I was born in 1973. It was a strange time to grow up, promises of nuclear war almost overshadowed technology promised by films and cartoons.
Lyndon LaRouch began his first (of many) crazed New Hampshire “Live Free Or Die” runs for the U.S. Presidency while I sat in the front seat of a car as a three year old, waiting in a gas line with my mother during OPEC’s boycott of the United States.
What, you may ask, do these things have in common? And why am I mentioning them? Simple. Jet-packs and laser beams.
I’m not sure when I first saw the 1965 film “Thunderball,” but I’m certain that I remember Sean Connery coolly operating a jet-pack. I was so impressed that I needn’t go back and check my facts, it was “Thunderball.”
I knew the movie was older than I was, I asked. I remember being told that it was made in the “late 60’s” by my father. He was wrong.
Nonetheless, if Sean Connery could have one in 65′ certainly I would have one by the time I reached high school. I’m now 40 and still waiting for my jet-pack.
Fast-forward, or rewind to May 25, 1977. Remember, I don’t know when I first saw “Thunderball,” but on that fateful day “Star Wars” was released.
I remember being “dragged” to the Orpheum Theater by my then babysitter, later wife, Dana Bratdorf for the premier of this George Lucas classic set…A long time ago in a galaxy far, far, away. That’s when I first saw a laser beam.
My fascination with the laser beam began then, however, it lasted only a few moments before Darth Vader scared the hell out of me with his boarding of Princess Leia’s ship. After the film finished, we hid under our seats in order to watch it again.
Once again, there it was, the laser beam. And again, this laser beam was from a long time ago. Certainly, if my parents could afford it, my trip to high school with Han Solo’s cool ass blaster and my jet-pack was within our reach.
Fast forward to 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the year I picked up a biography of Lyndon LaRouche. I knew that he was “out there” but I had no idea that he considered himself the father of Star Wars. Not George Lucas’ Star Wars but the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI). A Reagan era program that could be argued, ended the Cold War.
Lasers in space. Lasers in space that I had seen on that fateful day in 1977. Lasers in space that forced the Soviets to fund a program that, again could be argued, ultimately bankrupted them.
So imagine my surprise and delight today when I was forwarded a piece of news from spacedaily.com that said the U.S. Navy would be deploying its first laser next year aboard the USS Ponce.
The hell you say? Turns out it’s true. It’s not super cool yet, but it will be. And with a $1 price tag per directed burst of LASER energy, quite possibly the future.
Oh it is the future? “The future is here,” ONR (Office of Naval Research) official Peter Morrision said.
Wait, less than a dollar?
“Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability,” said Chief of Naval Research Admiral Matthew Klunder in a US Navy statement.
Really, a laser? You mean it? (I’m sorry but I’m still lost in the wonder of 77′, and need to ask questions as though I was 4 years old again).
“The solid-state laser is a big step forward to revolutionizing modern warfare with directed energy, just as gunpowder did in the era of knives and swords.”
But what can it do?
Apparently, it will be capable of disabling small enemy vessels and shooting down surveillance drones immediately, with the goal of bringing down missiles and planes not that far of a stretch once testing begins.
A March 14 report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Center said the new weapon was a potential game-changer in naval warfare. (Of course it is, duh (sorry kid again), it’s a laser. Haven’t you been listening!)
“Compared to existing ship self-defense systems, such as missiles and guns, lasers could provide Navy surface ships with a more cost effective means of countering certain surface, air, and ballistic missile targets,” the report read.
One forty-year old kid’s dreams just came true today. However, given the U.S. Navy’s present use of dolphins, I fear Dr. Evil is going to get his “sharks with frickin’ laser beams” before I ever get my jet-pack.