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Congress Wants To Resurrect Laser-Wielding 747 302

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the it-works-on-tee-vee dept.
Harperdog writes "Noah Schactman has a great piece on the Airborne Laser, the ray gun-equipped 747 that became a symbol of wasteful Pentagon weaponeering. Despite sixteen years and billions of dollars in development, the jet could never reliably blast a missile in trials. Now the House Armed Services Committee's Strategic Forces wants the Airborne Laser to be used to defend us against the threat of North Korea's failed missiles."
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Congress Wants To Resurrect Laser-Wielding 747

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  • by Sebastopol (189276) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:13PM (#39851809) Homepage

    ...to shoot down a failed missile than a failed missile-defense program?

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      That laser can burn a hole through a gnats brain from an altitude of 30,000 feet.

      This fact was demonstrated on one of the Pentagon's top generals.

      • by supremebob (574732) <themejunky@geoc i t ies.com> on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:32PM (#39851985) Journal

        If 80's movies have taught us anything, they're also good at popping giant balls of popcorn and destroying the homes of asshole professors.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Actually, the reports were inconclusive, no evidence was produced that the general had ever had a brain.

      • How are you going to get a 747 within 30,000 feet- even 10 miles- of a North Korean missile site?

        I'll remind you, YAL-1 was built to destroy missiles during the boost phase. It can't reach them once they're at altitude, and it doesn't have the power or tracking ability to destroy them on the way down. If you can't get a YAL-1 within range of a North Korean missile site, then there's no point- and those SAMs have a lot longer reach than the YAL-1's laser.

        • by Firethorn (177587) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @12:15AM (#39854093) Homepage Journal

          Boeing YAL-1 [wikipedia.org]:the ABL achieves its design goals, it could destroy liquid-fueled ICBMs up to 600 km away. Tougher solid-fueled ICBM destruction range would likely be limited to 300 km, too short to be useful in many scenarios, according to a 2003 report by the American Physical Society on National Missile Defense.

          Looking at a couple maps of North Korea, there are no regions 300 km away from water or foreign territory. 600 km would allow intercept for most of the country from South Korea. Looking at the launch site northwest of Pyongyang, it looks to be about 300km from Seoul.

          Plus, any launch vectors that would have a hope of hitting the USA(or other countries not within range of SRBM) will rapidly leave NK territory and be within range of an appropriately positioned plane.

          • by M1FCJ (586251) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:46AM (#39854647)

            Hah! I went and checked the Wikipedia source. You missed the start of the sentence, "If the ABL achieves its design goals"... If they achieve its design goals, ever. Highly unlikely. The whole thing is a massive pork-barrel exercise by the US Congress. I'm glad to be living in UK. At least we waste our money on aircraft carriers which will be built and immediately sold / mothballed. For the price of this plane, we should get a couple of carriers (I can't believe US spent $5b on this stupidity).

            • by Guignol (159087)
              Yes, this is crazy, with this kind of monney I bet we could almost put advanced defense systems on every people's roof
              maybe even SAMs :)
          • by chrb (1083577) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @05:42AM (#39855139)

            Looking at a couple maps of North Korea, there are no regions 300 km away from water or foreign territory.

            The North Korean SAM network includes S-200 [wikipedia.org] which have an operational range of 300km. Plus, the U.S. Airforce can't fly over China, so that border is safe from this defense. Put the ICBM launch sites there, and to get within 300km you would have to fly a 747 less than 100km off the North Korean coast, where it would be extremely vulnerable. Also remember that the accuracy of the weapon decreases with distance: even if it can hit a target at 300km, the question is, what proportion of launches could it hit from a far distance in a real world war scenario? How are you going to launch them and get them in to position in time to hit a missile launch? Are you going to fly these 747s 24/7 around the North Korean coastline?

            600 km would allow intercept for most of the country from South Korea.

            The Wikipedia article says the 600km range is for liquid fueled missiles, the recent NK missiles appear to be solid fueled.

          • by Maury Markowitz (452832) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @07:27AM (#39855497) Homepage

            > 600 km would allow intercept for most of the country from South Korea

            And South Korea is only 0 km from North Korean artillery, which they would use en-masse if this were to occur.

