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BMD Watch: Prithvi Missile Goes To Sea

File photo of India's Prithvi missile.

Washington (UPI) Jan 04, 2006
India has successfully tested a naval version of its Prithvi ballistic missile. Modified for shipboard use, the Dhanush has a range of 150 miles.

About a year ago, a Prithvi missile was successfully launched from underwater. This was seen as a test of underwater launch technology, not preparation for using the Prithvi as a submarine launched missile, StrategyPage.com reported Sunday.

Prithvi missiles are used, in slightly different versions, by the army and air force. The army version has a range of 90 miles and a one-ton warhead, while the air force versions can go 150 miles with a half-ton warhead. The army version of the missile can hit its target within five minutes of launch. The 28-foot long, four-ton missile uses liquid fuel, meaning it takes up to an hour to ready for launch.

Over 100 missiles have been delivered so far, with all the recent production being the 250-mile version. At least three missile units (called groups) have been formed, each with 12 mobile launchers and at least two-dozen missiles, StrategyPage.com said.

The Prithvi missile carries cluster bomb and nuclear warheads. Accuracy is thought to be quite good, using software correction and the Global Positioning System (GPS) to achieve under 160-yard accuracy. The missile, with non-nuclear warheads, would be used against high-value targets like headquarters or fuel and ammo depots. There is no reason why Prithvi's could not be launched from ships, even merchant ships, the web site concluded.

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Solid fuel ICBMs pose problem for ABL: report

A recent study by a group of physicists and engineers convened by the Physical Science Academy expressed great skepticism about the practicality of the Boeing airborne laser program against Iranian-launched intercontinental ballistic missiles. Or against solid fuel ICBMs .

"If the ABL (airborne laser) achieves its postulated performance, it would be capable of defending the entire United States from liquid-propellant (intercontinental ballistic missiles) launched by North Korea," the study said. However, the airborne laser would have trouble offering partial or full defense against a similar missile launched by Iran, because the 747 would have to be able to maintain itself in the air over a tight area above the Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan, the study said according to a report Thursday in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The Physical Science Academy study group was even more skeptical about the airborne laser's chances of success against sturdier solid-propellant missiles. "Defense by the ABL against solid-propellant missiles from North Korea, Iraq or Iran does not seem possible," the study said.

Greg Hyslop, Boeing's airborne laser program manager, disagreed with that assessment. "The power levels we have demonstrated are lethal against all classes of ballistic missile," he told the Post-Dispatch.

Boeing said it test-fired a laser with enough power and duration to rupture the fuel tank of a ballistic missile. The test took place in a California laboratory and cleared the way for Boeing to load the laser into the belly of a heavily modified 747 freighter jet

The company said it is now three years away from a shoot-down demonstration. In 2008, it hopes the speed-of-light weapon will be fired in-flight from the nose turret of a 747 at a missile several hundred miles away.

However, Boeing's airborne laser program is several years behind schedule, and the remaining technical hurdles are significant, the Post-Dispatch said.

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2007 key year for U.S. laser programs

Three key U.S. laser weapon programs will reach major milestones early this year, with the first live ground-test firings of two relay mirror systems and the start of aircraft integration efforts for the U.S. Special Operations Command-led Advanced Tactical Laser demonstration program.

To start this month, the Aerospace Relay Mirror System firings will follow the successful completion of laboratory testing in the third quarter of 2005 and the assembly of a demonstrator at the Star Fire Optical Range at Kirtland AFB, N.M.

The system will be used to redirect a high-energy laser beam fired from a distance of 1.7 miles to engage ground targets up to 1.5 miles away during the six-month test series, the British FlightInternational.com Web site reported Tuesday.

Program officials told last month's IDGA Directed Energy Weapons conference in Washington that, if successful, they plan to demonstrate cruise missile engagement using redirected laser energy in late 2006 or early 2007. A larger version of the payload could eventually be carried by high-altitude airships and used to relay laser energy from the U.S. Missile Defence Agency's Boeing 747-400-based Airborne Laser (ABL) against distant airborne targets, FlightInternational.com said.

The related Tactical Relay Mirror System is expected to start live firing in April 2006 using a 10-25 kilowatt laser after passing a critical design review late last year. The system is designed to enable aerostats and medium-endurance unmanned air vehicles to conduct point and area defence duties by redirecting energy from a developmental solid-state laser.

An Advanced Tactical Laser advanced concept technology demonstration effort is meanwhile to enter aircraft integration next month, with Boeing to convert a Lockheed Martin NC-130H to serve as a trials platform. The program will use a chemical laser -- similar to that being installed on the YAL-1 ABL -- to engage ground targets. Ground-test firings of the aircraft-mounted weapon are planned to conclude in late 2006, with airborne firings to follow from the second quarter of 2007, FlightInternational.com said.

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Boeing LTS wins telescope-tracking contract

Boeing LTS has been awarded an Air Force Research Laboratory contract with a potential value of $413 million to maintain and operate the two largest telescopes in the Department of Defense.

The 3.67-meter, or 105-inch Advanced Electro Optical System -- housed in the Maui Space Surveillance System in Hawaii -- is the largest telescope in the Department of Defense.

The contract will provide the laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate with specialized optical support in New Mexico and Hawaii over the next seven years. Under a 2004 reorganization and consolidation, the directorate's optics division operates two optical research sites that include several large telescopes, including a 3.5-meter, or almost 98-inch, telescope on Kirtland AFB and a 3.6-meter or 100-inch telescope in Maui, Hawaii. The sites are used for research, to develop adaptive optics, for active and passive tracking of targets in the air and in space, for space surveillance and to improve how laser energy is propagated and controlled. Boeing LTS will provide the Air Force with the support needed for this work, Photonics.com reported Thursday.

"This consolidated support contract is replacing the two independent contracts that were ending," Col. Gregory Vansuch, chief of the optics division told Photonics.com. "Consolidating this support is a logical and highly beneficial approach for more efficient operations at both our sites."

Vansuch said that the two sites operate a variety of visible, near-, mid-, and far-infrared sensors and imagers, as well as laser beam directors that project low-to-medium-power laser beams at ground, air and space targets. Included is instrumentation to characterize atmospheric transmittance and the strength of turbulence.

The initial contract is for $224 million but it includes three one-year options that could increase the value of the contract to $413 million over seven years, the web site said.

Source: United Press International

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Japan Expects To Pay One Third Of Joint Missile System With US
Tokyo (AFP) Dec 15, 2005
Japan expects to shoulder 1.0-1.2 billion dollars, or about one-third of the cost of developing a missile system with the United States, the Defense Agency said Thursday, after reports Tokyo faced a greater burden.







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