Remember the 1985 movie “Real Genius“? Let me refresh your memory a bit. A bunch of overly smart college kids (the smartest, Chris Knight was played by Val Kilmer) were working on building a super laser for a government-funded project. When they find out it is for a weapon (they weren’t that smart if it took them that long to figure it out) they staged a protest by lasering the Dean’s house and popping multiple tons of popcorn.
Dr. Dodd: Why is that toy on your head?
Chris Knight: Because if I wear it any place else, it chafes.
The dream of Dr. Hathaway is now here. The Air Force has announced the near completion of an Airborne Laser weapon system that would be capable of shooting down incoming ballistic missiles. The laser is built on a modified 747 platform and has just completed its inaugural cross-country flight.
An advanced detection-and-tracking system, state-of-the-art optics and a high-energy laser would detect a missile launch and track it during the boost phase.
The world’s largest turret assembly, encased in the glass-enclosed aircraft nose, would track the missile and determine a precise aim point. A laser would measure disturbances in the atmosphere and adjust the on-board optics to account for them.
Another laser would fire a beam – technically, a “megawatt-class chemical oxygen iodine laser beam” – to zap the missile until it breaks apart.
Aircraft would take off loaded with enough chemicals that, with aerial refueling, could get where they needed to be quickly and be able to operate for as long as possible. A single chemical load would be able to destroy “many, many missiles,” said Air Force Col. John Daniels, program director.
There has been no mention of the laser’s air to ground capability nor its ability to pop popcorn from a remote location.
Chris Knight: Needless to say, I was a little despondent about the meltdown. But then, in the midst of my preparation for hari-kari, it came to me: it is possible to synthesize excited bromide in an argon matrix. Yes, it’s an exomer, frozen in its excited state.
Major Carnagle: Where’s the laser?
Professor Hathaway: It’s coming.
Major Carnagle: It’s coming? It’s not even breathing hard.