            > Plus, any launch vectors that would have a hope of hitting the USA

            Which are, specifically, none at all.

            A real threat to the US is Type II Diabetes. North Korean missile attacks are science fiction. So why are they spending money on the wrong one?

    • Re:what better... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by lgw (121541) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:22PM (#39851903) Journal

      Eveyone always complains abut missile defense, and like all military-industrial-complex spending, it's full of bloat and corruption. But we still need missile defense - more and smaller powers are getting 50-year-old missile technology now.

      Missile defense is hard. The airborn laser approach is a good and useful one, IMO, because of the psychological deterrent effect of shooting down enemy missiles while they're still boosting (ideally, while the folks who launched them can still see them). After all, the best way to win any war is to convinve the enemy that attacking you would be just insane and certain to fail (ideally before any shots are fired, but failing that, when the first shots are fired), and they shouldn't even try.

      We should certainly do something like this. Do we need to roll the dice again; to try a different group of consultants, engineering companies, and pork-harvesters, in the hope that the new group will be less corrupt and actually deliver something workable? Definitely.

      • Much cheaper and more likely to work are drones armed with conventional ABMs, why is this not a thing?
        • Re:what better... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by lgw (121541) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:54PM (#39852193) Journal

          I don't think conventional ABMs work during boost phase (it's really hard to catch a raocket once it gets going), but that's when a rocket is very easy to target - unlike when a cluster of warheads and decoys and chaff are in free-fall. (Also, it makes the point very strongly that you picked the wrong fight if your missiles are all shot down before they get anywhere).

          But drones are getting better and better, and if there's an appropriate weapon (for a boost-phase kill) that would fit on one, it's a much better plan IMO.

          • Nuke it from orbit.

            It's the only way to be sure.

            • Re:what better... (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Kreigaffe (765218) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:32PM (#39852607)

              Space lasers would be best, actually.
              Here's the problem.

              Nobody wants us to do that.

              China is FUCKING CRAZY. China's demonstrated that they'll destroy any orbiting thing they don't like -- they "tested" their anti-satellite capabilities once, and I think were it to come down to it.. they'd do it again. Or proxy and have N. Korea launch a real satellite, er, a "real" satellite, that "accidentally" would collide with our space lasers.

              Kaboom. Space is gone. They'd shatter the skies and leave so much debris orbiting our planet that we'd be stuck close to this rock for longer than you or I will live.

              it's a great idea, throw lasers in space... but it's potentially disastrous.

              What would be nice is if they could downsize this airborn laser and fit it into.. hmm, maybe an older, super-high-speed airframe, maybe something that's pretty hard for most nations to detect, maybe something like the SR-71 -- there's still gotta be a few of those somewhere, drag them out of mothball and replace their surveillance payload with a giant laser? It'd solve one problem, being that the time between launch detection and the end of boost phase is so short that a 747 would have to be in the area before the ICBM was launched to be useful.

              Maybe just stick them in subs. Not many nations really have much of a sub fleet anymore. There's China again, sure, but... while I don't suggest underestimating China's capabilities, their shit is still made in China, yanno?

              • Re:what better... (Score:4, Insightful)

                by Bill_the_Engineer (772575) on Monday April 30, 2012 @10:52PM (#39853659)

                Space lasers would be best, actually.
                Here's the problem.
                Nobody wants us to do that.

                The reason nobody wants to do that is the fact that you'd go against the principles agreed to in the 5 space treaties that were agreed to by the UN's Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space. If you were caught militarizing low earth orbit then you'd pretty much shit canned international cooperation that was painstakingly negotiated over since Sputnik I for a possibly unreliable not to mention hard to accurately implement at LEO speeds missile defense system.

      • by PaulBu (473180)

        What you are saying can be said to be good and reasonable, but, hmm, does not really mesh well with your signature, or does it?

        How about letting all our state-based smaller-power enemies know that we can make their homeland a glass parking lot many times over, I do not know, send them a telegram, or some such? ;-)

        How about acknowledging that some small al Qaeda group does not really have technical sophistication to even maintain, much less to build a working ICBM?

