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Northrop grumman lasers to zap sams

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Portable, shoulder-fired, surface-to-air-missiles (SAMs) are becoming an increasing concern among Washington policy-makers. Just last week, the New York Times reported that U.S. officials were travelling to aiports around the globe, looking for ways to minimize the missile threat to commercial planes. The inspections will likely lead to nuts-and-bolts-type changes, like tightened police patrols along planes' takeoff routes.

Arms-maker Northrop Grumman is pushing a higher-tech solution, according to Jane's Defence Weekly (subscribers only). The company wants to equip airports with deuterium-fluoride chemical lasers that can zap missiles with a lethal energy beam.

The project, Hazardous Ordnance Engagement Toolkit (HORNET), is an outgrowth of Northrup's work on the Mobile Tactical High Energy Laser (MTHEL) anti-missile system for Israel and the U.S. In tests, the fixed version of that laser has been able to knock down katyusha rockets -- the arms frequently used by the Hizbullah terrorist group.

THERE'S MORE: "I just hope they don't put any of those zappers at the airports I fly in and out of. With ideas like this, we don't need to worry about terrorists taking down airliners, those lasers could be doing it for the terrorists," said one Defense Tech reader, who, trust me, speaks with authority on these matters.

The time to engage a portable shoulder-fired SAM near an airport is so short that the zappers would have to be on automatic all the time. Shades of the Patriot incident in Iraq with the U.S. Air Force F-16. At least the F-16 could (and did) fire back!

Now maybe what we need are high power lasers on board commercial airliners so they can fire back when accidentally engaged by these zappers.

I'm just kidding, but from your article, I don't think Northrup is.

Posted by noahmax at August 12, 2003 09:39 AM

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