The Pentagon's new plan to kill North Korean ICBMs is basically ripped right from 'Asteroid'

Military Tech

The Defense Department is weighing a plan to deploy F-35 fighters to hover on the outskirts of North Korea airspace and neutralize intercontinental ballistic missiles shortly after launch, Reuters reports.

News of the plan, developed as part of a six-month study on intercepting North Korean ICBMs and conceived as a near-term option, comes as President Donald Trump meets with North Korea's Kim Jong Un in Vietnam on critical questions surrounding Pyonyang's nuclear and missile testing programs.

The Pentagon has been toying with novel missile defense strategies for years now: In January, the DoD's Missile Defense Review presented a milieu of potential options worth further examination, Defense One reported, ranging from drone-based lasers and orbiting missile platforms to reconfiguring the F-35 for missile defense missions.

Indeed, the MDR "[called] for the testing and development of a new or modified interceptor which could shoot down a ballistic missile in the boost phase," Defense News noted at the time. "There is also the possibility of using the F-35, equipped with its array of sensors, to hunt and track mobile missile units, which is a key part of North Korea's doctrine."

Three F-35C Lightning II, attached to Commander, Joint Strike Fighter Wing, the "Argonauts" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, the "Rough Raiders "Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 125 and the "Grim Reapers" Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 101 complete a flight overhead Eglin Air Force Base(U.S. Navy/Chief Mass Communication Specialist Shannon E. Renfroe)

Right now, the plan is, well, a pipe dream. An F-35-based ICBM killer 'calls for interceptor missiles that fly so fast they could melt one expert said, and the only surefire way for U.S. military aircraft to defeat a missile with current technology would be to fly in hostile airspace," missile defense experts told Reuters.

One possibility exists, however, based on combining two elements proposed in the MDR: Incorporating the drone-based laser concept into the F-35, a la the terrible 1997 miniseries Asteroid, which stars noted missile defense experts Michael Biehn and Annabella Sciorra.

This is absolutely how lasers work(NBC Universal)

It's not a new concept: Wired notes that the U.S. Missile Defense Agency suspended its Boeing 747-based Airborne Laser Test Bed anti-ICBM system because it "was too costly and unwieldy." And while the technology has matured significantly in recent years, airborne directed energy weapons are notoriously complicated and frequently short on funding, as with the Air Force Special Operations AC-130J Ghostrider gunship.

But not for long. In 2017, F-35 manufacturer Lockheed Martin was contracted to explore an aircraft-mounded directed energy weapon under the Air Force Research Lab's Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator program. The $26 million contract, which builds on the its work for the Army, aims to have a fighter-mounted test weapon by 2021.

An Air Force artist's conception of a fighter-mounted directed energy weapon(U.S. Air Force Research Lab photo)

"We're putting a weapon traveling at the speed of light onto an aircraft capable of traveling the speed of sound, while targeting threats likely also traveling at supersonic speeds," Lockheed laser weapons systems senior fellow Rob Afzal told Wired. "Ruggedization is critical."

Despite this, the idea of a laser-equipped F-35B hovering near North Korean airspace and slapping missiles out of the sky may remain just an idea. Sure, the F-35 is inching towards real lethality downrange, the ongoing technical and reliability issues facing the F-35 program make the prospect of a complicated directed energy system increasingly improbable.

Oh well. We'll always have Asteroid.

SEE ALSO: The Air Force's Futuristic Laser Cannon May Never Get Off The Ground

U.S. Marines with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 252 help Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 with the aerial refueling of F-35B Lightning II aircraft over Florida Oct. 2, 2012. (U.S. Marine Corps/Sgt. Gabriela Garcia)
(Courtesy of Jackie Melendrez)

Editor's Note: The following story highlights a veteran at Iron Mountain. Committed to including talented members of the military community in its workplace, Iron Mountain is a client of Hirepurpose, a Task & Purpose sister company. Learn more here.

Jackie Melendrez couldn't be prouder of her husband, her sons, and the fact that she works for the trucking company Iron Mountain. This regional router has been a Mountaineer since 2017, and says the support she receives as a military spouse and mother is unparalleled.

Read More Show Less
Photo: U.S. Army

Master Sgt. Larry Hawks, a retired engineer sergeant who served with 3rd Special Forces Group, is being awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on Friday for "valorous actions" in Afghanistan in 2005.

Read More Show Less

The Iranians just blasted one of the US military's most sophisticated and expensive drones out of the sky as tensions in the Strait of Hormuz reach the boiling point.

Read More Show Less
(Reuters/Lawrence Hurley)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A 40-foot-tall (12 meters) cross-shaped war memorial standing on public land in Maryland does not constitute government endorsement of religion, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday in a decision that leaves unanswered questions about the boundaries of the U.S. Constitution's separation of church and state.

The justices were divided on many of the legal issues but the vote was 7-2 to overturn a lower court ruling that had declared the so-called Peace Cross in Bladensburg unconstitutional in a legal challenge mounted by the American Humanist Association, a group that advocates for secular governance. The concrete cross was erected in 1925 as a memorial to troops killed in World War One.

The ruling made it clear that a long-standing monument in the shape of a Christian cross on public land was permissible but the justices were divided over whether other types of religious displays and symbols on government property would be allowed. Those issues are likely to come before the court in future cases.

Read More Show Less
(Associated Press/Facebook)

A relative of the man who opened fire outside downtown Dallas' federal building this week warned the FBI in 2016 that he shouldn't be allowed to buy a gun because he was depressed and suicidal, his mother said Thursday.

Brian Clyde's half-brother called the FBI about his concerns, their mother Nubia Brede Solis said. Clyde was in the Army at the time.

On Monday, Clyde opened fire with an AR-15-style rifle at the Earle Cabell Federal Building. He was fatally shot by federal law enforcement. No one else was seriously injured. His family believes Clyde wanted to be killed.

Read More Show Less