        Even better, how about trying not to make en

        • Re:what better... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by lgw (121541) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:50PM (#39852131) Journal

          How about letting all our state-based smaller-power enemies know that we can make their homeland a glass parking lot many times over, I do not know, send them a telegram, or some such? ;-)

          Nope, our current policy (which I like) is to say "nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons - we treat these all the same, and we won't be the first to use them (but the whole glass parking lot thing if you start)". More important IMO to use our nukes as a nuke deterrent than a general deterrent.

          How about acknowledging that some small al Qaeda group does not really have technical sophistication to even maintain, much less to build a working ICBM?

          It's not Al Qaeda, it's the next Suddam, Iran, or NoKo to come along. The tech only gets easier and cheaper over time, and will be in reach for smaller state actors before much longer IMO.

          Even better, how about trying not to make enemies with all those people, and, maybe, just maybe, try to trade with them and slowly become friends?

          "Try to trade with them and slowly become friends" is the stated reason for some of the international dislike for us right now (to whatever extent stated reasons are ever true). Some people really seem to dislike us for trying to "forfully export our culture". (Also, some people are really just assholes, and will attack you just because they can, no matter how nice you are. Dictatorships seem to select for assholes, so it's a real problem).

          • Re:what better... (Score:5, Insightful)

            by ColdWetDog (752185) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:28PM (#39852559) Homepage

            It's not Al Qaeda, it's the next Suddam, Iran, or NoKo to come along. The tech only gets easier and cheaper over time, and will be in reach for smaller state actors before much longer IMO.

            Really - who?

            Even basic ballistic missile tech is hard. Saddam could barely launch SCUDs which they bought from Russia. India is just getting off boosters that qualify as ICBMs (barely). And that's a huge, technologically advanced country. Iran has some theatre capable missiles and again, the barest ICBM level capability. Another fairly advanced nation. Then there is the problem of the warhead. Tossing rocks across continents may look impressive, but strategically it's nonsensical.

            So our fascination with the idjits in Pyongyang notwithstanding, there isn't much of a strategic need for ICBM level defense at this time. Unless you think we can create enough of functional shield to significantly degrade a Chinese or Russian strike.

            Given the limited amount of defense funding available, it's better to work on some more realistic weapons and perhaps some basic research into alternative resources like oil (which is the basic reason for much of the dick waving these days).

            • by lgw (121541)

              If you wait till you know who, it's probably too late to start a 20-30 year program to invent missile defense. Plus if we get a mobile defense of some sort, we can protect friends against threats like SCUDs, which lame as the were still completely trounced the Patriot defense system in the first gulf war.

              If we actually got these technologies to the point of maturity, and had 3 layers of them, we could make a real differene vs the Chinese or Russians, but given what we see thus far that's a bit of a reach t

          • Nope, our current policy (which I like) is to say "nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons - we treat these all the same, and we won't be the first to use them..."

            Actually, no. Your current policy is that you WILL be the first to use them if the situation warrants it [youtube.com].

          • The US isn't as friendly as you seem to think.

            http://killinghope.org/images/interventions_map.png [killinghope.org]

            And that's only addressing military meddling.

            • The map does not include the UK. The US funded the IRA for a long time and only claims to have stopped once they found that other terrorists were not too fond of them. How many civilians did the IRA kill before they were persuaded to give up because the policy had changed?

              That wasn't the CIA or even US government policy you say? Sure...

        • Make more friends? One of the best things the West could do is curb the excesses of its corporations. If you think they behave badly in the US, read about some of the things they do in other nations. US corporations have an unhealthy amount of influence and power. Everyone knows they have the implicit backing of the US military if worse comes to worst. When they commit an atrocity, they don't just make themselves look bad, they make the US look bad. The US compounds matters by letting them off lightly

      • But we still need missile defense

        [Citation Needed]

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        The best defense is a good offense. Having 10 more F-22s would be cheaper and better for our defense.
        • by tsotha (720379)
          An F-22 is useless against ballistic missiles. You need to be able to deal with a wide range of threats, not just deal really, really well with one threat and ignore the others.
          • by AK Marc (707885)

            An F-22 is useless against ballistic missiles.

            But quite useful against those who would fire them at us.

