Star Wars: Here We Go Again

November 19th, 2008 | Sources: Economist


In 1983, Ronald Reagan threatened to build a space-based laser defense system that could obliterate Soviet nuclear missiles before they left their own airspace.  Reagan called it the Strategic Defense Initiative, but Ed Kennedy derided it as a “reckless Star Wars scheme,” knowing full well the technology wasn’t there.

Kennedy was right and Star Wars never got built, but Reagan’s bluster may have nevertheless accelerated the implosion of the Soviet regime by forcing it to account for the billions of rubles it would take to maintain technology parity with the US at a time when its economy was going down the toilet.

Now, 25 years after Reagan’s Star Wars political checkmate, the US military appears to be back in the ray gun business. And this time, the early prototypes actually work.

At an undisclosed location probably in Iraq, an undisclosed branch of the military, probably the US Army has deployed Zeus, a “directed energy weapon” to destroy unexploded ordinance like roadside bombs from a safe distance.

Until now, the military completed this unsavory task with rocket propelled grenades, but RPGs are expensive and they have an annoying tendency to not go where they’re supposed to. Reportedly the laser goes where it’s aimed, and it works from 400 yards out so soldiers don’t have to expose themselves to sniper fire during the disarmament process.

If Zeus’ thunderbolts prove effective, the military plans to develop and test no less than 6 ray gun defense systems. Early versions would be launched from Humvees and target stationary objects. Later versions would be launched from 747s and aimed at moving targets such as mortar shells or missiles.

And though the military prefers not to discuss the matter, ray guns with offensive capabilities are on the drawing board as well.

It’s nice to know that innovation is alive and well in the US. And it’s easy to see how the threat of such fearsome technology will accelerate social collapse over there in South Waziristan.


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