Laser Plane Misses Iraq War

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Don't look for an airborne laser light show over Iraq if and when the war begins. U.S. forces will have to rely on plain old high-tech missiles to shoot down any missiles the enemy lofts their way, because the laser-packing Boeing 747 now under development won't be ready in time. Mark Danner, program manager of the Boeing Missile Defense Systems/Airborne Laser system, told Wichita Rotarians last week the only completed (of a possible 11 to follow) laser-equipped 747 is still being worked on at Edwards Air Force Base. The highly modified jumbo jet, which was altered to accommodate the laser in Wichita, had its first flight last summer before heading to Edwards. A second aircraft is being modified. The aircraft are designed to loiter at 40,000 feet and blast incoming missiles out of the air from hundreds of miles away. The first live test of the strange-looking craft is scheduled for 2004 and the system is scheduled to be operational by 2008.