LASERS, MASERS AND TRAIL BLAZERS
Coen van Wyk
The article deals with the scenario of a Boeing 747-400F that flies at an altitude of 40000ft, and containing a chemical laser that can fry the rocket motor of a ballistic missile that is in its boost stage, and it can do so at a range of more than 400 km, a truly profound futuristic scenario. As regards whether in time to come, will we really see a weapon system that is based on a laser beam with destructive force, the article asserts Such a system already exists and it has been used by the British as far back as the days of the Falklands War, and it may have been used fairly recently by the Russians to hamper observations of the movements of a Soviet merchant vessel, by Canadian Sea King crew.
As to where it all started, the article expalains that it started with, Star Wars. Not the Star Wars in the 1977 Film of George Lucas, but Ronald Reagan's "Star Wars".
The Strategic Defence Initiative (SDI) programme (also known as: Star Wars)
· During 1983 the U.S. President at the time, Ronald Reagan, and a number of scientists and engineers embarked on a venture that blazed a trial that pushed the U.S. into the modern missile defence era. Reagan did so when he initiated, what would later officially be called the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI),
It all started with the following words of Reagen during his televised speech on 23 March 1983:
By these words President Reagan announced his intentions to build a ballistic missile defence system capable of eliminating nuclear missiles.
Despite fierce criticism and opposition Reagan was able to say the following during a speech in Washington D.C. on the tenth anniversary of the announcement of the SDI:
“Ten years ago when I asked the scientific community to give us the means of defending against the threat of ballistic missiles, I said there would be risks, and that results would take time. Well, I'm proud to say that these scientists and engineers boldly embraced this challenge, and in only a few short years broke new technological ground in developing innovative systems capable of providing effective and affordable defenses against missile attacks anywhere in the world. It is a tremendous achievement, worthy of the great scientific accomplishments of this century.”
Expenditure cuts and the North Korean Taepo Dong incident
Thereafter, years of expenditures cuts on research and development ensued during the Clinton administration, and that seriously hampered existing projects.
However, during 1998 an incident occurred that caused the Clinton administration to rethink its policy on expenditures cuts and to begin taking an interest in missile defence. The incident was the launching of a North Korean Toepo Dong 1 rocket that was a three-stage missile, possessing the capability of hitting portions of the Western and Central United States. So profound was the policy change of the Clinton administration, following on the North Korean Taepo Dong 1 incident, that is was subsequently described by the New York Times as an “abrupt about face”.
The Korean Toepo Dong 1 rocket incident was dealt with in a communication of 8 December 1998 of Robert D. Walpole, National Intelligence Officer for Strategic and Nuclear Programs of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). Walpole dealt as follows with the significance of the fact that the Taepo Dong was a three stage missile that possessed disconcerting range capabilities:
“Assessing and defining the threat to our homeland and to our interests worldwide is one of the most important intelligence missions in the post-Cold War world. At the outset, I want to underscore that the Intelligence Community considers foreign assistance to be fundamental to that threat, not merely an incidental aspect of the problem. The threat is real, serious, and growing. In fact, Congress has mandated that we provide annual Community reports on the threat. But the threat is also dynamic.”
Walpole went on to state that, since the CIA’s March 1998 annual report to Congress on foreign missile developments, the missiles/launch vehicles that have been tested, included the Ghauri (Pakistan), Shahab 3 (Iran) and the North Korean Toepo Dong 1.
Directed Energy Weapons (DEW)
Fourteen years after the launch of the SDI, and just more that three short years ago, Bill Hillaby referred in an article titled, “Directed Energy Weapons Development and Potential", that was published in "The Defence Associations National Network News" of July 1997, to an incident off the West Coast of the United States, concerning a laser device. The incident was the suspected use, by a Soviet merchant ship, of a "laser device" to hamper observations of its movements by Canadian Sea King crew.
Hillaby stated the following:
'The use of such a device as a "weapon" is neither well understood by the general public, nor by a good many military people. However, the potential for application of directed energy weapons (DEW) has long been known and has been studied by most of the world's military organizations.'
