the attribution itself. The United States does not have a parliamentary system - the only "ministers" in the US are charged with church congregations. Second, the Department of Defense did not exist until 1947, and was not so named until 1949 - Newton D. Baker was Secretary of the War Department under Woodrow Wilson, from 1916 to 1921.

            Yeah, I know - offtopic. Whatever.

      • Read the article (Score:5, Insightful)

        by ksheff (2406) * on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:19AM (#9097915) Homepage

        This is a tactical defensive weapon for use on a battlefield, not strategic defense. This is a mobile system meant to protect against small rockets like Katyusha class weapons. To understand why Israel is involved, you only have to look at the map on this page. [iris.org.il]

        They would also be useful in defending targets against rocket attacks like the ones that have occurred in Iraq.
      • This weapon shot down artillery shells. It's useful for far more than just large scale missiles. It's mobile, too, so it can be deployed in the battlefield.

        Yes, it's not going to protect against terrorists who fight more efficiently (targeting civilians/semi-civilians, as opposed to armies that fight against like-trained armies), but it's still very useful for "standard" warfare.
      • Actually this system is not designed for ICBMs, but rather to take out the Katyusha rockets that are periodically tossed in the Israeli's midst from the Golan Heights. This would be most effective in theater against artillery and multiple-launch rockets and possibly against something as large as a Scud. Again, not Star Wars which is space-based anti-ICBM technology that would only be useful against those who actually have ICBMs, but not enough to overwhelm the system. Star-Wars has been a huge waste of mone
      • by mericet (550554) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @07:25AM (#9099183) Homepage
        This system defends against balistic missiles. The only countries that have missiles capable of reaching US soil are Russia and China. Both of these nations are friendly towards the US currently. This is an example of the military preparing to fight the last war.
        No, it's not, it defends against short range rockets.

        Even if a terrorist group gets ahold of a nuclear bomb, it would be easier and cheaper to sneak it into the US than to develope and build ICBMs.
        In fact terrorist groups have these rockets, that's why previous tests were against katyusha rockets, used by the Hizbulla.

        And even then, this system can only shoot down missiles as they are launched by flying over the enemy's territory. This means that the government has spent billions on a gimmicky star wars program that only works if we invade another country's airspace, a.k.a. an act of war.
        IIRC, it's primarily a ground based system, to be used from the privacy of your own country. There is an airbourne version, which can be used after hostilities have begun. Or in peace-keeping missions, when an invasion isn't relevant.

    • Because it is wasteful and will lead to another arms race.. So a U.S.-Isreal team develops. Now. someone will develop energy absorbing/reflecting/deflecting/whatever missiles. Then another defense system, then another missile to defeat it. Wash Rine, and Repeat, and we have another cold war.

      Instead of using the money to develop new defense systems, they could have used the money to tackle the underlying social problems that cause the "bad men" to be mad at us in the first place. This way, we solve the
      • by ReTay (164994) * on Sunday May 09, 2004 @02:09AM (#9098388)
        "So a U.S.-Isreal team develops. Now. someone will develop energy absorbing /reflecting /deflecting/whatever missiles."

        Right.... I don't know I personally would like to have the most updated hardware I can if I have to go into battle. You can carry sticks and stones if you want I want the most deadly equipment and as much of it as I can carry.

        And to your second point.
        No amount of money will help religious fever.
        Remember anyone who tells you that tying a bomb to your chest and blowing up civilians will get you attended in the next world by a pack of virgins and they will give lots of money to your family is..

        A Not your friend
        B Probably lying on at least one count
        C Certifiable
        D Someone who is always happy to sacrifice someone
        else

        I don't know just my two bits
      • by Avihson (689950) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @10:41AM (#9099749)
        If we just hold hands and sing Kumbya all the world's problems will go away.

        The underlying social problem is human nature! Greed, jealousy, avavice, have been problems since the dawn of man.
        If I keep my "riches" you will hate me for having more than you.
        If I give you some of my posessions, you will hate me for making you feel inferior.
        If I destroy all my wealth and become like you you will hate me for wasting what I had.
        If I help you to be like me, you will never like me until you have ground me under your boot heels.

