Combine a Boeing 747 freighter with the Star Wars Death Star and what do you get? Probably something that looks like the YAL-1 Airborne Laser, a prototype missile defense program under development for the Pentagon.
In it's first major live-fire test, the Airborne Laser successfully knocked down a Scud-like missile last night over the Point Mugu Naval Air Weapons Station in California. The Los Angeles times explains:
During the experiment, a 747-400F took off from Edwards Air Force Base in the Mojave Desert. The laser, which was affixed to the 747 and powered by chemicals loaded into the aircraft, shot a super-heated, basketball-size beam that traveled 670 million mph to incinerate a missile that was moving 4,000 mph, the Pentagon said.
It took just a few seconds for the beam to create a stress fracture in the missile, triggering it to split into pieces.
Here's a video of the shoot-down. It doesn't look like much, quite frankly, but it's a dramatic view nevertheless:
(Hat tip: Ben Smith)Photos: Boeing