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“We are on track for a shootdown in 2009,” said Mike Rinn, a Boeing Corp. vice president and program director for the Airborne Laser. Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin are also part of the project under the Missile Defense Agency.

A flight test of the Boeing 747 laser that will attempt to shoot down a missile is set for next year.

Mr. Rinn said the test Monday included a series of seven high-energy bursts of the laser that each lasted less than a second. “We call that first light,” he said.

The laser gun was built inside the back of the Boeing-747 jetliner and uses chemicals to generate a high-powered beam that will be fired out the nose of the aircraft. The system is considered a “boost-phase” missile attacker that will strike missiles in the early phase of flight.

Mr. Rinn said the test was significant because it was the first time a megawatt laser gun was outfitted in an aircraft and coupled with a beam control system. “This is a first for our nation and a first in the world,” he said.

Petraeus guidance

Army Gen. David H. Petraeus leaves command of U.S. forces in Baghdad on Sept. 16 and is widely credited with developing and implementing the increasingly successful counterinsurgency campaign in Iraq. He recently sent out a memorandum to all troops outlining the strategy for defeating al Qaeda and other insurgents and for bringing stability to Iraq.

The first order of the general’s July 15 statement is to “secure and serve the population.”

“The Iraqi people are the decisive ‘terrain,’” he stated. Other guidance is to live among the people, hold areas that are secured and “pursue the enemy relentlessly.”

“Identify and pursue Al Qaeda-Iraq and other extremist elements tenaciously,” he said. “Do not let them retain support areas or sanctuaries. Force the enemy to respond to us. Deny the enemy the ability to plan and conduct deliberate operations,” he said.

In addition to force, other assets must be used to defeat the terrorists and insurgents, he said, including a “comprehensive approach that employs all forces and all means at our disposal - non-kinetic as well as kinetic.”

He also urged promoting reconciliation, noting that “we cannot kill our way out of this endeavor.”

Counterinsurgency plans call for defeating terrorist and insurgent networks, using intelligence agents to find leaders, explosives experts, financiers, suppliers and operators.

The four-star general, who will lead the U.S. Central Command, called for using money as a weapons system, gathering intelligence aggressively and sending it to those that need it.

The general also called for conducting aggressive information operations to counter terrorist propaganda.

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