        So I may as well just live my life my way and keep you at arms length.

        Q: Why do you think it is called a social ladder?

        A: You look down, all you see are smiling faces, and you look up and all you see are assholes.
    • Some people see building defenses as giving us a tactical offensive advantage, which it does. That is to say, if we have a fleet of these while nobody else does, that delicate balance that existed during the cold war would be no more. The threat of retaliation in kind is reduced, if not eliminated.

      It's no big deal on its own, but as Dennis Leary once said, "We've got the bombs, okay people? Nuclear f*cking weapons!"

      That changes things some.

      I'm all for anything that actually improves our safety, but of

    • by Anonymous Coward
      Because of the way people look at it. Nuclear weapons are a trump card, something that essentially makes you, in the limit, invulnerable - maybe that other nation can pound you with conventional forces, but you can always hit them with a nuke. It keeps things at arms length, in a sense. It has enforced, more or less, a military peace since the end of World War II where, despite armed conflict, there has been no significant territory change (except the fall of the USSR, which was non-military).

      Imagine yo
    • by gotr00t (563828) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:01AM (#9097829) Journal
      As immoral and utilitarian the following may sound, it was the state of political affairs during the cold war, and continues to be this way.

      Both Soviet Russia and the United States had comparable amounts of nuclear weapons, enough to destroy the other several times over by the late 1960's. What was preventing them from simply firing the missiles and ending the war forever was the fact that the other side could, and would retaliate. Even the Soviets were not willing to spend a significant amount of their population concentrated within urban areas for the chance of total victory.

      When the Soviets announced development into an ABM (anti ballistic missile) system in the Stragetic Arms Limitatons Talks in 1969, it was not well recieved by the United States. The existance of such a system would mean that there would be no imperiative at hand for one side to annihilate the other and claim victory. The US, at this time, put research into such a technology as well, though notably less advanced than today's (it was called "setinel," and consisted of a pair of missiles designed to intercept), it was scrapped because it could not guarentee that major urban areas could be protected.

      Such a situation still exists today. The number of nations that have nuclear weapons is higher than ever, not just the Soviet Union and a handful of other nations outside of the US. To think that the United States would never do such a thing like annihilate an entire population is to be naive. There were such plans during the Cold War to literally wipe Russia off the face of the planet. To other nations, this system poses a greater threat than nuclear proliferation, as it nullifies their political leverage in the world arena.

      • by UPAAntilles (693635) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:55AM (#9098090)
        The THEL was not developed with anti-nuclear capabilities in mind. It's designed to protect cities, troop movements, bases, etc from cruise missiles, artillery shells, and the like.

        Now, the Airborne Laser was developed as SDI, but it only covers an area of a 100 mile circle around which it's deployed. That's not going to generally help against a large country...but instead was designed for actions against megalomanical 3rd world dictatorships, like say, North Korea.
        • Well, what it's most likely to knock down are conventional, biological, and chemical warheads, since only Israel is a known nuclear power at the moment. Iran is likely making a run for the bomb, ducking inspectors when it can. There's a worry that if push came to shove, a few IRBMs might get sent from Iran to Tel Aviv. This may be able to knock them down before they can detonate. It's much easier to clean up the mess from a few radioactive bits than from a detonation.
    • by beeplet (735701)
      In my opinion, this kind of missile defense system - which is ambitious yet still very far from reliable - gives a threatening impression to hostile countries while giving a false impression of security here. It could easily spark an arms race as other countries develop missiles than can penetrate the defense.

      A waste of money all around...
      • Just curious... who are we talking about here? Do we have someone with the addressed ballistic technologies, who also has a problem with us having a bad-ass defensive tool? Worst case scenario, a country deploys a technology to directly interfere with our ability to defend ourselves from missile attack. Then we know who has a sincere interest in sending missiles at us in the first place.
      • by Obyron (615547) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @02:50AM (#9098516)
        Most scholars of history agree that the arms race you warn about was what brought about the end of the Soviet Union and the Cold War. The United States is the richest country in the world, and it's got more than its fair share of brilliant minds.

