News & Opinion | March 23, 2019 5:00 am

Pentagon Wants $304 Million to Test Space Lasers to Stop ICBM Threat

The project would assess the viability of putting a particle-beam missile interceptor in orbit by 2023.

The Pentagon wants over $300 million to develop a space laser that could destroy enemy threats from space. (Getty)
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First, Space Force and, now, a space laser? If the Department of Defense gets its way, Congress will give it $304 million to explore what it would take to get a particle-beam nuclear missile interceptor in orbit by 2023.

“The addition of the neutral particle beam effort will design, develop, and conduct a feasibility demonstration for a space-based Directed Energy Intercept layer. This future system will offer new kill options for the [Ballistic Missile Defense System] and adds another layer of protection for the homeland,” says a Missile Defence Agency document put out last week.

As part of the department’s request in the 2020 budget, the Pentagon would also be using the funds to develop next-generation missile defense and technology as well as more powerful lasers. The defense officials say the weapons are needed to counter potential nuclear missile threats from the likes of China, North Korea, and Russia.

Some $12 million of the funding will also go toward research on retro-fitting existing satellites with lasers that could blast enemy missiles during high orbit, before they begin their final descent toward their targets, Defense One reports.

The literal size of such technology, along with the cost to build it has been an issue for a long time. However, Pentagon officials believe enough progress has been made that the space laser tech is ready to move from the theoretical to the experimental phase.

“We now believe we can get it down to a package that we can put on as part of a payload to be placed on orbit,” a senior defense official said. “Power generation, beam formation, the accelerometer that’s required to get there and what it takes to neutralize that beam, that capability has been matured and there are technologies that we can use today to miniaturize.”

Though it might sound like a futuristic way to defend the United States from potential threats, here on the ground, countries could respond by manufacturing longer-ranger ballistic missiles or methods to destroy U.S. interceptors.