The US Missile Defence Agency's long awaited blaster-cannon-in-a-jumbo-jet, the Airborne Laser (ABL), is now carrying out inflight test zappings. Reports suggest that the actual laser is doing well so far, but that the carrying 747 is suffering technical problems having been grounded for a lengthy period while its energy weapon …
Aegis warship, meet Sunburn, Sunburn meet Aegis
North Korea presently has sufficient resources to knock out both an ABL and an Aegis platform stationed of its coast. While its own antiship missiles are rather lame, all it will take will be couple of Sunburns smuggled from someone else who has them to deal with ships (and using the homemade as decoys). Similarly, it may not have a particularly good airforce, but it has a lot of it so getting a couple of surviving fighters in-range to fire an AA missile for a successful strike against an ABL platform is also within its capabilities.
So if it decides to launch a missile it bloody well can *(though it does not really need to, plenty of container traffic around the world to smuggle it where it has to go).
Now it is too late (thanks to our dear pakistani friends and their "sharing" of technology).
In any case all this tech is dead on arrival. I find it extremely depressing, but having an orbital defence network looks like the only viable choice in the long term. We might as well surrender to the inevitable and start building one for the purposes of defence and retaliation. Oops, forgot, we are the only nation which voluntarily surrendered its ability to reach space. In that case might as well sit and wait until the NK container is shipped to somewhere in the greater metropolitan area. Not that we can do much more under the circumstances...
is it good or evil?
there's one sure fire way of telling, what colour are the lazer beams?
All missile defense platforms aren't the same...
You fellas at the Reg do realise that there are several different flavours of missile defense, each of them targeting the missile in a different phase of flight?
For example the ABL is meant to be used to rupture the propellant tank when the missile is in the very first (a.k.a. launch/boost) phase of flight. It will be of no help whatsoever trying to shoot down warheads in the terminal phase.
Similarly the AEGIS RIM-161 SM-3 is meant to be used against missiles in the final (a.k.a. terminal) phase. They are not designed to kill ballistic missiles in the boost phase. So stationing CGs or DDGs outside North Korean waters will only be effective if NK is launching ballistic missiles against itself.
Personally I would rather have the option to kill the missile in boost, midcourse and terminal phases. If you only fund AEGIS SM-3, your only kill option is terminal, and who wants to find out at the last minute that you need a Plan B?
Ok, I'm confused.
If a reload for a raygun Jumbo fills *two* C17s, how the f*** do you get it into *one* 747? (and one that's inconveniently filled with the raygun itself in addition to its nasty fuel at that).
Is it bigger on the inside than it is on the outside? If so, the BBC's patent lawyers may wish to take an interest.....
RE: Aegis warship, meet Sunburn, Sunburn meet Aegis
It's all true, we are out to get you in fact I'm standing right behind you whilst you are reading this.......
All I asked for is a...
A 747-400F freighter can carry 130 tonnes, a C-17 in general only 76 tonnes. As the reload chemicals are dangerous and difficult to contain and are to be shipped in trolleys for easy handling, not in permanently installed tanks etc, (thus the reload package will be a lot heavier than the actual chemicals) the statement is entirely believable.
And yes, we are aware about boost phase, midcourse etc. RTFA - it doesn't say anywhere that ABLs would be used to shoot at terminal targets. And for your information Aegis BMD is intended to intercept "hostile missiles in the ascent and descent phase of midcourse flight". In other words the cruiser or destroyer can be at the launching end of the trajectory OR at the terminal end. That's according to the MDA, who presumably know more about their own kit than you do. That's also why lots of knowledgeable people suggested that the Aegis ships which were stationed off Korea for the most recent Taepodong-2 shot could knock it down even if none of it was heading for Japan - because they could have done that.
As for Sunburns, nobody knows whether Aegis SM-2 could beat them or not. The Russians say they designed Sunburn specifically to beat SM-2, but on the other hand the Yanks have been upgrading SM-2 and sinking money into it for the last couple of decades. They say that SM-2 Block IIIB "provides enhanced performance against supersonic, high-G maneuvering sea skimming air-to-surface missiles". There was an SM-2 IIIB test, claimed as "successful", just this last January. God knows what the per-interceptor kill probability is, but the US can afford a lot more SM-2s than the Norks can afford Sunburns.
Then, frankly, I wouldn't fancy my chances as a Nork attack pilot or missile-boat driver even of getting within launch range of a US taskgroup with AEW up. It would be hard enough just to localise it. Nor for that matter as a Nork fighter pilot would I fancy trying to get into range of a patrolling ABL backed by AWACS and fighter escorts.