        We develop a laser that can shoot down ICBMs. In response potentially hostile nations (PHNs) begin spending money like a housewife on holiday to develop a weapon that (they hope) can penetrate the defense... Maybe... in the event of a war that may not happen. In the end game we've still got a laser capable of shooting down artillery, cruise missiles, and (I've not seen anyone else mention this yet) enemy aircraft. What do the PHNs have? Debt in the billions-to-trillions of dollars range that they probably can't afford that will play its part in collapsing their economy.

        The best weapons platform you'll ever develop is the one that scares your enemy so much he spends himself into oblivion to counteract it. At the end of the day he's gone, and you haven't really had to do anything. It worked for Reagan with Star Wars, and by the sound of things it might just work again.

    • by zors (665805)
      For one thing, it could remove the assurance of mutual destruction in the event of a nuclear war, at least in theory, at least for a short while. It could also lead to another arms race, which is never a good thing.
    • by dude127 (652036)
      Any defensive system like this is only going to protect against a certain percentage of missles. It just makes the attacker throw more nukes at you or develop some type of counter-measure (i.e., reflective surfaces, dummy warheads, etc etc). The defensive side isn't about to sit idle when this happens, so it needs to sink resources into developing its own counter-counter measures. You now have an arms which provides you the same protection as before, but now with less resources in both countries economies.
    • by kinnunen (197981)
      Defensive weaponry helps reduce the threat of war.

      Actually, this system lowers the threshold of going to war. You can bet they will try to make mobile versions of these lasers that can be shipped to other countries to protect deployed troops. That means lower US casualties, which means Jeb Bush may be little less hesitant to invade Iraq.

    • Just because you disagree with me does not make it flamebait or a troll you retards. I hope you're meta-modded appropriately.

    • "Why do peace-types protest defense systems like this so much?"

      Because they allow you to attack with impunity.
  • Real Genius (Score:2, Funny)

    by QEDog (610238)
    Major Carnagle: Where's the laser? Professor Hathaway: It's coming. Major Carnagle: It's coming? It's not even breathing hard.
  • Uh Huh (Score:5, Funny)

    by Crispin Cowan (20238) <crispin.crispincowan@com> on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:46PM (#9097740) Homepage
    Great. So now attackers just have to cover their missiles with bicycle reflective strips and the lasers become approx. 99% less effective.

    Crispin

    • Re:Uh Huh (Score:3, Interesting)

      by citanon (579906)
      This laser works in the infra red. Bicycle strips and most other materials that are reflective in the visible band will not be reflective against this laser. They will absorb heat nicely and go kaboom.
      • Re:Uh Huh (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Crispin Cowan (20238) <crispin.crispincowan@com> on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:15AM (#9097900) Homepage
        Are you claiming that it is somehow difficult to make material that is highly reflective in the infrared range?

        I suggested bicycle strips because they have a fascinating property. They are made of zillions of little sphericle beads, with a refractive index of approximately 2.0. Such beads have the interesting property that light shining into them is reflected back directly at the source. For amusement, go get a laser pointer and point it at some bicycle strips, and you will notice that your hand holding the laser pointer is painted with laser light, regardless of the angle you hit the strip from.

        So if I want to beat laser missle defenses, I go into the lab and make milspec beads with a refractive index of 2.0 in the right infrared range, and the lasers suddenly don't work so well.

        Bonus: make the reflective layer 1 inch thick, and make it boil when heated, and you get ablative armor: it fogs the missle with a clound that blocks the laser. IIRC, idea due to Charles Sheffield (RIP) [wikipedia.org].

        Crispin

        • this is silly (Score:4, Insightful)

          by rebelcool (247749) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @04:12AM (#9098759)
          I thought slashdot was full of nerds? What kind of nerds don't understand simple physics?

          These lasers emit energy in the megawatt region. A mirror takes photons - absorbs them - and then reemits them. There aren't many mirrors that can absorb 10 million watts of energy.

          In fact, that very problem is what makes laser weaponry so damn expensive and difficult to do. They need very heavy, exotic and expensive mirror systems to focus and aim the laser energy without being destroyed by the laser themselves. You can't just go down to home depot and buy a big mirror. You can't just coat a missile in some silly bike reflectors or shiny foil.

