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Real Genius
February 12, 2010 11:54 AM   Subscribe

Life imitates art. Boeing's Airborne Laser Testbed succeeds in shooting down a ballistic missile. No word on if popcorn was involved.
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey (77 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
Now. How do they do on volcanoes?
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:00 PM on February 12, 2010


The Crossbow Project was for assassinations, not ABM.

Sorry, Real Genius is my favorite movie, I cannot help myself.
posted by absalom at 12:03 PM on February 12, 2010


America, Fuck Yeah!
posted by mr_roboto at 12:04 PM on February 12, 2010


Let me know when we can have shark mounted lasers.
posted by yeloson at 12:05 PM on February 12, 2010


Great. All we have to do is keep a separate multi-billion dollar aircraft every few hundred kilometers flying forever and we'll be safe from ballistic missles. God forbid we spend a dollar doing things that might make people less interested in shooting missles at us.
posted by Babblesort at 12:06 PM on February 12, 2010 [7 favorites]


Good work, team USA. Another decade or two of testing and refinement, then a decade or two of production and we'll finally be able to fend off a ballistic missile attack from the USSR.

In the meantime, can it do anything practical, like stop people from flying planes into buildings or setting off car bombs? Because that would be a lot more helpful these days.
posted by Davenhill at 12:08 PM on February 12, 2010 [4 favorites]


$2 billion dollar US Laser Plane? Meet the mirror.

Jesus, think of all the diseases we could have cured with those $2 billion, instead of funding this piece of shit.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:09 PM on February 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


I think everyone's missing the point here: Did Kent ever stop playing with himself?
posted by zombieflanders at 12:10 PM on February 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Did the DoD cheat on this test? In a lot of prior tests they cheated by telling the anti-missile system the launch location, launch time, trajectory, etc ahead of time. I believe in some cases they even had the missile actively broadcasting a signal to make it easier to target.

I'll be impressed when everything about the launch: the source, the timing, the location, the trajectory, the type of missile, etc is unknown to the anti-missile system.

Of course I'll only be impressed by the technical achievement. I'll be extremely depressed by the massive waste of money and effort.
posted by jedicus at 12:11 PM on February 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Forget driving the iron spike through the 2 x 4 with your penis. Lazers! Pew pew!
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:11 PM on February 12, 2010


In other news, Iran has unveiled plans for their new Disco Ball II ballistic missile...
posted by Pollomacho at 12:12 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Don't get me wrong...a giant laser on a plane sounds neat, but WHAT THE FUCK? Proof of concept? Proof of WHAT concept? That we have the biggest photon-based penis? That we have the stupidest, most expensive approach to the global arms race? Way to drive the final nail into the missile-defense coffin, and good riddance to you all.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:15 PM on February 12, 2010


Dudes, no one actually thinks that we're going to be shooting down ballistic missiles in the launch phase with huge lasers mounted on planes. That's just an excuse for building huge lasers and mounting them on planes!

and giving $2 billion to Boeing
posted by mr_roboto at 12:16 PM on February 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


"Yeah let's face it, what are rockets? They are just big metal pricks.
posted by pianomover at 12:16 PM on February 12, 2010


What would be hilarious would be a missile with a retroreflector surface.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:16 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Hey, all of Real Genius is on YouTube. The opening laser scene.

Random trivia: the shuttle pilot in that scene is Stacy Peralta, of 70's skating fame and current documentary directory.
posted by smackfu at 12:19 PM on February 12, 2010


Great. All we have to do is keep a separate multi-billion dollar aircraft every few hundred kilometers flying forever and we'll be safe from ballistic missiles.

The airborne laser is a theater defense weapon against ballistic missiles (think: Saddam Hussein firing SCUDs during the First Gulf War), not a ballistic defense weapon intended to protect the United States against a mass launch of nuclear weapons, an exercise which many people believe is impossible. (If you have a 97% success rate and only 3% of the warheads make it by, that is still failure.)

Of course, what is a theater defense weapon for the USA may be a national defense system for a small country like say, Taiwan.

$2 billion dollar US Laser Plane? Meet the mirror.

