The Nation

The military has begun top-secret ground tests of a laser that would be the first powerful enough to damage or destroy orbiting targets as part of the Reagan Administration's controversial "Star Wars" plan, a published report said. The New York Times said the first full-scale military tests of the 2 million-watt laser began under tight security Dec. 23 at a TRW Inc. facility in a secluded valley near San Juan Capistrano. The laser, which has encountered technical and political problems since it was conceived a decade ago, is scheduled to be launched into space by the early 1990s as part of the nation's defense against nuclear missiles, the newspaper said. Richard Garcia, a spokesman for the Air Force Weapons Laboratory in Albuquerque, N.M., which runs the laser program for the Pentagon, said the test involved the cold flow of fuel through the laser, but gases would be ignited in later tests.

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