          Even if you were to somehow invent a reflective coating that could handle megawatts of energy - and still be light enough to just paint on a missile - you'd have to deal with the coating becoming marred in flight, as anything the laser comes in contact with (ie, birdshit or what have you) its going to superheat to thousands of degrees and burn right through and destroy the missile.

    • It is very difficult to make high quality reflective mirrors in the IR >99% reflective let alone something you could stick on the sides of a missile out in a dirty battlefield and still have reflectivities in the 9x% range. The laser is likely in the megawatt range so even if you had 99% reflectivity you would still be absorbing 10 kilowatts of energy. The reflective properties of any substance will be destroyed very quickly under those high heat conditions, exponentially increasing the absorbed inciden
      • Hmmm. Ok, so high quality reflective material in the infrared range is hard. Sounds like a technology problem. It leads to an arms race:
        • On one hand, we have some guys trying to make durable, high-quality reflective material that can sustain high load in grubby battle conditions. The reflection does not have to be very precise, just "go somewhere else" will do.
        • On the other hand, we have some guys trying to make laser cannon. This involves near-perfect mirrors that have to survive battle conditions. The can
  • Pfft, anyone could have guessed that this would have been a success. Everyone knows that a laser can shoot anything! Oh, unless the laser is being held by, or possibly just anywhere near a stormtrooper, in which case it can and will shoot everything except what it is being aimed at.

    Oh dear. By that argument, Ashcroft's stormtroopers really are a threat to national security. I should never have doubted... we're all gonna die!
  • why some small towns have suddenly disappeared outside the test area.
  • videos (Score:5, Informative)

    by doormat (63648) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:50PM (#9097762) Homepage Journal
    are here [northropgrumman.com].

    WMP or QT are availabe.
  • Oh great.. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Malawar (674186) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:50PM (#9097764)
    So that's what happened to my missile.
  • Dates. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by FreeLinux (555387) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:53PM (#9097777)
    Most of the pictures are dated 2000. I suspect that in four years since those pictures, the project has made significant advances. However, those results and pictures are likely classified.

    Oh, by the way: FIRE THE FEAKIN LASER!!!
  • Domestic Use Soon? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Eponymous Cowboy (706996) on Saturday May 08, 2004 @11:54PM (#9097781)
    I wonder how long until these will be deployed domestically, around various government buildings (such as the White House, the US Capitol, or the Pentagon).

    They will be touted as the perfect solution to a problem with heretofore only imperfect solutions [ceip.org] (until, say, a passenger aircraft is accidentally shot down of course).

    The biggest differences between this and previous missile defense systems are cost and multiple-use capability. You're not talking about using multi-million dollar missiles to shoot down incoming missiles, so you don't need to be so selective about when firing the thing off. And if you miss, you can try again ... and again.

    As a defensive tool, these are, quite honestly, awesome. As an accident-waiting-to-happen in the hands of an overly-enthusiastic operator, they are, well, a little bit scary I guess.

    • by delong (125205) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:11AM (#9097874)
      I wonder how long until these will be deployed domestically, around various government buildings (such as the White House, the US Capitol, or the Pentagon).

      It won't. This isn't a "missile defense system" per se, it is a tactical battefield weapon designed for force protection. To be used to defend troops and installations against short range tactical weapons like rockets, mortars, cruise missiles, etc. Not of much use in the continental US.

      However, these lasers, and especially the larger, immobile THEL version, are perfect for Israel. Israeli communities and the IDF are constantly being harrassed by hit and run Katushka rocket, mortar, and guided missile threats from HAMAS and other Pal terrorists in the Territories, and Hezbollah in southern Lebanon.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Reuters article on MTHEL [reuters.com]
    In earlier tests the MTHEL laser had successfully eliminated 28 short-range Katyusha rockets and five artillery shells in flight as well as several "hostile objects" on the ground.
    It would be interesting to find out what those "hostile objects" were, and what exactly they mean by eliminated...
  • Sooo... (Score:2, Funny)