Yeah, I had this idea when I was like six. I asked my brother, my brother asked Edward Teller who said that mirrors are an imperfect defense against lasers because they are not 100% efficient -- they start to degrade as they are exposed to lasers and eventually they fail and you can zap the missile underneath.
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:20 PM on February 12, 2010 [11 favorites]


How about 2 mirrors?
posted by parallax7d at 12:28 PM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Gates cancelled the airborne laser as a program. It lives on as a research testbed, hence the nomenclature change from ABL to ALTB.
posted by squorch at 12:28 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


It would seem that an a very inexpensive but imperfect defense would be pretty effective when the offense is very expensive and also far from perfect.
posted by Ickster at 12:31 PM on February 12, 2010


I asked my brother, my brother asked Edward Teller who said that mirrors are an imperfect defense against lasers because they are not 100% efficient -- they start to degrade as they are exposed to lasers and eventually they fail and you can zap the missile underneath.

Hold on. So Teller was pro insanely expensive super-weapon? Go figure.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:31 PM on February 12, 2010


No link to Spies Like Us? Weak.
posted by The World Famous at 12:31 PM on February 12, 2010


Everybody wants to rule the world.
posted by entropicamericana at 12:31 PM on February 12, 2010


"How about 2 mirrors?"

Yo dog we heard you like shiny so we put a mirror in your mirror so you can reflect while you reflect
posted by mr_crash_davis mark II: Jazz Odyssey at 12:31 PM on February 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


my brother asked Edward Teller who said that mirrors are an imperfect defense against lasers because they are not 100% efficient -- they start to degrade as they are exposed to lasers and eventually they fail and you can zap the missile underneath.

Oh, Dr. Teller is quite correct that mirrors don't reflect all the light. However, suppose you coated the rocket with reflective material that reflects a modest 95% of the laser light. That means you'd have to hold the laser on the target for 20 times longer than normal in order to detonate it! I doubt the missile stays in range that long. Now suppose the missile rotates a bit. Now you have to hold it in place for something like 100 times as long. It's a totally infeasible method of anti-ballistic missile defense. It's the equivalent of saying "please stand very still while I drop this piano on you". It'll work great in a test, but when faced with an enemy of any technical sophistication, is virtually guaranteed to fail miserably. Oh, and as for "zapping it from underneath", I think that would be unlikely to work during the ascent phase, which is the only chance this boneheaded military boondoggle has a chance to be effective, because the underside of the rocket would most likely be shrouded in an optically opaque incandescent plasma; the rocket exhaust.

Not to mention, all of America's "enemies" right now are only armed with the weapons we sold them 20 years ago, and that usually doesn't include stuff bigger than a Stinger missile.

God I would love to be in the same room as the DoD budget with a pair of scissors.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:32 PM on February 12, 2010 [6 favorites]


Hell, you don't even need a freaking mirror. You'd just need to mount some nice inexpensive ablative tiles to allow the missile to survive the...what...30 seconds that the laser can focus on it?
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:34 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm no rocket scientist but I thought ballistic missile meant a missile that took a sub-orbital path to get to its destination. That means it touches space but doesn't make a full orbit. To my mind that means that a ballistic missile is by definition not a local theater weapon and SCUD missiles don't qualify as ballistic. Am I mistaken in my impression of what these things mean?
posted by Babblesort at 12:35 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'll be impressed when everything about the launch: the source, the timing, the location, the trajectory, the type of missile, etc is unknown to the anti-missile system.

I once read this described as shooting a bullet out of the air with another bullet. It's all geometry and physics, but I'm not going to start trying to defend myself from bullets by using more bullets. I'm going to try to figure out how to not be around them or how to get them away from the bad guys in the first place.

I'd see this as a waste of dollars, but then some weird scientific discoveries are made whenever we pump dollars into this sort of thing. Even if we find no practical applications for this tech, I am sure there will be some side technologies that Boeing will patent and make a mint from!
posted by cjorgensen at 12:36 PM on February 12, 2010


Forget Real Genius, every time a new weapon like this is "successfully tested" I think of The Pentagon Wars.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:38 PM on February 12, 2010


The best way to nuclear disarmament is to render nuclear missiles obsolete.
posted by HTuttle at 12:43 PM on February 12, 2010


Oh, that was 'zap the missile underneath the reflective coating', not 'zap the missile from underneath'. Sorry for the confusion. As above, I think it'd be very difficult, if not impossible to defend against a mass ballistic missile launch, not just because of mirrors, but because it's really much cheaper to dump out a couple hundred more missiles than it is to make verrry sophisticated things to kill those missiles.

