Lt. Gen. James A. Abrahamson, director of the Pentagon's Strategic Defense Initiative Organization, took issue yesterday with a Washington Post report Sunday that his office is concentrating on use of kinetic-energy weapons, rather than lasers and other directed-energy weapons, to build a space-based missile-defense system.
In a statement, Abrahamson called the suggestion that space-based lasers are beyond U.S. technical reach for the foreseeable future "a misrepresentation of both fact and opinion."
"The SDIO is optimistic about many of the advanced-technology systems, including lasers and other directed-energy weapon systems," he said. "We believe that our programs . . . justify that optimism."
Abrahamson said a particle-beam weapon is operating at Los Alamos National Laboratory, an experimental weapons-grade laser is at White Sands test range and several other laboratory-scale lasers "leading to alternative weapon concepts" are at other facilities.
"All of the explanations of what a . . . strategic-defense system might be like have stressed that different systems would be used -- for example, a mixture of smart projectiles and directed-energy laser-type weapons -- to ensure that an adversary cannot find an effective countermeasure," he said.
The Post quoted Dr. Louis Marquet, head of the SDIO directed-energy research office, as saying laser-like weapons are "not a competitor" to kinetic-energy weapons.
"I don't support directed energy weapons for interception of boosters," Marquet said, referring to using lasers to destroy missiles in takeoff. "We've got a simpler way to do it with kinetic-energy weapons."