Missile Command with frickin’ lasers

Those of us who remember playing Missile Command in the arcade are far too familiar with this situation:


See the missile base in the middle? The one that says “LOW”? That might as well say “You are running low on ammo…kiss at least one city good-bye, sucker.” (The computer graphics in the early 80s made this sort of message difficult to display clearly, so they just stuck with “LOW”…)

Northrup Grumman has an alternative to the “running out of missiles” plan:


Skyguard is derived from the successful Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) test bed and its predecessors developed by Northrop Grumman for the U.S. Army and the Israel Ministry of Defence. Benefiting from significant technological advancements, Skyguard has higher power than heritage systems and a larger beam, making it a much more capable system, the company said…

A single Skyguard system can defend deployed forces, a large military installation, and/or a large civilian population or industrial area. One Skyguard system is capable of generating a protective shield of about 10 kilometers in diameter.

Incidentally, if the pictured city is really under simultaneous attack by ballistic missiles, sub-launched ballistic missiles, cruise missiles, and someone with a SAM shooting at aircraft, I suspect that it doesn’t matter what kind of defenses they have.

Game over, man! Game over!



  1. Fwiw, the arcade version of Missile Command as well as the Atari 2600 model are available at Gametap. I’ve not tried ’em, just sayin’…

  2. Israeli Defense Forces: ‘We’ll take 10!’ I will really be impressed when it can take out incoming artillery and mortars.

  3. Ok, now again in the right place, does anyone know of any microwave based missile defense systems? I know you can’t focus microwaves down to as small a spot, but given some of the defensive capabilities they are claiming for the electronically scanned radar in the nose of the F-22 make me think that some ground based, high wattage microwave antennas might be pretty effective against incoming missiles too. It would be more environmentally friendly as well, since I understand most of the chemicals used in the high output chemical lasers are pretty darn nasty. Not as nasty as having a nuke detonated over a major US city, of course. It’s unfortunate that missile defense has been such a political football. It is even more unfortunate that US defense contractors have been able to use that status to suck so much money out of missile defense funding while providing so little in return. They give really good chart, though.

  4. RE: Microwave – wasn’t Lockheed-Martin looking a microwave system for use defending airliners during take off and lading from MANPADS?

  5. Skyguard is a money suck. While its true that the cost per shot (10K per shot)is much cheaper then a missile – you still have to carry around tons of chemicals. Meaning that this is a fixed site defense. Its rate of fire is not that great, so if you had a serious attack you would need multiple sites. The true laser system is a solid-state laser system. Personally I would go for a rapid fire rail gun as the ultimate defensive system. As for microwave defenses – yes you can focus microwaves. That said, targeting a nuclear warhead with a microwave beam is a hard sell. A warhead is incredibly resistance to EMP effects and it physical structure is very resistant to heat effects. That said, a well timed microwave burst in the assent phase can do wonders. I don’t of any serious microwave defense plans except maybe for the HARRP project up in Alaska. (And its debateble if it could used vs a missile, but you never know.)

  6. I can only presume that there may be atmospheric effects when firing microwaves through atmosphere. This only coming from the problem that radio waves dont travel as far in the morning due to ionisation of the atmosphere. Another point is that microwaves I think (don’t quote me) dissapate their energy quickly, therefore not having a decent range – hence mobile phone transmitters have to be dotted all over the countryside.

  7. Microwaves do lose their strength in the atmosphere, but no more than a light beam does. Also, microwaves aren’t as affected by clouds or water vapor in general. An enemy might not pick a clear day to attack. Microwaves would work on the hostile missile in the same manner as laser light does. Both can be focused on a spot to burn through the exterior structure. The only difference is that microwaves, because of their longer wave length, cannot be focused on as small of a spot. The larger area of the spot would mean more comparably power would be needed to heat that area sufficiently to punch through.

  8. I just thought of something. If my own inadvertent experiments with microwaving aluminum are anything to go by, focusing a microwave beam on a missile might work pretty well. I know my oven at home burns holes in aluminum foil very quickly. The microwaves cause eddy currents to form in the metal, which causes certain spots to heat up very quickly. It also causes the arcing and sparking. So far I’ve avoided heating anything like 0.050 thick aluminum sheet in there. I’m obviously not very dedicated to missile defense research.

  9. The first article was interesting too. Their applications seem to be more involved in jamming than burning. I’m not sure why they couldn’t lens the beams to concentrate the energy a little more. I suppose that would complicate beam direction considerably.

  10. does anyone know how effectively microwaves can be focused at very short range e.g. upto 3-4 metres and what apparatus would be involved? is there anywhere i could find this out? its for the good of mankind.. honest