Laser Jet's Toxic Interior

It turns out those scary Air Force documents are good for something other than guiding firefighters and triggering panicked headlines. They also show just how hard it would be to actually make a laser-firing 747 work.abl_patch.jpgThe $7.3 billion Airborne Laser is the Air Force's attempt to refit a commercial 747 jet with a chemical-powered laser. But it hasn't been easy -- missed deadlines, bloated budgets, you name it.One of the bigger problems is the chemicals needed to start the laser chain-reaction aren't exactly the most stable and healthiest things to have around: 1,000 pounds of chlorine, 1,000 pounds of ammonia, 12,000 pounds of hydrogen peroxide, 220 gallons of sulphuric acid.They're so toxic, in fact, that the Air Force documents recommend that "all personnel must be [in the] forward [part of the plane] "during taxi, takeoff, and landing." Going to the Airborne Laser's aft "in flight is only allowed during a declared emergency, and then only for the absolute minimum duration, in Level A hazmat suit."Now, some folks out there have been pushing the Airborne Laser, hard. They really dig the idea of energy weapons, and want to see one built, finally, after decades of promising.I think it's safe to say that anyone visiting this site has a soft spot for ray guns. But a weapon with limited range, a handful of shots, in-flight maintenance costs of $92,000 per hour, and enough chemicals that the crew has to wear hazmat suits to stay aboard? I'd rather wait for my energy weapons, thank you very much.(Big ups: Michael)

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