I'm also not sure where the idea that ballistic missiles have to be very long-ranged (which is what Babblesort seems to be implying) comes from -- the V-2 is commonly considered the first ballistic missile.

Wikipedia, but:

Tactical Ballistic Missile
Theatre Ballistic Missile
Scud is a series of tactical ballistic missiles developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War and exported widely to other countries
Theater missile defense: Targets medium-range Theatre ballistic missile, which travel at about 3 km/s (6,700 mph) or less. In this context the term "theater" means the entire localized region for military operations, typically a radius of several hundred kilometers. Defense range of theater defensive systems is usually on this order. Examples of deployed or soon-to-be deployed theater missile defenses: THAAD, Airborne laser and Russian S-400 Triumf.
posted by Comrade_robot at 12:45 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


For those who haven't realized it, Lazlo, the guy in the basement from Real Genius, is Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.
posted by Astro Zombie at 12:45 PM on February 12, 2010 [5 favorites]


or a small country like say, Taiwan.

North Korea.

I wonder though, why not ground-mounted surface to air lasers? Seems a lot easier for a defensive border curtain.
posted by stbalbach at 12:47 PM on February 12, 2010


Comrade_robot: Ah, I see - I misunderstood. And you bring up another good point - this plane is screwed if they happen to launch TWO missiles AT THE SAME TIME! Wow.
posted by Salvor Hardin at 12:47 PM on February 12, 2010


One of these days I'm going to watch Napoleon Dynamite, damn it.

KENT! And whatever the on-speed-24x7 girl's name was -- oh how I hoped she was not actually on speed, and was like that IRL. Zing!
posted by cavalier at 12:47 PM on February 12, 2010


HTuttle: "The best way to nuclear disarmament is to render nuclear missiles obsolete."

Like how TNT made war obsolete. Try again Mr. Nobel.
posted by stbalbach at 12:49 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I wonder though, why not ground-mounted surface to air lasers? Seems a lot easier for a defensive border curtain.

You have a heck of a lot better chance of spotting them from the air soon after launch and zapping them before they're on a downward trajectory.
posted by Burhanistan at 12:53 PM on February 12, 2010


Nobel has nothing to do with TNT, nor does dynamite play any prominent role in war.
posted by electroboy at 12:54 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


Used to work at the company that made the steering mirrors. Everything was either transparent, or covered in 24k gold (which is highly reflective in the desired bandwidth). The steering mechanism is perhaps the most beautiful technical device I've ever seen.

And, consistently a failure in tests. I'm with jedicus: a long track record of cheating at these tests makes me VERY suspicious.
posted by IAmBroom at 12:54 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


I wonder though, why not ground-mounted surface to air lasers? Seems a lot easier for a defensive border curtain.

The Israelis are way ahead of you there.

But this is much smaller, with a much more limited range, than the airborne version. Really, the Israeli version is for Katyusha rockets and their ilk.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 12:54 PM on February 12, 2010


from http://yarchive.net/mil/laser_weapons.html

"Reflective coatings are a: imperfect and b: *fragile*. The reflectivity is entirely a function of a micron-thick layer at the reflecting surface; it doesn't take much energy to turn it into something else. And what you get when you burn, melt, ablate, or shatter a reflective surface, isn't likely to be very reflective on its own.