Hillaby's bold statement that the use of laser devices are not well understood by "a good many military people” caused me to decide that, if Hillaby is prepared to go as far as including "a good many military people” in his gallery of persons who do not understand the use of laser devices, then it is unlikely that a review of the principles of Masers and Lasers would erroneously be perceived as condescending. A summary of the germane principles of the physics applicable to Masers and Lasers may therefore serve a useful purpose. What follows will be familiar territory for many of our readers, but we also have among us those who are just starting out on a journey into the fascinating and intriguing realm of aviation (or contemplate doing so) and they may find a statement of the basics useful. On the other hand, some of us, this journalist included, may need to be refreshed on facts that were once clear in our minds, many decades ago, when Pontius was still a pupil pilot..
The Physics of Lasers and Masers
The word, "laser", is an acronym derived from “Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation" and the word, "maser", is derived from "Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation". Both procedures therefore entail amplification by stimulated emission of radiation: Light is amplified in the laser process, whereas microwaves are stimulated in the maser process. Furthermore, both procedures amplify electromagnetic radiation.
· has two wave components; an electrical and a magnetic vibration;
· the electric and magnetic waves are both transverse waves (the vibration of transverse waves are in a plane that is at right angles to the direction in which the wave is travelling);
· both waves are vibrating in phase, and
· the two planes, in which each wave vibrates, are at right angles to one another.
The electromagnetic spectrum
The first column of the following table lists wavelength of Radiation, expressed in metres.
How do lasers and masers work?
Summary: Laser light compared with "conventional" light
Laser light differs from that of a conventional light source (like a tungsten filament lamp) in that the laser light is spatially coherent and monochromatic. The fact that laser light is spatially coherent means that the crests and troughs of all the waves in the beam coincide and therefore reinforce each other. All other light sources produce incoherent light and the energy of the beam therefore becomes dissipated. The rays of the laser light are therefore nearby parallel to one another and diverge only slightly as they travel. In 1962 a laser beam of 1 foot in diameter was directed at the moon and it illuminated an area of 2 miles in diameter on the moon surface. A beam of ordinary light would have illuminated an area of 25000 miles in diameter, after having travelled the distance of more than 220000 miles that separates the earth from the moon. (The mean distance of the moon from earth is 238875 miles.)
A laser is therefore a very intense, highly directional beam of light that can, with the aid of high precision optical system, deposit intense amounts of heat in the form of light energy on objects at distances several kilometers away.
Some laser types
On 5 May 1998 The Pentagon released particulars of a contract that was awarded to TRW Inc. Redondo Beach, California regarding, inter alia, research and development pertaining to laser technology development. Some of the information on laser sysems, that follows, has been extracted from the TRW web site.
Tactical High Energy Lasers (THEL)
Theater threats in the form of short-range rockets and artillery, cruise missiles, pop-up helicopters, etc. can appear very late and without warning. To counter these late detection threats requires a speed-of light weapon, a laser weapon.
TRW is, under contract to the U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command, to build a Tactical High Energy Laser System. The system features a deuterium fluoride chemical laser. TRW is on record as claiming that in field tests against short range rockets, its laser has never missed.
Airborne Laser (ABL)
Only an airborne laser can destroy a hostile theater ballistic missile (TBM) while it is still in the highly vulnerable boost phase of flight, before separation of its warhead. An airborne laser onboard a Boeing 747-400F will operate above the clouds, where it will autonomously detect and track missiles as they are launched, using an onboard surveillance system. The Beam Control/Fire Control system will acquire the target, then accurately point and fire the laser with sufficient energy to destroy the missile.
The U.S. air Force selected a team comprised of TRW, the USAF, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin to develop and demonstrate a revolutionary new weapon system, an airborne laser. Boeing, the team leader, is responsible for weapon system integration and supplies the 747-400F aircraft. TRW is designing and developing the system's Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) and providing ground support. Lockheed Martin supplies the Beam Control/Fire Control system.
The onboard laser generates power in the multi-hundred kilowatt range and several laser modules will be linked together in series to achieve the megawatt-class power needed by the airborne laser.
Space-Based Laser (SBL)
The purpose of a United States experiment, known as the Space-Based Laser (SBL) Integrated Flight Experiment (IFX) is ultimately to develop a space-based laser that would intercept hostile ballistic missiles in the boost phase.
TRW, Boeing and Lockheed Martin have joined forces to work in partnership with the U.S. Department of Defence to achieve the goal of developing a megawatt class chemical laser in space for intercepting a boosting ballistic missile target, from orbit.
