No Giant Flying Anti-Missile Laser Jet

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The airborne laser program developed around a Boeing 747 and what was effectively a giant laser gun has been scrapped after 15 years and $5 billion. The program fitted a modified 747 jumbo jet with a mega-watt class chemical oxygen iodine laser fitted to a rotating nose turret and tracking system that could target and destroy airborne missile threats. The laser beam was fueled by thousands of pounds of fuel stored onboard the jet and was powerful enough to destroy missiles within seconds. Despite a successful test in February 2010, the airborne missile defense system wasn't without serious shortcomings or costs.

During the successful 2010 test, the system successfully tracked, locked onto, and destroyed a missile launched from an ocean platform near Point Mugu, Calif. Subsequent tests were delayed for months due to a series of technical problems, and a later test failed due to software problems. While the operational range of the system is classified, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said that the laser would need to be 20 to 30 times more powerful to be useful in the field. As budgetary issues became more influential funding dried up. In the end, the project never went beyond testing. The program involved technologies developed by Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. At its peak employed more than 1,000 people.

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