Star Wars laser successfully destroys ballistic missile

Star Wars laser successfully destroys ballistic missile

Summary: At 8:44 p.m. (PST), February 11, 2010, a short-range threat-representative ballistic missile was launched from an at-sea mobile launch platform. Within seconds, the ALTB used onboard sensors to detect the boosting missile and used a low-energy laser to track the target.

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In 1983, President Ronald Reagan supported a program designed to shoot down Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) which raised protest and skepticism -- if such a technology was even possible -- six years after the movie Star Wars debut. Billions of dollars were invested in a variety of research programs. The military has methodically researched a variety of concepts on how to defend against incoming nuclear missiles. SDI was born and today is managed by the U.S. Missile Defense Agency.

Among the concepts: Using a high powered laser to hit an ICBM and destroy it. Ground based systems made no sense for a variety of logistical and technical reasons. Airborne-based platforms made sense. Spaced-based systems would have been ideal, many thought.

Ground-based systems were never seriously considered because of many obstacles that could occur between the ground station and the target and the limited amount of area that it could protect.

Spaced based systems are ideal, but posed significant technical, financial and security challenges. Throughout the 1990's, the program evolved,  and continues down two primary paths. One is using ground based missiles to hit opposing missiles such as the Patriot system and the second is using aircraft with the payload that is then fired to intercept an ICBM. The latter concept has continued development as a satellite attack platform.

Modifying the second approach evolved using large airborne platforms to house powerful high powered (as in multiple Megawatt)  based lasers.  The program offered several advantages. It's rechargeable, it can be stationed anywhere over the United States and its allies, and it can be above any obstacles between itself and the target. In 2004, a B-747-400, heavily modified to be used as the test platform, known as the YAL-1A, was built.

A Chemical Oxide Laser is housed in the aircraft and is going through testing to destroy short and long range ballistic missiles. On Wednesday just before 9 PM Pacific time, the second successful test was completed.

At 8:44 p.m. (PST), February 11, 2010, a short-range threat-representative ballistic missile was launched from an at-sea mobile launch platform. Within seconds, the ALTB used onboard sensors to detect the boosting missile and used a low-energy laser to track the target. The ALTB then fired a second low-energy laser to measure and compensate for atmospheric disturbance. Finally, the ALTB fired its megawatt-class High Energy Laser, heating the boosting ballistic missile to critical structural failure. The entire engagement occurred within two minutes of the target missile launch, while its rocket motors were still thrusting.

This was the first directed energy lethal intercept demonstration against a liquid-fuel boosting ballistic missile target from an airborne platform. 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, and at a low cost per intercept attempt compared to current technologies.

USAF YAL 1

USAF YAL 1

If the program continues to have success,  it could offer the U.S. and its allies protection against future attacks from rogue nations that have chemical, biological or dirty nuclear warhead based missiles.

Update: Photo's and video of test

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55 comments
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  • I've got a bridge ta sell ya...

    Every "milestone" announcement from the Star Wars program so far has turned out to be a lie, including all the claimed Patriot missile intercepts during the Gulf wars. It's one of those things that's not really supposed to work, just funnel money to politically favored contractors. So what makes this "milestone" any different?
    cls8
    • Here is the strategy

      1) convince policymakers that we will scare the Russians, N. Koreans and Iranians that we are able to shoot down their missiles even though we all secretly chuckle that we've got 'em fooled.

      2) Run up hundreds of billions of dollars of spending researching and building the system, employing lots of people in important congressman's and senstors districts.

      3) repeat.
      HollywoodDog
    • Or maybe you don't

      So planes can fly, cars can drive, subs can dive, pretty incredible things - but this is a lie based on what? Because something 10-12 years ago worked most or 1/2 of the time?

      I guess men never went to the moon either?

      Were those two high altitude satalite shoot-downs a lie too?

      Its an awsome achievement, and you insult the people who make it work by calling them liers?