    by crazyfreakid (725264)
    ...this means world peace for our and all following generations, right?
  • Invisible beams? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by NanoGator (522640) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:05AM (#9097848) Homepage Journal
    I have a question: From the video, it appears that the beam is invisible. The reasons for that are pretty obvious. I just wanted to ask, is it possible for a laser beam to get so hot that it causes the air inside of it to turn visibly vapourous? Just wondering if we'll ever see a beam like that so powerful it leaves con-trails like plains leave or something.
    • IANAP(hysicist), but I think it depends on the wavelength of the laser. The various components (N2, O2, CO2, H2O, etc.) of air absorb on different wavelengths, and the laser would have to match the frequency (or a harmonic) of those wavelengths in order to heat up the air molecules. I think.
    • Re:Invisible beams? (Score:4, Informative)

      by mpoulton (689851) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:36AM (#9097997)
      A sufficiently powerful laser beam will ionize air due to the electric field strength within the beam. This can be achieved on a desktop scale with a small Q-switched YAG laser (I've done it). When the air ionizes, it begins to absorb the beam, which results in even more heating. You get what appears to be a spark floating in air. This is not wavelength dependent (except that field strength depends to some extent on wavelength), and is not related to the absorption of the beam by the gases in the air. In fact, at high enough intensities, the same effect occurs in a vacuum due to particle pair formation. Fun stuff.
    • Re:Invisible beams? (Score:2, Informative)

      by airider (728197)
      What you're talking about is thermal blooming. It is a serious effect that has to be taken into consideration if the laser is the reach any useful range. Thermal blooming changes the index of refraction of the air, changing the laser propagation through it. Heating the air until it ionizes (contrails are doubtful) would take a long time however, and would require the air to remain perfectly still to do so. Also, the wavelengths chosen are based on the "windows" available in the atmostphere. There are s
    • Re:Invisible beams? (Score:3, Informative)

      by AJWM (19027)
      is it possible for a laser beam to get so hot that it causes the air inside of it to turn visibly vapourous?

      Yes. I've seen pictures of the effect, possible from as early as the late 1960s. Turns the air in the beam into a plasma.

      The problem is, that plasma is generally much less transparent to the laser than the air was (although that wasn't perfectly transparent or it wouldn't have absorbed any laser light), so the beam wastes its energy close to the laser emitter.

      The goal with these things is to com
  • Wow (Score:2, Funny)

    by CiXeL (56313)
    I feel so safe. This is being built right across the street from where I live.

    Oh yes, I feel safer already! My neighborhood is not a terrorist target at all now. F%^&kin press releases!

    • Re:Wow (Score:2, Funny)

      by CptNerd (455084)
      Oh, grow the hell up. I lived during the Cold War 2 freaking miles from the Pentagon. Nothing like having a couple dozen multimegaton thermonukes aimed in the general vicinity of your apartment.

      Geeze, kids today just don't have what it takes, anymore!

  • Now all we need is an Anti-Monument Laser and we'll be good to go!
  • Mirrors? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Romancer (19668) <romancer@ d e a t h s d o o r .com> on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:17AM (#9097912) Journal
    Couldn't you just coat or plate the missles with laser quality mirroring to get past the laser defense?
  • Accuracy (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Fortress (763470) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:24AM (#9097933) Homepage
    The coolest thing about a laser weapon, IMHO, is not the power or range or even its technology..it's the accuracy.

    Aiming is the same as hitting with an energy weapon in most scenarios, the lightspeed lag only becoming a factor at high speed/long range, light an orbital target. Even then, a computer-aided targeting system should be able to compensate.

    Imagine if such a weapon system were mounted in a vehicle (I think I read something about a prototype of a different laser in a 737) where just having the target in the crosshairs is enough to guarantee its destruction. Gives a new perspective to sniping. Should also reduce civilian casualties.
    • Even with lightspeed, with a distant target you need to lead it. Just like a shotgun with birds or clay targets, if you aim where it is, you missed. The idea is to aim where it will be.
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:25AM (#9097935) Homepage
    This is the first real laser weapon. Unlike most of the stuff to come out of BMDO/MDA, this thing is expected to be useful. It's a joint US-Israeli effort, which gives it some reality.

