Airborne Laser Program Faces Uphill Battle
Mar. 27, 2009 — Defense contractors face an uphill battle to convince lawmakers and taxpayers to continue funding the Airborne Laser Program, which involves outfitting a Northrop Grumman chemical-oxygen-iodine laser onto the nose of a Boeing 747-400F freighter airplane with a Lockheed Martin system to sense and track missiles.
The laser is supposed to destroy so-called theater ballistic missiles, of which tens of thousands exist in nations around the world. The Scud missiles that Saddam Hussein's regime used in the Gulf War are examples of these missiles.
However, the program has continued more than a decade and is $4 billion over budget, not to mention that the ability of the laser to shoot down missiles at long range has been questioned. Representative Ellen Tauscher (D-CA) called the program, "the definition of insanity."
Throughout history, many naysayers have been silenced by scientific progress. Airplanes were fanciful ideas until the Wright brothers came along, no man could land on the moon until Neil Armstrong and John Glenn did it, the telephone was science fiction until Alexander Graham Bell invented it, and the structure of DNA was indecipherable until Crick and Watson figured it out. A missile-destroying laser can be built and outfitted on a plane.
However, the companies-Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin-need to show that they are meeting major milestones in order to win over taxpayers and Congress during the economic downturn.
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Note: This editorial is based upon reports from Reuters and the Washington Post on the backlash against the Airborne Laser Program.
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