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  • Dumping Airborne Laser Leaves America Vulnerable

    At 8:44 p.m. PST Feb. 11, 2010 … for just a second … man made night into day. A short-range ballistic missile launched from a sea-based platform off California’s Point Mugu Naval Air Warfare Center. Moments later, the Airborne Laser carried aloft in a specially modified 747 detected it.

    Then it cranked up the high-energy laser. That beam struck home, burning a small hole in the missile. A split-second later, its structural integrity destroyed, the missile vaporized in a tumbling corkscrew.

    Within two minutes of launch time, it was all over.

    Not bad for a defensive weapon once ridiculed as science fiction. Skeptics even persuaded the Obama administration to slot the airborne laser for the ninth circle of procurement hell — a pit for dead-end research and development programs. But this month’s dramatic success has put the critics on their heels.

    The Point Mugu exercise was what engineers call a “proof of principle” test. They tested it. It is proven.

    But don’t expect high-fiving in the White House. The administration already passed on the option to build a second test aircraft. Rather than add the ABL to the military’s arsenal, the administration seems more than willing to let the project end as a successful science experiment.

    It will argue laser missile defense makes no sense because the weapon’s range is limited to a few hundred kilometers. That would put the lumbering aircraft well within the range of air defense systems fielded by the likes of North Korea and Iran.

    On the other hand, here is what the administration won’t admit. There are other threats already out there that the Airborne Laser is well-suited to counter. One such danger is the “Scud in bucket” scenario.

    Scud missiles are shorter-range weapons, originally manufactured and proliferated worldwide by the Soviets. Today, several other countries make their own versions. These missiles are so readily available — and cheap — that several years ago a U.S. arms collector bought one and tried to ship it home.

    Iran’s Shahab-3, an advanced Scud variant, seems capable of traveling 1,000 kilometers and carrying as much as a 10-kiloton warhead. It couldn’t reach Washington from Tehran, but then, it wouldn’t have to. Iran could easily extend the missile’s reach simply by moving it to a commercial freighter and firing it from nearby using an improvised vertical launch tube disguised as cargo.

    In many ways, Scud in a bucket is the ultimate weapon. It could sail close to U.S. waters without being subject to inspection by the Coast Guard or Customs. The enemy could fire the missile and scuttle the ship, leaving no record of who launched the attack.

    If Iran has one missile and nuclear weapon, it might have two. It could detonate one over New York in a low-altitude air burst that would kill up to a half-million and cripple Manhattan forever.

    Iran could fire a second at high altitude over the mid-Atlantic states, creating an electro-magnetic pulse that would take down a large portion of the national grid and plunge Washington, D.C., into permanent darkness.

    America would be crippled in a flash, with no obvious enemy at which to shoot back.

    An ABL could help neutralize this threat, and others. Advancing the technology alone will give the U.S. a dramatic advantage over potential adversaries.

    But if the administration has its way, we’ll see the ABL in the Smithsonian, rather than defending our coasts.

    Cross-posted at The Washington Examiner.

    Posted in Security [slideshow_deploy]

    10 Responses to Dumping Airborne Laser Leaves America Vulnerable

    1. Susan Cronk says:

      A well-equipped and prepared military should include all functional tools needed for short-range and long-range defense. Americans should support our military leaders in their efforts to ensure these scientific advancements are not scuttled, but rather put to work, ensuring all those research dollars and long hours of experiment and discovery were not in vain. When radar and sonar first came to the forefront they had their skeptics as well. They have proven invaluable to our military defense. So too do laser and sensor technologies of today promise better strategic defense for the future.

      Our military should be as adept in no-tech/low-tech combat where high-tech combat will not work, but as a nation we should encourage them to use all the tools our scientific community can provide them to ensure successful mission goals. Americans, soldier and civilian, should be prepared and equipped to defend our nation in whatever circumstances we find ourselves in.

    2. Elaine Bell, Paris t says:

      I think we would be foolish not to advance this weapon., but then the obama administration has been proven to be overly foolish on foreign policy and many other areas. Yes, this is something we need to keep and use if necessary!


      I believe scrapping this technology is a direct violation of the President's oath to "defend the Cunstitution".

    4. JBM says:

      I highly encourage that this defensive weapon be fought for through Washington. I believe that this will be the version 1.0 of a laser defense system that will eventually protect the US from all incoming threats. It is easy to conceive that later advanced versions could be attack aircraft, ground or space based provide a constant shield. But to "give up" on this will only serve to hinder the technology and advancements once again.

    5. J.C. Hughes, Texas says:

      Obama's primary role as president is defending the nation. Such includes equipping our military with the latest technological tools for carrying out this necessary task. Instead, Obama's gang is weakening our security posture while wasting people's time with social programing that constitutionally belongs at the state level. The very least he could do is allow this airborne laser technology to be shared with our most reliable ally in the Middle East, Israel. He hasn't done much else for them.

    6. Benson says:

      The administration is more interested in expanding entitlement programs and funding corrupt friends than developing new technology for national defense.

      On its list of priorities, national defense falls somewhere near the bottom. The only reason Obama kept his Afghanistan promise was that it was too big to sweep under the carpet.

    7. Scott Stevens says:

      Many of the 'Star Wars' systems of Reagan's presidency are now or soon will come on line, if the desire is there. Our need for advanced defense systems and their implementation has been one of the keys to our freedom. When new weapons are defunded with the leadership of the White House and others, the too familiar stage is set for more drastic measures and expense in lives and material in the future. Our present enemies' zeal and ability to harm us, however, only escalate and become increasingly able to be used by willing foes. How many times must we learn this same lesson?

    8. Ed Kimble, Columbia says:

      It's also prohibited by Salt II and was first demonstrated "successfully" on several hundred previous occasions (see Jane's Airpower magazine, late 1980's) including the shooting down of the Solarmax I satellite before a baseline for ozone depletion could be established for the newer Solarmax II satellite!!

    9. Lance, Houston says:

      I'm in favor of implementing this defense weapon. It concerns me however the way you gave specifics about how an enemy can hurt us.

    10. Frank Telese says:

      We have put up with just about enough of Obama and his band of thugs. When does he approach impechment status?

      When he sees good sound ways to resolve an issue, he ignores them. He does not want to resolve the unemployment issue because he wants to CONTROL the citizenry and make them dependent on HIS government.

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