The difficulty in ensuring that the laser's own necessary internal mirrors can stand up to the beam, is one major limiting factor in laser weapon development. And the laser designer has all the advantages here; he only needs to mirror a few specific surfaces, those surfaces can be in the protected interior of the vehicle, and he can devote massive cooling systems to those specific surfaces. The relective-armor designer has none of these working in his favor, and so his armor will not survive as intense a beam as the laser designer's mirror can deliver."
posted by BeerFilter at 12:54 PM on February 12, 2010


I had understood that the US and other states had nuclear arsenals as a deterrent to potential attacks. Why would this anti-missile system be necessary? I'm curious about the effect that this type of missile defense would have on nuclear deterrence--if you have a missile defense system that works, you're more or less removing the deterrent threat that simply having nuclear missiles poses, right? Aren't you messing with the whole equilibrium now? Wouldn't our "nuclear enemies" actually need to fire the missiles rather than just have them now? I'm confused.
posted by Kirk Grim at 12:55 PM on February 12, 2010


I'm no rocket scientist but I thought ballistic missile meant a missile that took a sub-orbital path to get to its destination. That means it touches space but doesn't make a full orbit. To my mind that means that a ballistic missile is by definition not a local theater weapon and SCUD missiles don't qualify as ballistic. Am I mistaken in my impression of what these things mean?

A SCUD missile is essentially an A4 missile, AKA a V2 Rocket, AKA the first ballistic missile.
posted by Artw at 12:56 PM on February 12, 2010


Astro Zombie: For those who haven't realized it, Lazlo, the guy in the basement from Real Genius, is Uncle Rico from Napoleon Dynamite.

Holy crap! He's also Ben Linus's dad!
posted by jabberjaw at 12:57 PM on February 12, 2010 [3 favorites]


Salvor Hardin wrote: "What would be hilarious would be a missile with a retroreflector surface."

A high powered laser like this one would just melt most mirrors. It would take something quite exotic to handle the energy without up and melting.

That's not to say it's not fighting the last war, but honestly it makes far more sense than putting a laser on a satellite. This could be very useful for theater missile defense if we were forced into a war with Iran or North Korea, for example.

Also, Real Genius may have been one of the best movies EVAR!
posted by wierdo at 12:58 PM on February 12, 2010


Why would this anti-missile system be necessary?

In the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Saddam fired missiles at his neighbors and Israel, in an attempt to terrorize the populations and draw Israel into the war. Some of these missiles were rumored to be carrying chemical weapons. If the Israelis had jumped into the fight, it was widely thought that it would shatter the alliance built by the U.S. and Britain.

Thus started the Great Scud Hunt and the media's fascination with Patriot missiles.

Now, imagine that the same thing happens with another nation. Say, North Korea. They start to rattle sabers with the threat of lobbing missiles at Japan, some of which could be rumored to contain chemical or nuclear weapons.

You could nuke North Korea, sure. But do you want to be lobbing nukes so close to China? And South Korea? Seoul is only a few dozen miles from the DMZ.

In theory, an airborne defense gives you more strategic, tactical and diplomatic options than just "Nuke 'em all and let God sort 'em out."
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 1:03 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Is Michelle Meyrink involved? No? Not interested.
posted by brundlefly at 1:03 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


I had understood that the US and other states had nuclear arsenals as a deterrent to potential attacks. Why would this anti-missile system be necessary? I'm curious about the effect that this type of missile defense would have on nuclear deterrence--if you have a missile defense system that works, you're more or less removing the deterrent threat that simply having nuclear missiles poses, right? Aren't you messing with the whole equilibrium now? Wouldn't our "nuclear enemies" actually need to fire the missiles rather than just have them now? I'm confused.
posted by Kirk Grim at 3:55 PM on February 12 [+] [!]


Well,

Since the airborne laser is intended to defend against theater level ballistic missile attacks, it doesn't really have any bearing on say, Soviet-scale Armageddon. Like, a few years ago there was some diplomatic fuss about deploying anti ballistic missiles, and the United States was trying to emphasize that it was going to be like 50 interceptors (and Russia was still against it). I thought (and this is pure conjecture) that emphasizing this was basically saying "Look, Russia, this isn't about you, this is about North Korea or Iran possibly doing something. You can still MAD us."
posted by Comrade_robot at 1:07 PM on February 12, 2010


meanwhile, in other news : Blu-Ray DVD laser succeeds in shooting down mosquito
posted by silence at 1:08 PM on February 12, 2010


I had understood that the US and other states had nuclear arsenals as a deterrent to potential attacks. Why would this anti-missile system be necessary? I'm curious about the effect that this type of missile defense would have on nuclear deterrence--if you have a missile defense system that works, you're more or less removing the deterrent threat that simply having nuclear missiles poses, right? Aren't you messing with the whole equilibrium now? Wouldn't our "nuclear enemies" actually need to fire the missiles rather than just have them now? I'm confused.