      Its only a lie when you get you information from the "anti-government" websites.

      the same site that say men never went to the moon.
      Ron Bergundy
    • And you KNOW this how?

      The patriot missile was born out of SDI and has been in use during Gulf War and 911.

      It was successful at tracking a normal ballistic warhead (artillery shell)
      DevGuy_z
    • It makes sense you're trying to sell us a bridge

      because it sure sounds like you're trying to sell us a bunch of FUD and BS to go along with it...
      John Zern
  • My question is ....

    ASSUMING this is for real, what happens if it misses the missile. It's going to hit something on the ground, right?

    Talk about a sunburn!
    babyboomer57
    • Depends on.....

      the relative altitudes and distance in between.

      Ideally a miss would not hit the ground but rather go into space. We might blind some far away alien and they might get REALLY pi$$ed. ;-)
      Economister
      • May the Force be with you...

        The next arms race is already mapped out - AVP :)
        doug.hanchard
        • Say hello to my little SDI friends!

          We have other things coming out of the SDI programs that are far deadlier than this. Google "Angels dont play this HAARP".

          We can zap a country and destroy all of their communication systems, and use that same beam to setup *our* communication systems.
          And thats just the nice things it can do, read more about the other uses, like mass mind control/sedation, and weather control.

          http://www.haarp.net/

          It exists, we have pictures of it. We have it. The russians have it. Though, no one talks about it much. Do you really think the military is going to let the world know that these "black" programs exists? Don't be scared of what they publicly show you....be scared of what they keep under wraps.
          cybr2th1
    • They would immediately know if it missed

      Before the primary laser is fired a range finding laser is shot out and its reflected pulse is used to calibrate the primary laser that will destroy the missile. If it's a miss they would never fire the primary laser.

      For the more thorough explanation:
      http://science.howstuffworks.com/laser-weapon.htm/printable
      T1Oracle
      • Do you know how many tests Star Wars program faked?

        And faking the tests is passed off as fooling
        the Russians/N.Koreans/Iranians. They put
        homing devices in the simulated warheads to
        help the interceptors find them, etc.
        Back in the 80's they faked a satellite
        shootdown from a missile launched from a plane
        - the explosive was put in to the satellite
        before hand.
        This program is one big charade. It's purpose
        is to make money.
        And lastly, even if any of this stuff was
        genuine, which it isn't, the only purpose it
        could serve is to allow the United States to
        conduct an attack against a nuclear state - a
        first strike. Is that power you really want to
        put in to the hands of the next
        Bush/Cheney/Palin/Beck to come down the pike?
        Lies, fraud, deceit.
        HollywoodDog
        • The past and the present

          The Cold War is over and technology has come a long way. Your suggestion that this is fake is unlikely given the following facts:
          1) Bush isn't in office anymore
          2) This project is way behind the deadline
          3) The end of the Cold War took away most of the motivation

          If you can't prove this is a fake then you are only spreading FUD.

          Regardless, this does not enable the US to get a first strike. The US already has this ability, we call them missiles. This reduces the chance that others could strike the US.

          An effective means to stop a nuclear weapon could save countless lives and it would also serve as the greatest argument for nuclear disarmament. After all, if you can shoot them out of the sky then you don't need them for deterrence anymore.

          You better hope this works, because if it does the US will lose its last reason for having nukes in its possession.
          T1Oracle
          • You haven't thought the implications through.

            "[i]An effective means to stop a nuclear weapon could save countless lives and it would also serve as the greatest argument for nuclear disarmament.[/i]"

            The exact opposite is true. IMO - A never-ending conventional war would break out within a few months (think World War II before "Nukes").

            "Nukes" are the reason there hasn't been another World War! Politicians (and their corporate paymasters) know, that there is nowhere to hide if a nuclear war breaks out.

            If there are no nuclear ICBMs, politicians will be able to declare war on other countries "at the drop of a hat" (they'll be safe in their taxpayer funded bomb shelters).

