Star Wars, miniaturized

(via Engadget)

Reagan’s Star Wars program never really took off. That doesn’t mean it was a bad idea – it just wasn’t technologically feasible at the time. Time marches on, technology gets better, and some smart cookies come up with less-ambitious projects with similar goals.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Northrop Grumman forecast Wednesday a potential “very large” market for a laser-based system it has developed to shield airports and other installations from rockets, ballistic missiles and other threats.

Los Angeles-based Northrop (Charts) said it had already pitched the system, called Skyguard, to Israel, which worked with the company and the Army to develop the technology.

Northrop also is pushing Skyguard – described as capable of generating a shield five kilometers in radius – to each of the armed services and the Department of Homeland Security, company executives told a news briefing.

The technology looks to be in the $25-30 million per installation range.  Once produced in large quantities, that is.  And here’s the current sticking point:

For the United States, an initial unit could be ready in 18 months for $150 million to $200 million, added Dan Wildt, Northrop’s director of business development for directed energy systems.

Ahhhh, the ever elusive 18 month ready-date.  This is cool technology, really.  And if it comes together and really works, I could see instances where the cost is justifiable.  But as folks who know me can attest, I’m always skeptical of gee-whiz products with availability dates more than a few months out.  Not that I doubt this will happen – just that I doubt it will happen in the estimated time frame at the estimated price.

[tags]Northrop Grumman, Missile defense shield, Laser shield[/tags]