Laser shoots down ballistic missile in test

A modified Boeing Co 74 jumbo jet using a high-powered laser has successfully shot down a ballistic missile in-flight for the first time, the Pentagon's Missile Defense Agency has said in a statement.

Thursday's long-awaited test showed that the system could potentially shoot down multiple targets at the speed of light at a range of hundreds of kilometers.

"The Missile Defense Agency demonstrated the potential use of directed energy to defend against ballistic missiles when the Airborne Laser Testbed  successfully destroyed a boosting ballistic missile," the Pentagon said. "The revolutionary use of directed energy is very attractive for missile defense."

The laser system, in comparison to other technologies, has been cited as a low cost alternative per intercept for missiles that could hold biological, chemical or nuclear warheads.

The system utilizes highly focused rays that can be tweaked for strength down to non-lethal levels to attack a target.

This latest test is the first time that a laser weapon has been used successfully to destroy a ballistic missile and the first time any system has accomplished a missile's destruction in the boost phase of flight.

The boost phase of flight, which lasts from one to five minutes, is easier to track as the exhaust produced is bright and hot. The test shot down the missile within two minutes of its launch.

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