The Pentagon is reportedly rushing to develop a drone laser weapon capable of zapping rockets almost as soon as they are launched.
According to Las Vegas Review-Journal, the Missile Defense Agency said it has conducted tests of a "directed-energy airborne laser" fired from a military drone – a weapon that would be carried by remote-control aircraft over suspected enemy ballistic missile launch sites. The current system relies on "metal-to-metal" missile interceptors guided by radar and satellites, the outlet reported.
"This could revolutionize missile defense, dramatically reducing the role of kinetic interceptors," agency spokesman Christopher Johnson told the outlet in an email.
Johnson said five leading defense contractors — Boeing, General Atomics, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and Raytheon — are studying the technology, and the agency expects to award contracts this year, the newspaper reported.
"We will select the best designs, develop a demonstrator system for flight test in 2020, and piggyback on ballistic missile defense tests in 2021," Johnson told the newspaper.
The early intervention component to the system grew out of President Ronald Reagan's 1983 dream of a "Star Wars" defense shield – and comes as North Korea earlier this month conducted a test of a ballistic missile.
While Reagan's contemporary critics scoffed at the project, it helped spawn missile defense systems that are used today, the newspaper noted.
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