            HollywoodDog didn't state the point correctly. If the US can shoot down "Nukes" then there is no reason not to "Nuke" anybody you disagree with (that also applies to other countries with nuclear ICBMs).

            If China & Russia couldn't deploy a similar ABM system (at the same time as the US), they would have no choice but to threaten/institute an all-out attack against you or they would have to put up with US edicts (until they could get their own systems operational).

            lehnerus2000
            lehnerus2000
          • uhhh

            Thats not how weapons evolution works but hey, if it makes you ahppy to think so...
            bernalillo
        • That's a load of BS if anybody ever spouted some

          And jet contrails are actually the US government spreading mind control toxins over the poputlation, right?

          You know how silly (I'm using a nice term) you entire post is?

          I [b]whince[/b] to say that I actually [i]agree[/i] with Linux All The Way's post: It's nice to know that all the hard work and innovation regular working people and engineers devoted to these projects are called liers and cheats, to insuate that they're [i]all[/i] covering this up years later

          You sir, have absolutelly [b]no[/b] clue as to what you are talking about, or are knowingly lying to everyone.

          Nice to see the far, far left well represented here by you.

          And you thought Glenn Beck was bad...
          John Zern
        • RE: Do you know how many tests Star Wars program faked?

          Agendized people like yourself never cease to bewilder me. You are so sensitive to conspiracy theories that logic a reason take a back seat. In order to judge the credibility of ANY claim, you must take the claim at face value, and then ask yourself "What if one or perhaps many alternative explanations apply here"? Then you use the aforementioned logic and reason to sift through the details and make an INTELIGENT decision. People like yourself don't do that. You hear a claim made by the "bad guys" (whoever they may be) and you immediately cry foul. For example, I'll address some issues with your post. Yes, the scientists and engineers did put "homing devices" in the simulated warheads. They do this so they can track the trajectory in the event the warhead malfunctions and strays off course...let's say, towards your house. If such an event occurs, those crazy evil scientists and engineers can safely detonate the warhead with the explosives they've placed on board before hand.

          This program is not a charade. If anything, it is designed to spend money. You may disagree with how our tax money is being spent on these projects, but they are legitimate explorations into science. Most of these programs ultimately yield significant scientific advances which are used in countless applications that make our lives better. Do yourself a favor and read some different books and/or websites, really!
          gnugen
        • what?

          you wrote;
          Back in the 80's they faked a satellite
          shootdown from a missile launched from a plane
          - the explosive was put in to the satellite
          before hand.

          and remotely detonated? if it is fake why is the Obama group continuing research on these made up programs? and if these programs are fake does it really matter? we cant conduct a first strike then, right? also, do YOU know how many star wars programs were faked? you must have the numbers since you claim it?
          Russians have tech also, they can monitor tests, same with N Korea as they would be getting tech from the Ruskies
          richvball44
        • Not faked - hyped

          And a lot of the tests failed utterly.

          One reason for taking announcements with a huge grain of salt is that early tests have been against cooperating targets, employing no countermeasures (such as spinning, in the case of lasers), sometimes on pre-announced trajectories. Then any successful test is taken as justification for deploying a totally unready system. Might as well start the victory dance when you've just crossed your own 10 yard line.

          Opponents will jump on any failure or exaggeration as proof of underlying infeasibility.

          What a member of the thinking public (assuming such exists) must do is read up on the challenges of intercepting a ballistic missile and then read the test report to see if the test realistically depicts real-world conditions.

          For my own part, I haven't followed the debate recently and offer no opinion - only advice.
          IT_User
          • Thinking always helps

            Absolutely 100% true, everyone must do their own research and validate any claims. Conspiracy stories will always be around, especially with the Internet. Not just with science, but politics, sports, or other issues, everything is open up to denial or claiming something is false.

            As for spinning a rocket, see my response to "I'm not a rocket scientist"

            Thanks for writing.
            Doug
            doug.hanchard
        • Wow...

          I [b]hope[/b] you're just being facetious, because if you aren't... damn.
          Hallowed are the Ori