WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon
needs to conduct more test-firings of a laser at orbiting Air
Force satellites in order to better understand how an enemy might
disrupt American satellites in time of war, the
commander-in-chief of U.S. Space Command said today.
"We should understand our vulnerabilities," Air Force Gen. Richard Myers told reporters. "This is a program that needs to be developed and fleshed out," he added later.
Myers, who will leave his post at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., next month to become vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on March 1, said other countries are developing "laser dazzlers" that could interfere with U.S. satellites. He would not identify these countries, but China is known to be developing such a weapon.
The U.S. military is increasingly dependent on satellites in both peacetime and in war.
The Pentagon conducted such a "laser dazzler" test against one of its satellites in October 1997 using the Army's MIRACL laser, an acronym for the 1980s-vintage Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser, which is based at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.
That test marked the first time the United States had fired a high-powered laser at a satellite in orbit. Afterward, the Pentagon said the test failed to achieve one of its main objectives because the laser beam's impact was not recorded as planned.
In his remarks at a Pentagon news conference, Myers said Space Command's operations were not affected by any Y2K-related computer problems.
He declined to discuss a breakdown on New Year's Eve of a ground station that processes data from intelligence satellites operated by the National Reconnaissance Office. That system was knocked out for several hours by a Y2K glitch and not fully restored until Monday morning. Myers said the breakdown had no military significance as far as he knew.