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Space Lasers

The U.S. Wants to Put Ballistic Missile Defense Systems in Space

The military wants to be able to track, and potentially take down missiles from orbit.

Victor TangermannJanuary 19th 2019

Missiles in Space

The U.S. recently released a report that outlines how it will develop new technology to defend itself from missile attacks, and expand its existing missile defend shield. Chief among the ideas outlined by the report are ways the U.S. could defend itself from missiles — but from space.

The so-called Missile Defense Review was officially released in its unclassified form by the Pentagon earlier this week. The accompanying event was attended by President Donald Trump, Vice-President Mike Pence, and a number of high-ranking U.S. military officials.

A particularly high-brow idea highlighted in the report: space-based sensors, and anti-missile weapons that could track missiles mid-flight, and intercept (read: destroy) them from orbit.

Space-Based Sensors

We’ve known about these plans for a while now. The development of space-based anti-missile systems was mentioned in this year’s defense spending bill that was agreed upon by U.S. lawmakers back in July.

The plan is to come up with a preliminary working prototype of such a sensor by the early 2020s.

“We see space as an area that’s very important as far as advanced, next-level capabilities that will help us stay ahead of the threat,” said Pentagon technology head Mike Griffin at the event, as quoted by Defense News. “A space-based layer of sensors is something we are looking at to help give early warning, tracking and discrimination of missiles when they are launched.”

Space Lasers

Space-based interceptors however — a system of high velocity projectiles or even lasers that can take out ballistic missiles while in orbit — will have to go through a six-month testing phase before the military decides to invest in the technology, according to Defense News.

Other ideas outlined in the Missile Defense Review include using the F-35 fighter jet to shoot down missiles while airborne, and an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that could do the same — but with lasers.

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