You're advocating MAD as a fool-proof and valid defense tactic?

Sure, Russia's pissed about this kind of stuff, but that's not stopping them from doing the same thing.

I think one goal is total nuclear disarmament; and if rendering nukes obsolete by making defenses against them tends toward that goal, then I generally favor it.
posted by jabberjaw at 1:12 PM on February 12, 2010


jabberjaw wrote: "I think one goal is total nuclear disarmament; and if rendering nukes obsolete by making defenses against them tends toward that goal, then I generally favor it."

It may end up making ballistic missiles obsolete, but without a whole fuckton of money, we aren't going to be able to defend against nations that have the capability of lofting heavy things into orbit: FOBS

This sort of thing really is and only can be about bit players like Iran and North Korea. Any spacefaring nation else can fuck us from space and there's not a lot we can do about it.

Also, conventional EMP bombs scare me. We're so reliant on electronics in this country that we could easily be crippled economically without killing a single person.
posted by wierdo at 1:34 PM on February 12, 2010


Impractical waste of money. Reminds me of the Onion's "Obama cancelled dragon tank project." Maybe disclosing it will give the political pressure to stop it, maybe not. It's pathetic that any justification for a weapon is justification enough these days.
posted by peppito at 1:45 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


mirrors are an imperfect defense against lasers because they are not 100% efficient -- they start to degrade as they are exposed to lasers and eventually they fail and you can zap the missile underneath.

Missiles move pretty fast. The missile just needs enough of mirror material to get to where its going. So you can see how far this tendon of the arms race will eventually reach...
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:01 PM on February 12, 2010


stbalbach : I wonder though, why not ground-mounted surface to air lasers?

There are a bunch of reasons actually; a ground based is going to be far more limited in it's ability to "see" the target early, giving it less time to engage, and more importantly, because the ground might offer limited strategic locations for batteries, it might be possible to map them and launch missiles in their blind spots. Also, they are, as always, subject to airstrikes and other forms of nastiness that any ground based weapon has to worry about.

Once you put something in the air, while vastly more fragile, it becomes much, much harder to plan for.

I hate how much money crap like this costs, but I like the idea that as a weapon, it has pretty limited uses. Assuming it could be perfected (big, giant "if" here) it is really primarily useful in defense. As an offensive weapon, it would actually kind of suck. And I'm ok with the world spending more time figuring out how to protect itself rather than how to attack others.

Still, this whole thing reminds me of the immortal words of Socrates who said, "I drank what?"
posted by quin at 2:12 PM on February 12, 2010


Where the Pentagon once had plans to build as many as seven of the one-of-a-kind Airborne Laser aircraft

There's your problem right there.
posted by yerfatma at 2:15 PM on February 12, 2010


For all the people grousing about how this is a waste of money, perhaps you could explain a cheaper way to eliminate the possibility of North Korea launching a missile at the U.S.?

This system is pretty clearly limited in use - it needs to be near the launch site. It seems to be directly targeted at removing the possibility that if the world can't prevent North Korea from building more nukes and mounting them on ICBMs, that North Korea could then threaten the U.S. (or Japan) with a nuclear attack.

Absent such a system (coupled with the SM3 system on AEGIS cruisers), the U.S. is left with the option of launching a (probably nuclear) first strike if conventional hostilities break out on the Korean peninsula with a nuclear-armed DPRK.

With such a system, the U.S. can preserve the option of fighting a conventional war without having to go around nuking various potential missile sites; North Korea loses the leverage to say, back off or we'll nuke you, so they're less likely to engage is risk-taking; and Japan and South Korea are less likely to feel that they need to develop independent nuclear deterrents. Lots of good things.

All for the low, low price of like one third of a freaking percent of the annual U.S. defence budget.
posted by Dasein at 2:36 PM on February 12, 2010


For all the people grousing about how this is a waste of money, perhaps you could explain a cheaper way to eliminate the possibility of North Korea launching a missile at the U.S.?

That's not what this does.

the U.S. is left with the option of launching a (probably nuclear) first strike if conventional hostilities break out on the Korean peninsula with a nuclear-armed DPRK.