            • by tsotha (720379)
              Sure. And we have enough of them to maintain air superiority, so having more doesn't do much for us.
              • by AK Marc (707885)
                Ask the generals if we have enough for all their scenarios. I'm sure they'd disagree with you. Given the initial order was for many more, we don't have enough to fill the need that generated their creation.
      • 1) Why is OK to throw money down the hole on something that might save lives in a highly unlikely set of circumstances when there are much more pressing issues where that money could definitely be used to save lives, especially given that you seem to have a problem with government spending in general given your sig. Unless you only have a problem with the government spending money when it's on things you don't like?

        2) Assuming we actually need to be spending money on this, why do we need lasers in this roll

        • by lgw (121541)

          See upthread - there may be better ways now, since drones are taking over (and as I said - I think it's imoprtant that we do somehting in the space, not that we do the chemical ABL thing specifically). Having a way to make a boost-phase kill is key, IMO.

          As far as the cost - deterrence is cheaper than fighting, and technological breakthroughs tend to be good long-term investments in that regard (much better than building lots and lots of hardware). Heck, often you get some civilian technology out of the re

      • Eveyone always complains abut missile defense, and like all military-industrial-complex spending, it's full of bloat and corruption. But we still need missile defense - more and smaller powers are getting 50-year-old missile technology now.

        More importantly, we need to throw more money at the defense industry, so we can claim we "support our troops" without actually having to support them.

      • I don't think anyone got your sarcasm. Sad, sad.

      • Re:what better... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by flyingsquid (813711) on Monday April 30, 2012 @10:16PM (#39853401)
        There are a number of glaring problems with the idea of using an airborne laser for defense against ballistic missiles. One of them is the whole "airborne" part. Providing continuous coverage against North Korea's missiles would require keeping a plane in the air continuously, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year... that's not impossible but it would be logistically challenging and very expensive to fly multiple sorties per day. The other issue is the limited range of the system. According to the Wikipedia article on the subject, thin-skinned liquid-fueled ICBMS might be vulnerable from 600 km away but you would need to be within 300 km to be assured of taking out a solid-fueled ICBM. That means you would probably need several aircraft in the air at the same time to cover North Korea completely, and you wouldn't be able to take out a solid-fueled ICBM fired from central Iran, unless you actually entered Iranian airspace. Overall the airborne laser seems thoroughly useless as a defence against ICBMS.
      • But we still need missile defense - more and smaller powers are getting 50-year-old missile technology now

        Call me when your "missile defense" works on a Cessna.

    • It sounds more like some Congressmen are getting lazy at funneling money into their constituents.
      "Hey. I'm finding it hard to send money back to my state of ________. Economy is down, everything is made in China."
      "Remember that program from the 80s that spent billions of dollars and did absolutely nothing?"
      "Brilliant! [whyweprotest.net]"

      Tada. You have a program resurrected. Look at the committee [house.gov]. Most are states that are hurting for money and/or industry. I'm sure the guy from Washington had nothing to say about Boeing's invo

    • by daveschroeder (516195) * on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:57PM (#39852219)

      The United States is incredibly dependent on its space assets in support of national objectives. Directed energy weapons can not only provide offensive ASAT capabilities, but can serve as a significant defense against missile- or even space-based kinetic ASAT weapons. The advantage of a directed energy weapon is that it has the ability to travel at the speed of light and target missiles during their vulnerable boost phase within seconds. During the 1990s and 2000s, the United States pursued directed energy weapons based on megawatt-class chemical lasers. Two of systems, the Airborne Laser (ABL) and Space-Based Laser (SBL), were complementary, but never made it beyond the early testing phase.

      The concept of the Airborne Laser came to fruition on a modified Boeing 747 known as the YAL-1A Airborne Laser Testbed (ABLT). In early 2010, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) announced that ABLT successfully destroyed two test missiles [reuters.com], saying at the time that "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." Unfortunately, ABLT was $4 billion over budget and eight years behind schedule. Political and economic realities meant that the US could "no longer continue to do everything and explore every potential technology". On February 14, 2012, MDA announced that the ABLT program was terminated [mda.mil], transitioning into long-term storage at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group at Davis Monthan AFB — "the Boneyard".

