From Reagan to ray guns
20.02.19: THE STARSHIP era comes a step closer to reality today as the US air force launches the 'Death Ray', the world's first space-based laser (SBL).
The most controversial military weapon this century will soon allow the US to destroy any target in the world, from ground and air targets to clusters of people and trucks, with total accuracy at the speed of light.
World leaders have condemned the weapon's capabilities and the fact that it is virtually invulnerable.
Their fears about the laser's potential were ignited in the early 2000s when its forerunner, the Airborne Laser (ABL), was launched. Mounted on a jumbo jet, the ABL was not able to strike with the same power or precision.
Detractors fear that the more powerful SBL will destabilise the current military balances and political alliances.
The White House responded by emphasising the new ray's defensive capabilities. A spokesman agreed that the multi-megawatt hydrogen-fluoride laserjet could be called Son of Star Wars since it developed Ronald Reagan's vision of the ultimate defensive shield.
When deployment is complete, the SBL system will consist of 18 satellite vehicles in low orbit capable of blasting enemy missiles travelling at any speed and countering attacks by anti-satellite devices.
Within a few years, the SBL's range should reach ground-based targets, although USAF sources denied any plans to begin using the weapon for offensive purposes.
Each laser has three components; two are pulsed (one tracks the target, the other monitors atmospheric changes) to enable the third beam the "killing beam" to strike targets in the atmosphere or in space. SA