Laser Plane Gets More Cash to Blow More Stuff Up

Wired News
By Olivia Koski
June 4, 2010

Once a half-billion-dollar a year operation, the Missile Defense Agency’s flagship laser weapon program got just $40 million this week to continue experiments. Boeing has to make due with a mere $330,000/day from June until September to keep the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB) going. The money brings the ALTB’s total budget this year to $146 million.

In February, the modified 747 destroyed a missile in flight with nothing but coherent light, but by then the Obama administration had already decided to all-but-end the program.

According to a Defense Department announcement, the money will fund “additional missile engagement scenarios and flight testing to include all required support.” In other words: we’re gonna blow more stuff up!

There is $100 million set aside for the laser weapon in the 2011 defense budget. ALTB proponents hope to slip in at least another $50 million – a drop in the budget compared to the $10 billion or so that the Missile Defense Agency is supposed to get next year.

In a markup yesterday of the Fiscal Year 2011 defense authorization bill, a House Armed Services Committee panel proposed adding more funds to revive the program. “It was clear that the budget request was not sufficient to support further flight testing using the Airborne Laser Test Bed,” said Rep. Michael Turner of Ohio, the top Republican on the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces.

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