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The world is becoming a dangerous place to live, life has always hung by a slender thread but that was largely due to the ravages of nature. Whilst nature’s wrath can be severe man has always managed to recover somehow, against the odds. It had been that way for thousands of years and might have continued in that vein had it not been for the technical “Advances” of the Second World War and the search for super weapons of unimaginable destructive power that man could now wipe out whole cities in an instant. The work of Robert Oppenheimer and Edward Teller in consultation with Albert Einstein on the Manhattan Project gave birth to a weapon of mass destruction that knows no equal. The Atomic Bomb.  On seeing the devastation of the newly created weapon Oppenheimer’s prophetic words were “Behold I am come the destroyer of worlds” .The phrase has haunted man ever since.
The first weapon use in anger was used against Japan at Hiroshima and a few days later a second device was deployed above Nagasaki, The demonstration brought the capitulation of Japan and arguably saved thousands of lives but the lid of Pandora’s box was now open and no power on Earth would ever be able to close it with its content intact. Within ten years a second super power had the technology, very soon after several more joined the select quorum of nations to posses Nuclear Technology and whilst most maintained the facade that the technology was for peaceful purposes the weaponry began to appear wherever a country that had the capability paraded its military might in public. The original “delivery” system of the weapon was by aircraft but by the mid/late fifties this was being replaced by pre-programmed missile delivery systems with some of the principles being drawn from the scientific advances of the Third Reich and Nazi Germany.

The arms race had begun and newer, more efficient delivery methods were developed including missile defence systems, anti-missile missiles connected into early warning systems. Yet however sophisticated the missile defence systems became counter-measures and counter-counter measures left the uncomfortable reality that some attacking missiles would penetrate whatever measures were deployed to prevent them, and collateral damage was inevitable. There was also the problem of failed missile attacks, if an intercepted missile was destroyed where would it fall? How much of it would survive? Would it be useful to an enemy? Could more efficient counter measures be developed from the wreckage if the perpetrator of the attack did not recover all of the wreckage? There was much to consider.

No one could have predicted that a one time “B movie” actor would eventually become the President of what is arguably the most powerful nation on Earth and certainly the most technically adept. The USA. From the outset no one really took anything he said seriously but under his administration a program began that military minds did not think viable, political opinion thought it far fetched and at the time scientific opinion had little faith that it was even feasible. The idea was “Straight of a film set” and the film everyone had in mind was “Star Wars”. The Idea was a “Sky net” of lasers that would detect and burn up incoming missiles before they got close enough to do their damage. It sounded like a fiction that had no place in reality but recent tests suggest that science fiction is once again about to become science fact.
The idea involved the development of a “Particle charged beam weapon” that could fry a missile in flight on its way to its target. The question then arose what sort of platform could use such a weapon. At first it was thought to fit naval operations best but ships by their nature are slow in comparison to aircraft, though at the time the equipment was too heavy to be carried in the air. That is until Boeing undertook to modify a Boeing 747- 400 cargo plane to carry an airborne laser. It is designated as YAL-1A and it carries a high intensity laser weapon that is charged with a high voltage that can be directed against a target. The advances in technology have reduced the size of the generation equipment that is required to supply the particle to the lasers and the YAL-1A is now capable of producing in excess of one megawatt to charge any of its six laser weapons. The YAL-series were originally intended as a device to redirect energy via their laser cannons from six satellites in low Earth orbit strategically arranged as accumulators of solar energy. There were two original purposes, Firstly they could be used to neutralise ground installations e.g. launch sites for missiles ect. and secondly to act as energy storage platforms for the YAL to draw power to use against missiles in their early boost stages of intercontinental flight. The same weapon also had another purpose that was even deeper into the realms of science fiction; the accumulators could also be re-tasked to defend the Earth against malevolent terrestrial bodies that frequently threaten collision with our planet. Comets Asteroids and meteorites are becoming more frequent visitors to Earth and it is no longer a question of “If “ but the certainty of when. As the Earth’s population increases the areas occupied demand that a defence of the planet is at least possible.
The YAL-1A is in an “Intermediate” stage of its development and is not expected to be fully operational before 2008 but the plan is to produce a wing of six operational YAL-1A aircraft by 2010.

The advent of such a weapon will to an extent neutralise many of the existing nuclear related treaties such as, The Test Ban Treaty and The Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty but the use of such aircraft could render many of the world’s nuclear weapons un-useable in a theatre of war. The United States are not alone in this research, as it is believed that Russia is also developing a particle beam weapon for the same purposes.

The genie of Nuclear weapons has for more than fifty years been kept inside an expanding bottle, There are now believed to be some 36 countries capable of uranium enrichment and therefore the construction [in theory at least] of a nuclear bomb. Recently it has become apparent that two states regarded as members of “The Axis of Evil” by the US have advanced to the brim of nuclear technology.

One, Iran still maintains that its research is for “peaceful purposes” though their development of a long-range missile that could be used to deliver a nuclear device gives reason to doubt their declared intent. The state of Iran is a publicly declared enemy of Israel sworn to its destruction; their latest missile is capable of delivering a nuclear device to downtown Tel Aviv. The location of Iran on the border of Iraq gives further reason for concern. Iran has its own source of uranium ore and the power and technology to develop it.

The other fledgling member of the “Nuclear club” is North Korea. Seismographic monitoring stations in Norway and Hawaii detected what was thought to be an explosion of a nuclear device in a mountainous region of the north of North Korea close to both the Chinese and the Russian borders. A statement from the DRPK said, “That they had tested a nuclear device”. Less than one month previous to the test the same regime rejected the peace agreement that installed the 38th parallel as the border between North and South Korea and ended the Korean war. One year before the test the North Koreans tested a missile with a range of 100 miles, three months before the test a second missile was tested, its range was thought to be 4000miles, which would put parts of Alaska and Hawaii within range. North Korea does not have its own source of uranium but it is known to have a stockpile of 40-50Kgs. of plutonium, which is enough to construct at least 6 nuclear devices. North Korea has very little electricity generating capacity of its own and more than 70% of its requirement comes from China so it cannot really lay claim to Iran’s subterfuge. It is plainly aggressive research and development intended for conflict.

Until quite recently the spread of nuclear technology has been limited by agreement, diplomacy and restrictions upon the transport and sale of the raw material concerned, uranium but there is increasing concern among the “Nuclear community” that the genie has left the bottle and will never return. If an alternative method of control is not found to neutralise nuclear threats to world peace when agreement is flouted, diplomacy is reduced to lip service and treaties are not worth the paper they are written upon then the world as we know it will regress to the stone age where kill or be killed was the only means of survival.


Posted: October 31, 2006 

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