Science fiction has jaded the public into thinking this kind of stuff is easy, but if you have any real familiarity with it, you know that this is an absolutely astonishing achievement, in every technical area involved -- optics, lasers, systems integration, target acquisition and tracking, fire control -- you name it. Not to mention just too damn cool for words! As with so many aspects of ballistic missile defense, critics said it physically was impossible to do. Granted, the ABL needs to become lighter, cheaper, and more powerful, in order to be a practical deployed component of the US Ballistic Missile Defense system. But once something is invented, refining it is just a matter of will (and money). If the current Administration were serious about missile defense, they'd fund this system to become a practical component of BMD as quickly as humanly possible. Directed energy weapons have so many advantages over an interceptor missile like the SM-3 that it would be hard to list them all. "Mr. Chekov -- lock phasers on target...fire!" (If we still had any stones any more as a nation, we'd package this thing on an orbital weapons platform and park it over Iran/North Korea.) -ET video: http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2010/02/laser-jet-blasts-ballistic-missile-in-landmark-test/ article: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSN1111660620100212?type=marketsNews U.S. successfully tests airborne laser on missile WASHINGTON, Feb 12 (Reuters) - A U.S. high-powered airborne laser weapon shot down a ballistic missile in the first successful test of a futuristic directed energy weapon, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said on Friday. The agency said in a statement the test took place at 8:44 p.m. PST (11:44 p.m. EST) on Thursday /0444 GMT on Friday) at Point Mugu's Naval Air Warfare Center-Weapons Division Sea Range off Ventura in central California. "The Missile Defense Agency demonstrated the potential use of directed energy to defend against ballistic missiles when the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) successfully destroyed a boosting ballistic missile" the agency said. The high-powered Airborne Laser system is being developed by Boeing Co., (BA.N) the prime contractor, and the U.S. Missile Defense Agency. Boeing produces the airframe, a modified 747 jumbo jet, while Northrop Grumman (NOC.N) supplies the higher-energy laser and Lockheed Martin (LMT.N) is developing the beam and fire control systems. "This was the first directed energy lethal intercept demonstration against a liquid-fuel boosting ballistic missile target from an airborne platform," the agency added. The airborne laser weapon successfully underwent its first in-flight test against a target missile back in August. During that test, Boeing said the modified 747-400F aircraft took off from Edwards Air Force Base and used its infrared sensors to find a target missile launched from San Nicolas Island, California. The plane's battle management system issued engagement and target location instructions to the laser's fire control system, which tracked the target and fired a test laser at the missile. Instruments on the missile verified the system had hit its mark, Boeing said. The airborne laser weapon is aimed at deterring enemy missile attacks and providing the U.S. military with the ability to engage all classes of ballistic missiles at the speed of light while they are in the boost phase of flight. "The revolutionary use of directed energy is very attractive for missile defense, with the potential to attack multiple targets at the speed of light, at a range of hundreds of kilometers (miles), and at a low cost per intercept attempt compared to current technologies," the U.S. Missile Defense Agency said.