Why nuclear?

With such a system, the U.S. can preserve the option of fighting a conventional war without having to go around nuking various potential missile sites

Why would it have to nuke them?
posted by The World Famous at 2:39 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


You're advocating MAD as a fool-proof and valid defense tactic?

Foolproof? Oh, GOD no! For one thing, it breaks down the moment you introduce someone who acts irrationally.

What I'm saying is that using the conventional wisdom on nuclear weapons, developing a missile defense system almost looks like provocation to me and significantly ups the proverbial ante. With the stakes involved, you'd better hope the system works 100% of the time.

Again, it's by no means foolproof, but that no one's attempted a first nuclear strike since the US bombed Japan in WWII must lend some credibility to deterrence as a defense tactic. And it's no less crazy than thinking anyone's going to completely disarm.
posted by Kirk Grim at 2:44 PM on February 12, 2010


I once read this described as shooting a bullet out of the air with another bullet.

Hey, you got Star Trek in my Star Wars!
posted by albrecht at 2:50 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


For all the people grousing about how this is a waste of money, perhaps you could explain a cheaper way to eliminate the possibility of North Korea launching a missile at the U.S.?

Food? They're probably hungry.

I think everyone's missing the point here: Did Kent ever stop playing with himself

That movie's especially fun if your brother's name is Kent. And the answer is, eventually.
posted by kirkaracha at 2:58 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


For those that feels this is a waste of spending: Do you not realize that this paves the way for airborne delivery of LASIK? Just walk out into your yard, stare at the plane, BAM! 20/20 vision again!
posted by ymgve at 3:48 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thus started the Great Scud Hunt and the media's fascination with Patriot missiles.

which as the linked wikipedia article points out--and contrary to what Wayne and Garth would have us believe--may not have actually taken out a single SCUD. This has led to many arguments regarding whether missile defense is realistic or worthwhile.

Since the airborne laser is intended to defend against theater level ballistic missile attacks, it doesn't really have any bearing on say, Soviet-scale Armageddon


ah, OK I get it now--I don't know how I missed that we're not talking about ICBMs here. Thanks Comrade!

But I still wonder if this whole thing isn't a bit like self defense training that works so long as your attacker comes at you with his arms "like this". I think it maybe premature to see an end to ballistic missiles based on what missile defense has accomplished to date. Lasers are fucking cool, though.
posted by Kirk Grim at 4:54 PM on February 12, 2010 [1 favorite]


This has led to many arguments regarding whether missile defense is realistic or worthwhile.

But then the non-diplomatic options you're left with (and you have to have some in order to even be in the sovereign-nation game at all) are along the lines of pre-emptive strikes or massive retaliation. Neither of which is great, and neither are they foolproof, just like missile defense isn't foolproof. And at the end of the day, they're actually just as expensive, either in terms of lives, dollars or both.

I would guess that among MeFites, I'm old enough to recall honestly being concerned about a selective service draft for the 1991 war, because of some predicted casualty figures. But because we spent a shitload of money on guns and stuff ... and the diplomatic cover provided by the yee-haw Patriot missile story (for why else did Israel just take it on the chin without fighting back?) ... I got to watch the war on CNN with a tub of popcorn.

I don't know about you guys, but I kinda liked that part. ;-)
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:19 PM on February 12, 2010


perhaps you could explain a cheaper way to eliminate the possibility of North Korea launching a missile at the U.S.?

I do not think this is a possibility.
posted by ryanrs at 5:29 PM on February 12, 2010 [2 favorites]


perhaps you could explain a cheaper way to eliminate the possibility of North Korea launching a missile at the U.S.?

Diplomacy. Even though they can seem irrational, they're at their heart rational. They act crazy to get the rest of the world to send them aid, so that they no longer need a functioning economy. They effectively sell fear in exchange for food.
posted by mccarty.tim at 7:58 AM on February 13, 2010


HI I'M ON METAFILTER AND I COULD HATE A FLYING LASER!