We can probably relax just a touch about the terrible Norks.
This isn't even MAD
North Korea isn't exactly an industrial juggernaut. The nuclear arsenal of the United States is formidable to say the least... signficiantly bigger than the Chinese one, for example. I don't really believe that the north koreans are willing to trade the destruction of a few cities in Japan or the US for the possibilitiy of being reduced to a smouldering ruin in a return strike.
A few ICBMs is a deterrent, not a threat. It could only be used in desparation, as it would result in the end of the NK state.
They could use it to smite people down
If they cant use it for shooting down missles (it seems to me you would need a lot of these in the air all the time to really provide a decent level of protection, assuming they work) the could use it to dish out God like smiting fire from above!
It is basically an airliner, so it could fly over normal air routes, but the laser could be pointed downwards and might be able to zap the house/vehicle/secret lair of some miscreant that offends those in charge (the lizards? the illuminatae? idiot governements?)
If the laser is efectively invisble it will just look like a random fire or an act of God! That would be pretty useful for a paranoid, power obsessed government who needs to eliminate those who oppose them in an easily deniable manner!
AC...cos I dont want them slightly warm up my roof tiles......
@Lewis Page, You used the wrong tense in one senctence,
It should read "..., but the US use to be able to afford..." In case you missed it, we've had a banking collapse, a mortgage collapse, and the fascist in chief just bought himself two car companies while filling the coffers of his political allies in the UAW. By the end of the year our debt is going to be 70% of GDP, and that's before they implement some warmed-over version of your national healthcare system. So there's no money left to buy SM-2s. It's like we'll be reduced to having our sailors standing on deck holding wooden version of the new super-tech that is being developed and shouting "Zap! I got you!"
Fear the Norks, not because the Norks are fearsome, but because their opponents are likely to be disarmed by feckless leaders.
No longer confused!
Thanks Lewis. I've been wondering about that one since it first cropped up some time back. I was so busy thinking volumetrically that I completely forgot about the dead weight aspect of the thing......oops.
Advantage in Traffic
Bet this thing gets priority in any landing pattern!
Why not convert a C-130 gunship into an AEGIS drone instead??? It would be more survivable than a huge slow 747 loaded with volatile chemical laser fuel.
Lewis, relax a little
The ABL + terminal example was just that, an example. I was not picking on something you didn't say. I was pointing out that all ABM solutions don't provide the same services.
And if you read your own rebuttal carefully, you will see that MDA claims the RIM-161 is useful for midcourse. The "boost and terminal" aspects of midcourse are the front and back end of midcourse; they don't magically extent to the boost and terminal phases proper. But more instructive than any MDA PR junk are the capabilities of the platforms themselves.
To be blunt, a RIM-161's max speed is about Mach 10 with a maximum (estimated) range of about 300nm. Hell let's be generous and give it 500nm range. A Minuteman III ICBM in boost will accelerate to about 8000-9000 m/s, (roughly Mach 23) with a maximum range of about 5200nm. Even the Taepodong-2 can make 8,000 m/s in boost.
The Shuttle, which is much slower than an ICBM, hits mach 1 in 45 seconds, and at two minutes post-launch has already accelerated to Mach 5. An ICBM will be able to climb faster than the shuttle (and subsequently get to thinner altitudes faster, where max q danger recedes). The AEGIS ships would have to be prepared to launch on warning to have a hope of a boost kill.
This is why SM-3 is ineffective in the actual boost phase, unless it is right next door to the launch site and can hit the booster while it's still under Mach 10. Most ICBMs can outrun RIM-161 rather easily. When they start slowing down in midcourse, then RIM-161 has a *much* better chance of picking them off.
To be fair, Korea is a narrow peninsula and you could probably get a CG or DDG close enough to make a Hail Mary boost intercept possible before the Taepodong accelerates beyond Mach 10. But for other customers whose launch sites are not so close to the sea (i.e. Iran) the RIM-161 would have no hope in hell of making a boost-phase intercept. You still need something like the ABL that could tackle boost intercepts in the hundreds of nm range, regardless of proximity to the sea.
Am I the only one?
I understand the reluctance to allow your (perceived) enemy have their own weapons, especially nuclear weapons, but am I the only one who thinks it's completely hypocritical for a country (or group of countries) to say "WE can have these weapons, but YOU can't"? It's especially hypocritical when there is only one country which has used nuclear weapons, and that's the one saying "YOU can't have them because WE don't trust YOU". I'm a US citizen, and I have to ask -- does anyone trust the US, or do you go along with them out of fear (which would, by definition, make the US government a terrorist organization)?
