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Airborne Laser Nears Next Shootdown Attempt: The Missile Defense Agency has announced plans to conduct another flight experiment with the Airborne Laser Test Bed by month's end. It will be an attempt to shoot down a solid-fuel ballistic missile off the southern California coast with the test bed's lethal megawatt laser. Back in February, ALTB destroyed a boosting Scud missile-type target from a distance of about 50 miles. Attempts in August to bring down a missile at twice that distance were delayed due to issues with test equipment and ALTB components. During a subsequent test bed flight on Sept. 1, a software anomaly thwarted the attempt to bring down a liquid-fuel, short-range ballistic missile. Once the software repair is validated, ALTB will go up against the solid-fuel missile. MDA is also in the planning stages for a mid-October flight test to lase a missile at even greater distances. (MDA release)