    We're not talking about ICBMs here. This is aimed more at Katyusha batteries, a WWII truck-mounted launcher for 48 tube-launched unguided rockets. Those things had a range of about 5Km back in WWII. Their accuracy is poor, but they're cheap and can fire many rockets in the general direction of the target. Syria uses Katyusha batteries, and has been developing improved versions.

    Patriot anti-missiles are too expensive to use against those things. The defenders would run out of Patriots long before the attackers ran out of Katyushas. So there's a real application for a laser weapon here. It won't stop all the incoming rockets, but cutting down a few thousand to a few hundred is a big win.

  • I wonder... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Linux_ho (205887) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:31AM (#9097968) Homepage
    If the missle was kindly feeding the defense system it's GPS coordinates, like the last missile defense test that hit the news.
  • by hotroge (603593)
    That's really swell for Isreal, but what about North Korea raining down fiery death from above with ballistic missiles that can hit Alaska [miis.edu]? Also, I'd like to know how the laser would operate in more realistic conditions, like say, with multiple rockets... what's the firing rate? The way our money's being spent, we'll all be eating dog in a couple of years...
  • by Atryn (528846) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:46AM (#9098048) Homepage
    So picture this... Ground forces are stationed outside a small city (to protect the civilians). An incoming missile is detected and they shoot it down as it approaches with the laser. Unfortunately, the missile was a delivery system for chem/bio material and they just caused it to be release in the air above a populated city.

    That'll make a good press release! But at least the troops were safe.
    • Actually, the History Channel just ran a show that touched on missile defense systems. The concept is to target incoming missiles in their first two stages... during launch and in float before reentry. Of course, this was for ICBMs, but I imagine the idea is the same for lower trajectory objects. Exactly because of what you're talking about here. What this means for proximity of the laser system from the launch site, I don't know.
      • Ideally, you want to destroy it exoatmospheric, to avoid any issues with shrpanel, hazmat contents, etc...

        Second choice, you destroy soon after launch, so the crap falls on the guy who launched in the first case.

        Of course, from a "protect yourself first" POV, launch phase interception is better, but if you're concerned about the innocents the bad guy has placed around the launch site, exo is better.
  • by OgTheBarbarian (778232) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @12:49AM (#9098060)
    Not so much for a ground based laser, it just keeps going and picks off Hubble, or the ISS or (God No!) Fox. But mounted to an aircraft, if it either misses or punches right through the target object, anything within range before the beam hits it's dispersion threshhold could be toast. Homes, office buildings, people spontaneously combusting, yada yada... You get the idea. The tinfoil hat just don't cut it anymore I guess. Eep. jm2c
  • Tracking devices? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by jjh37997 (456473) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @01:15AM (#9098165) Homepage
    Did any of the missles have radio beacons or other tracking devices as in previous test? Until missle or laser defense systems can shoot down a missle without onboard beacons to help with aim the damn things seems prety useless to me.
  • direct video link... (Score:3, Informative)

    by bani (467531) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @01:27AM (#9098213)
    http://www.st.northropgrumman.com/media/SiteFiles/ mediagallery/video/MTHEL_m.wmv
  • by Serious Simon (701084) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @02:15AM (#9098407)
    I saw a "home shopping" program advertising some kind of miracle car polish. They demonstrated its protection by firing a powerful laser on the car body. However, probably not coincidentally, a white car was used for the test, so the laser would not be able to warm it up much anyway.

    I wonder if the missile used in this test had a finishing that easily absorbs the laser energy. If it would be made of a highly reflective material, almost all energy would be reflected, and it would not be affected.

  • by S3D (745318) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @02:40AM (#9098494)
    Existing THEL is about six buildings, and that is not quite a mobile platform.
    THEL description [israeli-weapons.com]
    Mobile THEL prototype is not close yet (2007 optimists telling ) and will take about three trucks. Looks like existing THEL could be useful only for static defence positions in Isreal and South Korea.
  • by NewtonsLaw (409638) on Sunday May 09, 2004 @03:25AM (#9098633)
    Cost of developing anti-missile laser? $50 billion

    Cost of building anti-missile laser? $10 million

    Cost of deploying anti-missile laser? $15 million

    Cost of mirror fitted to missile? $1.99

    Effect of reflected laser on defending forces? priceless.

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