Beam Weapons - Roots of Reagan's 'Star Wars' is a reprint of my 1984 book Beam Weapons: The Next Arms Race published by Plenum Press, with a brief 2015 Epilogue describing 30 years of further development on laser weapons.
Beam Weapons: The Next Arms Race was the first detailed analysis of the Pentagon's efforts to develop a new generation of "beam" or directed-energy weapons, including lasers, microwaves, and high-energy subatomic particles. Development originally began in the early 1960s with the birth of the laser, and expanded over the next two decades. Most of the programs were already in progress when Ronald Reagan became president in 1981, and they became the roots of Reagan's efforts to develop a strategic defense system, officially called the Strategic Defense Initiative but usually called "Star Wars."
The allure of beam weapons was their potential to direct energy to their targets at or close to the speed of light. Military researchers proposed orbiting laser battle stations which they claimed could track and destroy nuclear missiles thousands of miles away. They talked of charged particle beams that could strike like controlled lightning bolts. Advocates claimed that a fleet of dozens of orbiting lase battle stations could defend the United States against a massive strike by the whole Soviet arsenal of nuclear missiles. Reagan announced his plan in 1983, and by 1984 the Pentagon was ramping up a budget that soon reached billions of dollars a year.
The book explains and analyzes the technology planned for the highly controversial weapon system, and digs into the details of the controversy. Writing from a 1984 perspective, the book shows how challenging the goals were at the time, why opponents worried that that Reagan's plan was dangerous and risked triggering a nuclear war, and why the Reagan administration claimed that such defenses were needed.
It's no secret that this system was never built. A 2015 epilogue briefly describes the fate of the Strategic Defense Initiative and the current development of lower-power, shorter-range laser weapons.
Beam Weapons: Roots of Reagan's 'Star Wars' is available from Amazon.com in both print-on-demand paper and Kindle editions. Ebook versions also are available from Smashwords, Draft2Digital, Apple's iBooks, and other on-line booksellers.
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