      The Space-Based Laser (SBL) concept is the notion of locating a high-powered laser in space, with a similar ability to target missiles in their boost phase. A constellation of 20 SBLs would be able to provide continuous global coverage, and target nearly any launch -- including ASAT weapons. A test firing of a Space-Based Laser Integrated Flight Experiment (SBL-IFX) was originally schedule for 2012 to demonstrate SBL's capabilities. This project became so complex and expensive that MDA suspended research and development in 2002 [missilethreat.com] — another victim of economic priorities, and a desire to focus resources on existing, proven kinetic systems.

      If such systems are thought to have so much potential and capability, why are they no longer pursued? The answer is primarily one of cost. Further, if the US possessed such a comprehensive anti-missile and anti-ASAT capability, it is unlikely that an adversary would use a kinetic ASAT weapon. As adversaries such as China, Russia, and Iran turn to cyber, it becomes more likely that cyber, conventional jamming, and EW capabilities would be used to target US space systems. It is reasonable that the US response should be in kind. One example: China is currently fielding the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (ASBM). Instead of using complicated missile defense systems or directed energy weapons to target it, and the current US strategy is indeed one of jam, spoof — and then shoot, if necessary [wired.com], with the idea being to "break as many links as possible" in the chain, including via cyber and EW. Cyber can act as a significant force multiplier against even conventional weapons systems — which can work both for and against us. China has already demonstrated [guardian.co.uk] the potential effectiveness of cyber capabilities against US space systems. Resources devoted to enhancing our offensive and defensive cyber capabilities in the context of space systems and missile defense is money well spent.

      • Exactly. The ABM projects are a 21st Century solution to a 20th Century threat that no longer exists. The threat of a wave of ICBMs is over, and no country is going to send a single or handful of missiles our way, fail to neutralize our response, then suffer the annihilation that would be our response. As you point out, it's conventional military operations hampered by cyberwarfare that is the hot threat with economic+cyber warfare being the cold threat.
    • by linatux (63153)

      I'm convinced there are people out there somewhere saying "We're not broke enough - how can we blow another $10 billion without starting a riot?"

      "I know, lets try lasers on 747's again - spectacular success last time"

      "Good - but when we're asked why we need them..."

      "Those new fake missiles in NK could be a threat"

      "Brilliant!"

  • Old Joke (Score:4, Insightful)

    by StefanJ (88986) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:18PM (#39851853) Homepage Journal

    There was a joke (I guess) that circulated pretty much up until the end of the Cold War:

    "If the USA wanted to cause the Soviet Union to collapse, it should drop millions of Sears catalogs in major Russian cities."

    I wonder if something like this would work with the DPRK.

    Although, come to think of it, anyone seen touching the things would be shot for subversive activity.

    • so it would still work, as everyone would be picking them up to see what the EvilWest has, thus removing their population base, and without that you have no army.

    • by timeOday (582209)
      The US has been broadcasting sunshine/propaganda into Cuba for decades without too much apparent effect, and it does have risks [msn.com] for diplomacy and the agents who conduct it.
  • by oldhack (1037484) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:22PM (#39851895)
    The 747 can then also fingerprint conflict minerals.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:24PM (#39851923)

    ... a failed military technology gap!

  • Biased article on Slashdot? No, never! Hmmm, the Related Links for this story include...

    • Airborne Laser Successfully Tracks, Hits Missile
    • Airborne Boeing Laser Blasts Ground Target
    • by tsotha (720379)

      Yep. It works, to some degree. And if they continue development it will work better. I remember in the '80s groups of physicists were signing petitions against ABM programs because there's no way you can "hit a bullet with a bullet". Except you can, just like you can make a laser that burns missiles out of the sky.

      • Except after 30 years even the kinetic weapons angle still isn't reliable.

        The political defense is the proven, and much less expensive, solution.
  • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:34PM (#39852003)

    If I remember correctly, one of the biggest problems with airborne lasers was that of fuel source. It took up a large amount of space, and the chemicals in chemical lasers were very volatile. Not to mention weaponized lasers still aren't very practicable. It makes much more sense to stick with the Navy development of lasers, as they can tap onboard nuclear reactors for power. Maybe once we actually working, reliable, and accurate systems in development we can look at adding them to an airborne platform. But right now this smells more like the chance for some defense-related pork than anything else.