The origin of the "Star Wars" label for the SDI
When the George Lucas's film, Star Wars, was released in January 1997, articles, in Time Newsweek, the New Yorker and the New York Times stated that the film was part of a culture and pointed out that the mass media of the day contained many examples of words and phrases that had its origin in the film. I was assumed that Reagan who caused the SDI to be labelled as "Star Wars". However, tracing the origins of the "Star Wars" label that was put on the SDI, revealed that it was Senator Edward Kennedy who labelled Reagan's initiative as "Star Wars". This was during comments that Kennedy made on the floor of the Senate the day after Reagen's televised speech on 23 March 1983, when Reagen drummed up support for the programme. By the time that the programme acquired its official title, Strategic Defense Initiative, during 1984, it was already universally known as "Star Wars"
The political and journalistic manoeuvres unleashed by the SDI
Ronald Reagen's SDI was beleaguered, at the outset, by its unfortunate association with George Lucas's film, "Star Wars" and the actions of individuals, that included politicians, left wing journalists and authors, all of which did not allow the truth to get in the way of their endeavours, or should I say, "shenanigans".
A sample of the reaction of the general press media
After Reagen went on television on March 23, 1983, and called for a technological shield to render nuclear weapons "impotent and obsolete", a plethora of criticism to Reagen's SDI emerged, particulars of some of which appear from the following:
· The Chicago Sun Times: "an appalling disservice".
· The New York Times: "a pipe dream, a projection of fantasy into policy."
· Congressman Ted Weiss of New York: 'ever in my wildest dreams could I ever imagine our President taking to the national airwaves to promote a strategy of futuristic "Star Wars" schemes as Mr. Reagan did last night.'
The appalling mischief of authors
Two distinguished authors made rather disparaging remarks concerning Ronald Reagen and his SDI, both of them contending that Reagen was unable to distinguish between the fantasy world of Hollywood and the reality of the real world. The authors are Frances Fitzgerald and Michael Rogin. I will now deal with their bizarre contentions.
FitzGerald contends in her book, "Way Out There in the Blue: Reagan, Star Wars, and the End of the Cold War", that Reagen was unable to distinguish, in his own mind, between the fiction created in Hollywood films and the real world, and that this caused him to believe in "science-fiction" programmes for the defence of America. The author, a Pulitzer Prize winner (not for this book), therefore appears to suggest that Reagen's SDI did not flow from a briefing by NORAD (The North American Aerospace Defense Command) or by working with the Committee on the Present Danger, but from a perception that was created in Reagen's mind by the fiction to which he was exposed in Hollywood films. As one critic of her book put it, FitzGerald ascribed Reagen's SDI to "a disturbing inability to distinguish in his own mind between Hollywood movies and the concrete realities of the physical world."
To FitzGerald, it was particularly perplexing that Reagen could, as she put it, "persuade the country of something that did not, and could not for the foreseeable future, exist" since, in FitzGerald's words, missile defence was "nothing more than a story," and that SDI was "Reagan's greatest triumph as an actor-storyteller", and that he was therefore a man steeped in the "paranoid style" of American politics, who came to believe in the "science-fiction" solution he had proposed to America's military problems.
Even Reagen's advisers did not escape FitzGerald's venum. She referred to Reagan's defence experts as coming from the "fringes of their profession"; consisting of "a solid phalanx of hard-liners" and "diehard right-wingers" that were "far to the Right of any administration past".
Michael Rogin suggested a similar profile for Reagen in his book, "Ronald Reagan, the Movie". Of distinct relevance is the fact that Reagan plays a Secret Service agent in the 1940 Warner Brothers film, Murder in the Air. He is tasked with preventing the theft of the plans for a new defensive weapon and the weapon is so powerful that it is able to stop and destroy any attacking vehicle or missile, and it will, according to one of the film's characters, "make America invincible in war and therefore be the greatest force for peace ever invented"'
The central proposition of Rogin's book is that the U.S. president, with his Space Age defence system, Ronald Reagen, was already "made" in 1940 in Hollywood. Rogin expressed grave concern about the fact that (according to Rogin) Reagen's conception of reality had been shaped by Hollywood films, to such an extent that he was, in effect, unable to distinguish between reality and the sphere of fiction in which he once found himself.
