Air Force Claims its Laser Weapon Finally Hit a Missile

Wednesday, February 17, 2010
Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser weapons system, a megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser

Too little too late. After first promoting the idea in the 1980s of a missile defense that could use lasers to stop a deadly attack on the U.S., the military finally actually shot down a test target using a high-energy beam. The only problem is that the

Department of Defense

’s top man,

Robert Gates

, has pretty much given up on the airborne laser program, saying it was too flawed and not worth the resources that could be spent elsewhere.

The U.S. Air Force successfully concluded its test off the Central California coast, utilizing a COIL (Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser) weapon mounted on a Boeing jumbo jet that tracked a test missile fired from the Point Mugu Naval Warfare Center. The energy beam reportedly caused the missile to crack and fall apart. Boeing and Northrop Grumman, which have worked together on the project, were delighted by the results.
But instead of investing more research-and-development dollars into the airborne laser, Gates wants the Missile Defense Agency to concentrate on two ship-based missiles to help the Navy defend against regional missile attacks from the likes of Iran or North Korea.
Using lasers to shoot down missiles was first broached during the Reagan administration as part of the Strategic Defense Initiative, or “Star Wars” program.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Laser Weapon Knocks Down Missile off Calif Coast (by Robert Jablon, Associated Press)


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