@Am I the only one?
No, you're not. I've thought along similar lines since attending a Billy Graham event in Sheffield. The one part of his speech I remember was when he said that he didn't believe anyone was mad enough to use nuclear weapons.
Yep. it's fear. Black helicopter and anonymous, obviously.
>I understand the reluctance to allow your (perceived) enemy
>have their own weapons, especially nuclear weapons,
>but am I the only one who thinks it's completely hypocritical
>for a country (or group of countries) to say "WE can have
>these weapons, but YOU can't"?
Perhaps, up to a point. The difference is in publicly stated foreign policy. NK has, so I understand, a publicly stated policy of invading/destroying the South, Japan, the US, anyone really. Similarly Iran has a publicly stated policy of obliterating Israel from the map of the world, and makes noises about the UK and US also. The US, France, UK, Russia, Israel, Pakistan and India don't appear to be overtly threatening anyone else with unwarranted nuclear obliteration.
My point is not totally sound. Political intent can change overnight. During the recent dispute between Georgia and Russia, an aide to Putin was publicly threatening nuclear strikes against Ukraine for blocking the use of Sevastopol port by the Russian Navy. In that context such threats seem a tad excessive. Now imagine that aide becoming the Russian Premier - something that could happen overnight as a result of an election. Would he start threatening everyone else too? Who knows? Would one take that chance? Would one, given how quickly things can change in the world, give up anything that might deter or fend off a nuclear attack?
One could argue that democracy and nuclear weapons don't mix too well. Democracy does allow an unstable and politically naive government to form as a result of inflamatory campainging stoking up public backing. The result can be a political leadership with their finger on the nuclear button, but with no experience whatsoever in understanding what really happens when that button is pressed.
> I'm a US citizen, and I have to ask -- does anyone trust the US
Relax - I don't think anyone in the world thinks Obama's about to start slinging nukes around. Though one did wonder a little bit about Bush.
The problem for the world is that when someone like Ahmedinajad publicly says he's going to wipe another country from the map, and he's given the means to do so by his own military industrial complex, it wouldn't be entirely surprising if he were to do so no matter the consequences. He may even be obliged to do so by domestic political pressure (something that his inflamatory speeches are doing a good job of stoking up). Even if he chose not to, can one really trust the Iranian command control structure to be sufficiently robust to prevent some rogue element launching the damn thing anyway? Same for NK.
The trouble when defending against nukes is that probabilities like 90% aren't good enough. 100% is good enough, but hard to achieve.
This is just idle speculation, but I wonder why the first NK test was a fizzle. Assuming that it was an implosion device, I can't see why it didn't work. My point is that testing that you've got the implosion right is easy. You try it with a lump of stainless steel, and eventually you'll get it right. That's how they did it at Los Alamos during WWII. Then you have to get the right amount of the right plutonium isotope, and that's very easy to determine. So assuming that NK had gone through that loop enough times to be sure that they'd got it right, why didn't it actually go bang? Does this hint at deliberate sabotage within NK, or is it techies who know they've not got these things right letting one off anyway to save their own necks?
I've not heard that the US has detected a radioactive plume of off-gasing from the recent test (they did for the first one. They had to save some ancient Canberra aircraft from the scrap heap to do so). Was it really a nuclear bang, or did NK just pile up sufficient chemical explosives to fool everyone else and are playing some high risk political game?
@ Am I the only one?
That's the very point that countries make to justify the acquisition of nukes. IMO, maybe the biggest contribution Obama can make to world security is to restart negotiations with the Russians to make further cuts in their stockpiles of warheads.
It would send out the right message to the world and maybe, just maybe, help to restore some of the moral authority the US pissed up against the wall in the last decade or so.
Having said that, if the ABL passes the three strikes, it should be built as an insurance against such things. The Nork air force would be absolutely no threat to such a beast - F-22 vs MiG-19? Most of the MiGs will end up parked on the sea bed. Maybe the biggest threat is the SAM network which has been upgraded with modern comms and the ability to frequency hop, but if the 400 km range is realised, that shouldn't be a problem.
tasteless comment ahead
Anyone know where it was on Monday?
Somewhere in the south Atlantic, maybe?
Is it me ?
or does that jumbo jet look like a shark with a frikkin ray gun on its head ?