You guys, when did you grow out of your pew pew pew lazor phase and put on the fiscal responsibility pants?
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:02 AM on February 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I'm old enough to recall honestly being concerned about a selective service draft for the 1991 war

However, if we HAD a draft, all this noise about homosexuals serving in the military would be moot.
posted by mikelieman at 8:19 AM on February 13, 2010


I just came here to say I love Real Genius.
posted by limeonaire at 9:13 AM on February 13, 2010



HI I'M ON METAFILTER AND I COULD HATE A FLYING LASER!

You guys, when did you grow out of your pew pew pew lazor phase and put on the fiscal responsibility pants?
posted by mccarty.tim at 11:02 AM on February 13 [1 favorite +] [!]


I can't freaking afford fiscal responsibility pants thanks to massive DoD pork spending! I'm wearing a fiscal responsibility paper bag!
posted by Salvor Hardin at 10:10 AM on February 13, 2010


It's not pork when the military spends money! It's called freedom! Which isn't free! HAMBURGER
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:12 PM on February 13, 2010


So missile defense is a placebo?
posted by dirigibleman at 12:53 PM on February 13, 2010


Kirk Grim wrote: "which as the linked wikipedia article points out--and contrary to what Wayne and Garth would have us believe--may not have actually taken out a single SCUD. This has led to many arguments regarding whether missile defense is realistic or worthwhile."

Terminal phase interception is much harder than boost phase interception, as the missile is traveling much faster, and even if you manage to break it up, it's still going to come down on the target area unless you manage to get a perfect kill that sets off the warhead.

There's pretty good evidence that Patriot got close enough to break up several Scuds, although they were a massive failure at actually stopping the Scuds because they weren't accurate enough to detonate the warhead prematurely.

Details aside, the point is that the project at hand has a much easier time doing what it's supposed to do. The hard part was getting a big enough laser to fit on a plane.
posted by wierdo at 2:37 PM on February 13, 2010


perhaps you could explain a cheaper way to eliminate the possibility of North Korea launching a missile

We could always give them South Korea, and toss in Japan as well. Remember, surrendering is always good for preventing a war.
posted by happyroach at 3:07 PM on February 13, 2010


The hard part was getting a big enough laser to fit on a plane.

Does this work in conjunction with the technology to detect and locate the tactical ballistic missile site in time to get a modified 747 jumbo jet in position to pull this off?
posted by Kirk Grim at 9:07 PM on February 13, 2010


Kirk Grim wrote: "Does this work in conjunction with the technology to detect and locate the tactical ballistic missile site in time to get a modified 747 jumbo jet in position to pull this off?"

The aircraft has to be in the air prior to the missile launch, so it's not particularly useful as a defense against an attack out of the blue unless you go all 1960s SAC and keep some in the air around North Korea and Iran at all times.

I think it's more targeted at situations like the 1991 Gulf War where you know tensions are high and missiles may well be launched. It's like Patriot, only airborne and more likely to work. Terminal phase intercept is very hard. Boost phase not so much. You poke a hole in the fuel tank and the missile will likely veer off course and blow itself to smithereens. Plus the missile is traveling significantly more slowly.
posted by wierdo at 7:03 PM on February 14, 2010


Why nuclear?

I know this late, but to answer The World Famous's question above, there's a serious risk of any large-scale conflict on the Korean peninsula going nuclear fast because the North Koreans have thousands of artillery pieces pointed at Seoul, and the only way to take them out before they inflict huge damage is with tactical nuclear weapons. With respect to disabling North Korea's nukes, it's a question of how fast they can be launched. If they improve their missiles so they can be launched quickly, then you need a nuclear strike to ensure that they and their launch sites are destroyed; conventional attacks risk leaving nukes in place that can be launched. North Korea may have sufficiently few nukes, sufficiently exposed, that conventional strikes are okay. Hopefully we don't ever find out.
posted by Dasein at 11:22 AM on February 18, 2010


Dasein, you didn't actually answer my question at all. My question was why nuclear? Your answer: "the only way to take them out before they inflict huge damage is with tactical nuclear weapons."

That's like if I asked why you like the Beatles so much and you answering that it's because they're the best band ever.

I do not believe for a moment that "the only way to take them out before they inflict huge damage is with tactical nuclear weapons." Why do you believe it is?
posted by The World Famous at 9:26 AM on February 19, 2010


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