to Rinn, vice president and director of
Boeing’s airborne laser program. Lasers
are deployed to identify and illuminate
hard-to-find targets, he said. They guide
bombs and missiles to those targets with a
precision that reduces collateral damage.
Scientists envision laser weapons that
could damage components of enemy
weapons in order to lessen their impact.
Researchers are attempting to develop
instruments with powerful laser beams
that could destroy enemy weapons by
burning or exploding them or by causing
them to disintegrate. Once deployed,
such a laser would offer extreme precision and low cost per shot, Rinn said.
One of the best-known of these
attempts is the program that Rinn runs.
The goal is to place on an airplane lasers
that can illuminate and destroy ballistic
missiles shortly after launch. Boeing’s
airborne laser shot down two missiles in
tests in February, Rinn said. The pro-
gram has also spun off some technologies
that are useful to civilians, such as adap-
tive optics for astronomers.
Tom Price (ThePrices Write@yahoo.com) is a
Washington-based journalist who focuses on
government, politics, technology, business and
ONLINE EXTRA: View presentation slides from E. Duco Jansen and Mike Rinn and an educational handout about laser applications.
Optics and Photonics
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