Lasers High and Low

British Airways Boeing 747 with winglets. Adrian Pingstone

Boeing has released this video of a test conducted at the Army's Redstone Arsenal in Alabama last September, during which the ground-based Laser Avenger weapon blew up 50 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) of the kind used against U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mounted on an armored vehicle, the Laser Avenger already has shown that it can shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles.

The Pentagon is also making headway on its long-proposed Airborne Laser. On January 10, the Missile Defense Agency successfully fired a high-energy laser (below) from a modified Boeing 747-400 freighter against an instrumented rocket launched from San Nicolas Island in California. The laser acquired and tracked the target, but didn't destroy it. That next step in the research program may happen as early as this week.

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