Despite receiving a record-high $11.5 billion budget in 2018, the US Missile Defense Agency is poised to receive an extra $50 million in 2019 for a missile defense program that it did not ask Congress to fund: one that would mount lasers on drones.
Congress is set to allocate $50 million for the MDA to advance an effort to build a robust interceptor that can thwart a missile during its “boost phase,” the missile’s initial flight, according to a July 23 conference version of the National Defense Authorization Act (or NDAA, a bill that is passed every year authorizing, but not appropriating, funds for defense programs).
The agency did not ask for any funding to study “laser scaling for a boost phase intercept capability,” according to Jen Judson, writing for Defense News. The Senate pushed for $80 million towards the study to get a boost-phase interceptor up and running, but the House’s proposal to put $50 million toward the effort “won out” in conference, Defense News noted. (Conference refers to the process through which staffers from the Senate and the House meet and negotiate their differences before sending a final bill to the president.)
A summary of the NDAA draft says that the concept for a boost phase interceptor is to attach a laser to an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The act authorizes MDA to develop the tech in conjunction with Japan and South Korea; the US Naval Institute has said that boost-phase interceptor tech could enhance US…