Once upon a time, Ronald Reagan inaugurated a missile defense program so costly, it helped bring down the Soviet Union.
Grandiosely dubbed the "Strategic Defense Initiative," and quickly relabeled "Star Wars" by its critics, SDI was a convoluted network of ground- and satellite-based laser guns, particle beam accelerators, rocket-interceptors, and even "brilliant pebbles." Scientists criticized Reagan's dream as "unrealistic, even unscientific" ... and it's only gone downhill from there.
Two decades after SDI's demise, Boeing
Yesterday, in a little-noticed announcement, a rump-SDI program now known as "Ground-Based Midcourse Defense (GBMD) experienced its second failure in a row, when an interceptor rocket cleanly missed a dummy ballistic missile launched from Kwajalein Atoll. Counting Wednesday's miss, GBMD is now batting eight for 15 on its attempts to knock out in-flight ICBMs. Meanwhile, Boeing's other foray into the Star Wars game -- it's sci-fi-reminiscent Airborne Laser (ABL), isn't doing much better. In October it, too, marked its second-in-a-row failure to shoot down a target.
What's it mean for investors?
Fools looking for a winner in Wednesday's news will doubtless latch onto Lockheed Martin
To be crystal clear here, Gates already thought GBMD was a multibillion-dollar boondoggle before Wednesday's failure. His boss at the White House is talking about upping its $100 billion in planned defense cuts. And now, Boeing has just painted a big red bull's-eye on itself -- telling the budget cutters where to swing the axe.
Star Wars, you say? If you ask me, this project is looking more like Space Balls.
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