I found Rogin's theory to be preposterous and I was therefore surprised when my search with Yahoo.com revealed that Rogin is a Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Berkeley; that he received his PhD at the University of Chicago in 1962; taught at the University of Chicago; taught at Makerere College in East Africa; was Visiting Lecturer at the University of Sussex before joining the UC Berkeley faculty in 1963; was awarded in 1992, the Katherine Singer Kovacs Prize for best essay in film for "Blackface, White Noise,"; was recently awarded a Chancellor's Research Professorship at UC Berkeley; teaches topics in American culture, political theory and film; that his most recent book is Blackface, White Noise: Jewish Immigrants in the Hollywood Melting Pot; that Ronald Reagen, the Movie, and Other Episodes in Political Demonology appeared with University of California Press in 1987, and that his articles on Oliver Stone's JFK: the Movie, appeared in American Historical Review, Critical Inquiry and The Journal of American History. However, after having done my yahoo thing, I still found Dr. Rogin's theory preposterous, even more so since he should have known better. Then, on the other hand, Rogin is neither a psychologist, nor a psychiatrist, and his academical achievements are therefore irrelevant as regards the cogency of his proposition concerning Reagen's perceptions of reality.
The true facts emerge and lead to a new perspective
The mischief of FitzGerald and Rogin left me in awe, but only until my research led me to discover and visit the web site of the Center for Defense Information, and an article by Colonel Daniel Smith, USA, Chief of Research, titled, "The Chronology of U.S. National Missile Defense Programs", which revealed the following:
A Reagen style defence initiative already mooted in 1945
Smith's article revealed that there has been a vast amount of activity, by the U.S. military, since July 1945, pertaining to defence against missile attacks on the U.S. The following two items in Smith's chronology are particularly interesting:
· 'December 1945: Army Air Force Science Advisory Group broaches the idea of using an "energy beam" for defense against ballistic missiles.'
· 'March 4, 1946: The Army Air Force begins two studies, Project Thumper and Project Wizard, focused on the possibility of developing anti-missile missiles capable of destroying incoming projectiles travelling at 4,000 mph and at altitudes reaching 500,000 feet.'
It is clear from the entry dated December 1945 that an "energy beam" was already mooted by the Army Air Force Science Advisory Group, nearly 40 years before Reagen made his SDI speech during his television address on 23 March 1983, and at a time when he was still an actor in Tinsel Town,
The question is therefore: Did a Pulitzer Prize winner and a Senior Berkley academic (FitzGerald and Dr. Rogin respectively) miss this important information during the research phase that preceded (or should have preceded) their putting pen to paper? Is it conceivable that they did not research the topic thoroughly in fear that they may discover (as they should have) facts that would completely demolish the controversial trait of what they intended writing? Was it a case of not allowing the truth to spoil a good story?
The fact that, as far back as 1945 and 1946 the Army Air Force Science Advisory Group broached the idea of an "energy beam" for defence against ballistic missiles, and the Army Air Force began studies focusing on missile defence, must surely have destroyed the argument of the Pulitzer laureate and the eminent academic. Could the fact that Rogin teaches topics, inter alia in "film", have caused Rogin to be so absorbed by the celluloid world that it is, indeed he, who lacks perspective founded in reality?
Reagen was not a "SDI" Lone Ranger, he was coerced by advisers and The Joint Chiefs of Staff
The following two items in Colonel Smith's "The Chronology of U.S. National Missile Defense Programs" is no less interesting than those previously mentioned:
· 'January 8, 1982: A private group of advisors recommends to President Reagan that he launch a crash program to develop missile defenses.'
· 'February 11, 1983: The Joint Chiefs of Staff advise President Reagan of the need to emphasize strategic defensive systems.'
It is therefore clear that Reagen's SDI did not just suddenly manifest itself after it germinated in a mind oozing with "Hollywood Fantasy", but advisers and senior military officers of the United States caused the initiative to see the light of day on 23 March 1987.
Who exactly is, or was, afflicted by the "Hollywood Fantasy Syndrome" (HFS)?
The following question now springs to mind: Were the actions of the following people also a manifestation of the same syndrome that FitzGerald contends afflicted Reagen (I will refer to the condition as the "Hollywood Fantasy Syndrome" HFS)?
q The members of the Army Air Force Science Advisory Group that broached the idea of using an "energy beam" for defence against ballistic missiles and did so during 1945, which was 15 years before the construction of the first laser in 1960 (This was indeed a fantasy.)
q The members of the Army Air Force who initiated studies during 1946, which involved anti-missile missiles to ward of missile attacks.
q The members of the private group of advisors who recommended to President Reagan in January 1982 that he should launch a crash program to develop missile defences.
q The Joint Chiefs of Staff who advised President Reagan on 11 February 1983 of the need to emphasize strategic defensive systems.