    What has me more concerned from the article (I know, we aren't supposed to read the articles here, but Noah's been doing good work ever since his defensetech days) is that the same committee pushing this is pushing for an East Coast missile defense system. Which, living on the East Coast, makes no sense. The only states with operational SSBNs are the US, UK, France, Russia, and China. No land-based ballistic missiles will come over the East Coast, and China's not going to risk a voyage to the East Coast to attack, the West Coast would make much more sense. I don;t think we have to worry about the UK or France, and Russia still has to deal with what's left of SOSUS as well as the French, Scandinavian, and UK navies, and the Atlantic is still pretty much our backyard. I honestly cannot see any remotely legitimate threat or need for an East Coast defense line.

    • by tsotha (720379)
      The idea is to eventually replace the vats of nasty chemicals with a solid-state system that can be powered by the engines. Solid state lasers have been getting more capable by leaps and bounds.
      • by Nidi62 (1525137) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:03PM (#39852285)
        True, but like I said, lets start with a much more stable platform that has access to much greater power (a nuclear-powered ship). This also has the benefit of not restricting size as much. Once we have that working, we can develop lasers that have to draw less power and can more easily fit inside a plane.
        • Or put a reactor in the plane.

          What could possibly go wrong?
        • by tsotha (720379) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:16PM (#39852435)

          But the chemicals can do the trick, for the time being, and there is still a lot of work to do on target keeping.

          The big question for me has to do less with technology and more with chain of command. I mean, to be useful this thing has to be used in the boost phase. The first minute of flight, say. It's going to take a few seconds to realize the target is there, and then they have to get the beam on it PDQ. That means the system can never work in a surprise attack - the only way you could possibly shoot down a target is if you had standing orders to fry anything that launches.

    • by careysub (976506)

      The only states with operational SSBNs are the US, UK, France, Russia, and China.

      And you can leave China off the list for the time being. No Chinese submarine has ever made a deterrent patrol, even in the Pacific, much less "round the Horn" into the Atlantic. At present China seems to treat its 3 subs as floating Chinese missile fields - more mobile and stealthy than land-based mobile ICBMs, but still operated only where China can provide its own military protection.

      • by Nidi62 (1525137)
        A very good point. Especially since, with the end of the Cold War and much of the Russian navy either mothballed and rusted away or sold off, China is pretty much the only left for our SSNs to monitor. I would not be surprised if every time a Chinese SSBN puts to sea there is a US SSN nearby. China's SSBN fleet is pretty small, after all. Wikipedia shows 1 Type 092 in service (with one other having been lost), and 4 type 094s in service.
    • by slew (2918)

      If I remember correctly, one of the biggest problems with airborne lasers was that of fuel source...

      One of the biggest problems with airborne lasers is power efficiency. Let's say your laser is 30% efficient (a pretty agressive number). You basically blow something up inside your plane to generate the power, 30% of it goes out as laser energy toward the target, and the other 70% of the energy you have to deal with in your plane (probably as heat). Whatever you use as a heat shield to keep your own plane from blowing up, you might only need half of that on your target as a defense, not a great ratio.

      Of c

    • You must have missed the /. post about China's growing submarine fleet, like this one [slashdot.org], or the news of their nuclear submarine programs on the Guardian and others, like this one [guardian.co.uk]. Or the news that they launched a new class of nuclear ballistic missile subs here [nti.org], here [satellite-sightseer.com], here [fas.org], here [spacewar.com], and here [sinodefence.com].

      So, there is no threat to the East Coast, because China is so good about not selling things for profit to other nations, like Iran, Syria, Libya....
  • by iPaul (559200) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:39PM (#39852049) Homepage

    As long as the missiles we're defending against are inoperable, our defenses should be iron clad.

    • As long as the missiles we're defending against are inoperable, our defenses should be iron clad.

      At present you can defend against North Korean missiles with rubber bands mounted on paper airplanes.

      And I'm sure you can find a defense contractor willing to make one for slightly less than the 747+laser costs.

