Fire in the sky

Boeing has fired its airborne laser in the first comprehensive end-to-end test of the world’s most pimped-up 747. Next year’s follow-up test will feature an attempt to shoot down a real missile; after that, the ABL will be cleared for operational status, assuming Obama doesn’t scrap the whole thing. The new president will have to decide fairly early on how he intends to play the missile defense card; particularly now that he’s picked Gates, he’ll be under enormous pressure from the Pentagon to keep (if not accelerate) BMD.

The logical culmination of all this, of course, is weaponry in space. It’s doubtful that’ll occur or reach maturity on Obama’s watch, but space-based lasers capable of hitting missiles in their booster phase would constitute the crown jewel of any missile defense architecture that’s worth the name.  But the public is skittish about weapons sailing over their heads several times a day, so for now all the focus has been on surface- and air-based hardware. The advocates of the current generation of missile defense learned their lesson well from SDI:  don’t propose everything at once, and don’t talk about space until you have to.  That’s why they’ve made far more progress than SDI ever did. The fact that the technology has come a long way doesn’t hurt either.

Tags: , ,

6 Responses to “Fire in the sky”

  1. Joni Says:

    I agree that having a weapon pointed at me at the sky would make me a bit nervous. But I have to say that general public doesn’t much care about things like that. I don’t know how precise those thing are, how much atmosphere would affect the laser etc.

    Those who rely on missiles for defense and/or offense are the one’s who are nervous if they can’t get their own weapons systems to space as well.

  2. meesh Says:

    henry asked me yesterday what was on top of the news van. (henry is 3). i told him it was a tech thingie so that the news could broadcast to the world.

    he asked if the signal was sent into space to a satellite…..ha.

    then i started telling him about weaponization of space and we read the laser article together.

    people are scared only of what they know nothing about and there are a lot of people who could care less about knowing anything. their loss i guess.

  3. Joni Says:

    Heh, 3 years old are fun (and annoying) with so many questions that are sometimes pretty hard to answer in a way that they understand.

    My take about the fear is that if you know nothing about something (to the point of it’s existence) then there is no fear. If you know that something is out there and it sounds frightening or something that can be dangerous or you are just prejudiced, then you fear it.

    But I agree that if people choose the ignorance it’s their loss.

  4. meesh Says:

    i can safely say that this three year old isn’t very annoying and i answer everything truthfully and he now knows some pretty big words and is smart as a whip!

    sometimes knowing too much can cause fear……i

  5. Lucas Lee Says:

    My question would be, however, given that most satellites have reasonably predictable orbits (basic laws of physics), whether any opponent worth his salt would hit them with kinetic interceptors in the opening salvos of any exchange of ballistic missiles.

  6. David Williams Says:

    @Lucas: absolutely. This is the part that a lot of space weapon advocates ignore–there’s always this belief that all we need to do is build the Next Phase of Weaponry, and after that, we’ve got an insurmountable advantage, and then peace breaks out forever. But any would-be opponent would *have* to do something about our space-based architecture in the event of conflict. The real question is how they’d go about that. If the space-based defenses are worth two shits, they’d be able to take out kinetic interceptors as well . . I suspect that directed energy and jamming/hacking are likely to be the preferred means of assault, but KE would certainly have its part to play.