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The Whistle Blower

September 11, 1988

As one who was involved in the SDI program genesis and its predecessors for many years, I have been shocked at the cavalier treatment it has received at the hands of many who understand it poorly. In the late 1960s, the USAF Scientific Advisory Board Space Effects Panel held a meeting in Inglewood. One topic discussed was military activities in space. One of the members suggested that advances in tracking accuracy and greatly improved potentials of high-powered, high-quality UV lasers could provide a more promising approach to ballistic-missile defense.

The concept proposed use of a series of satellites capable of immediately observing and identifying ballistic missiles being launched from any point on the Earth's surface. The trajectory during launch phase would be monitored and transmitted to orbiting vehicles that would then be precisely pointed to fire their UV lasers at the ballistic missile boost rockets. The powerful UV lasers contemplated were neither nuclear-pumped nor chemical. Although Teller was a panel member, he did not introduce this subject.

Although the original SDI concept of the USAF Space Effect Panel has been mangled by inaccurate publicity, the objectives were sound and deserve support. The nuclear-pumped X-ray laser was not part of this concept, and its demise should, by no means, signal the death of what should be a critically important development.

EDWARD N. HALL, COL. USAF, RET.

FIRST DIRECTOR, MINUTEMAN PROGRAM

FIRST DIRECTOR,THOR PROGRAM

FORMER MEMBER, SPACE EFFECTS PANEL, USAF SCIENTIFIC ADVISORY BOARD

Rolling Hills Estates

Robert Scheer responds: "I am referring to longstanding notions of anti-ballistic missile defenses that have nothing to do with a space shield to render nuclear missiles 'impotent and obsolete,' to use the words of President Reagan's March, 1983, SDI speech. Reagan's hope was based on the prospect of a technological breakthrough. All available evidence indicates that the nuclear-pumped X-ray laser--as promoted by Teller in his fall, 1982, meeting with Reagan--was the basis of that hope."

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