If the people that have just been mentioned, or some of them, were afflicted by the Hollywood Fantasy Syndrome, or were at least HFS positive, could it be that those people were Hollywood actors, or had some other relationship with Hollywood that brought them in contact with the HFS virus?
Gabriel Schoenfeld reviews FitzGerald's "atrocious book"
Having had regard to the facts gleaned, it is therefore not surprising that in his book review of May 2000, the critic, Gabriel Schoenfeld had the following to say about FitzGerald, and her book:
· It is "an atrocious book ".
· It "is a model of tendentious writing".
· As regards confining herself to the facts, FitzGerald "operates under no such inhibition, freely strewing her narrative with tokens of her supercilious contempt for Ronald Reagan and all his works".
Schoenfeltd goes on to say the following: "Throughout Way Out There in the Blue, indeed, anyone who favors missile defense is depicted as a warmonger, extremist, or crank."
Finally: From abrasive media frenzy to the smooth true facts
Donald R. Baucom, a military historian at The Pentagon, made an exhaustive study in his book, "The Origins of SDI, 1944-1983". It is clear from Dr. Baucom's study that Reagen's defence initiative was merely a perpetuation of existing U.S. strategy and not a new gimmick introduced by Reagen. Dr. Baucom received the RICHARD W. LEOPOLD PRIZE from the Organization of American Historians, for the book.
Apart from "The Origens of SDI, 1944-1983", Dr. Baucom, as historian of The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), explored the history of BMDO, in "Ballistic Missile defense: A brief History", and provides a comprehensive list of "Missile Defence Milestones from 1944-2000". He also presented "National Missile Defence (1993-2000): An Overview" which provides an excellent historical perspective of U.S. National Missile Defence. The Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO) is responsible for managing, directing, and executing the Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) Program.
Peter Kramer, a lecturer in Film Studies at the University of East Anglia, had the following to say in an article published in the March 1999 edition of "History Today":
"The Origins of SDI shows that, far from being a Hollywood fantasy, Reagan's vision of missile defence was in line with an important strand in US strategic thinking. Soon after the German launch of the first V-2 ballistic missile against London in September 1944, the American military initiated a research and development programme to create defences against future missile attacks on the United States.
In subsequent decades, the notion of effective missile defence was gradually displaced by the principle of nuclear deterrence (appropriately known as MAD, for Mutually Assured Destruction). However, in the late 1970s, interest in strategic defence systems re-emerged in certain scientific, military and political circles which exerted a strong influence on Reagan, who was already opposed to the concept of offence-based nuclear deterrence and genuinely concerned about the vulnerability of the US in the event of a nuclear attack.
Reagan was also affected by increasing religious opposition to the principle of nuclear deterrence. In October 1981, twenty Catholic bishops declared that it was immoral to possess nuclear weapons, and in May 1983 the National Conference of Catholic Bishops announced the publication of a pastoral letter on war and peace which was expected to reinforce this declaration."
Previous use of Lasers in warfare
It appears that the Britain has used lasers during the Falklands conflict. During a Department of Defense news briefing on November 3, 1998 the military spokesperson, Capt. Doubleday, was asked for information regarding helicopter pilots that were “laser beamed” in Bosnia. Although it appeared during the briefing that the possibility exists that the source of the laser beam may have been a toy laser, it also became clear that that there were other laser incidents during the Bosnia operation.
A brief note on NORAD
A quote from their web site reveals the following:
"The North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) is a binational United States and Canadian organization charged with the missions of aerospace warning and aerospace control for North America. Aerospace warning includes the monitoring of man-made objects in space, and the detection, validation, and warning of attack against North America whether by aircraft, missiles, or space vehicles, utilizing mutual support arrangements with other commands"
Reagen caused the demise of communism. Reagen added the finishing touches to the idea of an effective, modern, missile defence system, an idea that was born when Germany launched the first V-2 ballistic missile against Britain during 1944. In the process Reagen had to endure snide comment and character assassination attacks due to untruths, distortions, fiction and "backyard psychology".
But, in my opinion, of paramount importance is the fact that Reagen stopped the MADness. The MADness as in MAD for Mutually Assured Destruction. In the words of Peter Kramer:
"The President also simplified complex political issues, bringing them down to the level of common sense, and asking `Would it not be better to save lives than to avenge them?', `Is it not worth every investment necessary to free the world from the threat of nuclear war?'"
We owe Reagen!