  • I wonder how much debt will be enough for our dark overlords in Washington?
    • I wonder how much debt will be enough for our dark overlords in Washington?

      Probably someone showed them a computer experiment that demonstrated that if you keep subtracting from a number it eventually goes positive again.

  • by internic (453511) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:52PM (#39852157)

    I remember that the American Physical Society (the professional organization of physicists) studied various boost-phase missile defense schemes years ago. They found that the various options, including air-borne lasers, weren't likely to be very useful in realistic scenarios (even under otherwise optimistic assumptions).

    The press release says [aps.org]:

    The Airborne Laser currently in development has the potential to intercept liquid-propellant ICBMs, but its range would be limited and it would therefore be vulnerable to counterattack. The Airborne Laser would not be able to disable solid-propellant ICBMs at ranges useful for defending the United States.

    Few of the components exist for deploying an effective boost-phase defense against liquid-propellant ICBMs and some essential components would take at least 10 years to develop, said Study Group co-chair Daniel Kleppner. According to U.S. intelligence estimates, North Korea and Iran could develop or acquire solid-propellant ICBMs within the next 10 to 15 years. Consequently, a boost-phase defense effective only against liquid-propellant ICBMs would risk being obsolete when deployed.

    You can also read the full report [aps.org]. I don't know how the relative states of the technologies stand today.

    • I remember that the American Physical Society (the professional organization of physicists) studied various boost-phase missile defense schemes years ago. They found that the various options, including air-borne lasers, weren't likely to be very useful in realistic scenarios (even under otherwise optimistic assumptions).

      The American Physical Society has been strongly opposed to missile defense going all the way to the SDI back in the 80's. Though they present themselves otherwise, they are not an unbiased

  • by TheSync (5291) on Monday April 30, 2012 @07:59PM (#39852233) Journal

    "Our studies indicate the weapon is totally useless in warfare."

    "It's not intended for use in your kind of warfare, Roy. It's the perfect peacetime weapon. That's why it's secret."

  • by jd2112 (1535857) on Monday April 30, 2012 @08:31PM (#39852599)
    Congresscritters seek pork to defend against threats of being voted out of office.
  • How do you strap a shark to a 747?
  • by vyruss000 (525644) on Monday April 30, 2012 @09:11PM (#39852959)

    Hewlett-Packard has been building LaserJets since the 1980s...

  • by detritus. (46421) on Monday April 30, 2012 @10:38PM (#39853557)

    ...And Discovery wants to crash it!

  • by nimbius (983462) on Monday April 30, 2012 @11:08PM (#39853757) Homepage
    the only objective congress tacidly has is to invent enough semi-plausible legislative events and topics to maintain the appearance of work, so as to avoid having to engage in solving challenging problems like homelessness or the national deficit. lately though, with such laughable moments as the senate investigation into shariah law, the men-only panel on womens health, and confirming "in god we trust" on the american currency, its starting to seem like the creative juices just arent flowing.

    come on Boehner, we all know you guys are just dickin' around in business suits for slightly less than two-thirds of the year, pissing away my tax dollars on booze or insider trading. Sure, you're all-ears for the steak luncheons and lobster dinners but the minute you pour your fat arses back into those chamber seats its like nap time at shady pines. All im hearing is occasional get-off-my-lawn's crafted around the culture war while youre lining your pockets and planning your re-election.

    At least try feigning interest in things like perpetual war as a foreign policy, or a reasonable moderated approach to the environment or financial market. im not asking for alot, just a sign. maybe while you're shifting that mountain of cholesterol you call a posterior around in that plush leather chair to excuse another blast of post-caviar flatulence from the hemorrhoid donut you could give a little nod as you wince. at least americans might be able to confirm youre paying attention to some of the day, if not the particular legislature discussed.

    and please, we can as americans tolerate reruns. i mean, i sat through viet-raq part deux with king george and tried not to bitch too much. Just please, pick something that wasnt an abject failure with more than a decade of scientific research to attest its futility.

IF I HAD A MINE SHAFT, I don't think I would just abandon it. There's got to be a better way. -- Jack Handley, The New Mexican, 1988.

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