US fires army laser to test its own satellites

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The United States will fire two brief but powerful laser beams at an ageing American satellite in the next few days to test the vulnerability of its satellite systems, defense department officials said. "Secretary of Defense William Cohen has today approved an experiment that will be used to reduce the vulnerability of US satellite systems," the Pentagon said in a brief statement released after a Nato defence ministers' meeting in the Netherlands.

Ken Bacon, a spokesman for Mr Cohen, told reporters in the Netherlands that the two brief beams will be fired at an orbiting US Airforce satellite from the army laser, called the Mid-Infra-Red Advance Chemical Laser (Miracl), from White Sands missile range in the New Mexico desert. They would not try to destroy the satellite, he added.