One step closer to having airborne lasers

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) is finally revisiting airborne lasers for missile defense. This comes a decade after the first attempt that ended in collapse with 16 years and $5 billion in R&D.

This time around, MDA is focusing on establishing low-power lasers for tracking characterization. The ultimate goal of this system is to shoot down and intercept missiles in space via high-powered systems.

MDA is choosing to focus on this airborne asset since it is viewed to be more advantageous than ground-based or space-based missile defense approaches. Unlike the first attempt done on a Boeing 747 with chemical lasers, the current laser solution/system being evaluated by MDA is a solid-state laser.

“An airborne directed energy technology demonstrator provides favorable environments and ranges over ground based systems; it provides iterative directed energy technology development flexibility not offered by space based systems”

A novel mission-critical system like this would become the prime target for nation-state actors and terrorist groups to create geopolitical instability and large-scale violence. The comms link between the system and the operator would be the most vulnerable since if the system is not available for these time-sensitive operations, it no longer meets its objective.