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Boeing's ATL laser recently burnt a hole through the fender of a moving target. The ATL is seen here during testing, mounted on the belly of the Hercules C-130H gunship (see the white dome in the craft's front underbelly).  (Source: Ed Turner, Boeing)

Boeing's ATL laser burns a hole in a car in an earlier test of a strike on a stationary vehicle.  (Source: Boeing)

A closeup of the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) shows its scale with respect to a human.  (Source: Washington Post)
New laser can cut through traditional unarmored vehicles

Warfare is quickly advancing and the U.S. military and its contractors in the private sector are cooking up all sorts of exotic next generation weapons.  Among those that may soon be hitting battlefields include smarter killer soldier-bots, improved UAVs, exoskeletons, semi-autonomous fighting vehicles, railguns, and spy airships.  However, one of the future weapons that always excites the most is the high-power laser.

Leading this field is defense contractor Boeing, whose directed-energy chemical laser is causing quite a stir in the defense circles.  Dubbed the "Advanced Tactical Laser" (ATL), the new weapon is already being field tested aboard modified Hercules C-130H test aircraft.  Boeing is also testing another variant dubbed the "Laser Avenger" aboard its Humvees, designed to shoot down UAVs.

The laser aboard the gunship weighs approximately 6 tons, with the entire weapons system weighing 20 tons.  Limited shots may initially limit the device's capabilities, somewhat.  It may be only able to muster 6 shots, according to current estimates.  Eventually, Boeing is aiming for a 100 to 300 kW laser with up to 100 shots.  The C-130H, though, likely features a lower kW design. 

The laser is mounted to a ball turret on the aircraft's belly.  It requires toxic chemicals to refuel, a tricky process.  The beam generated is approximately 10 cm in diameter and cuts like a blowtorch.

In the most recent round of testing the ATL managed to score a hit on a moving vehicle, burning a hole through its fender.  In an earlier test in September, Boeing pronounced that it hit a stationary ground vehicle with the laser and had "defeated" it.  Videos of this test can be seen here.  With the subsequent remote-controlled, moving vehicle test, Boeing offered for a more conservative statement, saying a hit was scored and the vehicle was "damaged".  Boeing would not reveal specifics on the vehicle or its armor, but it was presumably unarmored.

The testing was carried out at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, with the aircraft flying out of Kirtland Air Force Base, located near Albuquerque.

Gary Fitzmire, VP of the Boeing Missile Defense Systems' Directed Energy Systems unit, was cautiously optimistic about the test, stating, "In this test, a directed energy weapon successfully demonstrated direct attack on a moving target.  ATL has now precisely targeted and engaged both stationary and moving targets, demonstrating the transformational versatility of this speed-of-light, ultra-precision engagement capability that will dramatically reduce collateral damage."

The greatest promise of the aircraft is its ability to make stealthy strikes.  It will be hard for enemies to prove that the U.S. gunship is to blame, as the results are less obtrusive than a bomb or missile.  The gunship can fire on targets from up to 9 miles away.

Boeing is also developing a larger raygun, dubbed the "Airborne Laser" that's mounted in a 747 jet.  Boeing hopes to field the beefier nose-mounted design to shoot down ballistic missiles in case of a nuclear threat.  Competitor Northrop Grumman has also fielded a 100 kW laser.

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Easily defeated?
By kgwagner on 10/14/2009 3:30:58 PM , Rating: 2
Since laser is just light, however intense, what effect could it have on highly reflective targets? I know if I was going to be firing missiles around where I thought there might be lasers firing, I'd be adding a mirror finish to the exteriors of those munitions. Fire a laser at one of those, and you'll not only leave it unaffected, it'll reflect onto something else you may not want to hit.

RE: Easily defeated?
By highlandsun on 10/14/2009 3:37:14 PM , Rating: 2
It's not so easy to keep a mirror finish on an object traveling at mach 5 through a dirty environment. As soon as any flaws occur in the finish, the laser energy will get absorbed there.

RE: Easily defeated?
By PAPutzback on 10/14/2009 3:42:13 PM , Rating: 3
So now, instead of painting a target with a laser you would use a paintball gun.

RE: Easily defeated?
By captchaos2 on 10/14/2009 5:05:27 PM , Rating: 2
No, you would paint the target with a laser so they can hit it with another laser with a laser sight on it.

RE: Easily defeated?
By shaw on 10/15/2009 2:28:16 PM , Rating: 5
Wrong, you're not allowed to cross the streams.

RE: Easily defeated?
By Belard on 10/16/2009 5:35:35 AM , Rating: 2
What happens if you cross the steams?

RE: Easily defeated?
By ipay on 10/19/2009 10:25:58 AM , Rating: 2
It would be bad.

RE: Easily defeated?
By Hawkido on 10/19/2009 2:05:09 PM , Rating: 2
It would al end with sticky melted Marshmellow...
You know how hard that stuff is to get out of your hair?

RE: Easily defeated?
By Creig on 10/14/2009 3:46:45 PM , Rating: 3
In your scenario, this now highly visible missile could easily be seen, targeted and destroyed by more convention means instead.

RE: Easily defeated?
By Redwin on 10/14/2009 3:55:15 PM , Rating: 5
High energy lasers aren't reflected by normal mirrors (and in this instance "normal" encompasses everything you could conceivably paint on the outside of a missile)

Mirrors that can redirect near-megawatt-class lasers are extremely expensive and hard to create. The reason is if even a tiny percentage of the laser energy is absorbed instead of reflected (think spec of dust on the surface of the mirror, much less any imperfections in the surface itself), the mirror heats up, changes its reflective properties, heats up more, and melts (or explodes) pretty much instantly.

Making mirrors to AIM these high powered laser weapons and keeping them perfectly cleaned and aligned in a wartime environment is actually one of the tougher engineering challenges.

In short an effective mirror-based defense for a laser weapon in the hundreds of megawatts is simply not feasible.

RE: Easily defeated?
By Jacerie on 10/14/2009 4:03:34 PM , Rating: 3
With the prospect of laser weapon systems becoming more common, all our bored METM engineers will be working their asses off trying to find a good ablative armor that can absorb the blast from one of these things.

RE: Easily defeated?
By Redwin on 10/14/2009 4:51:11 PM , Rating: 5
Exactly. The way to make laser armor is with a material that can dissipate the heat as fast as the laser can give it (or at least well enough to not fail under a reasonable length of exposure)

The tiles on the space shuttle would probably be a good place to start, but since all the materials with those sorts of properties are (as far as I know) very delicate and brittle, it seems like creating any kind of armor that could both protect against traditional HE-AT rounds and also dissipate laser weapon energy reasonably well would be extremely difficult.

Perhaps some composite with heat dissipating tiles on the outside, and traditional composite armor underneath? You'd have to accept that any traditional shot would destroy the heat tiles it impacted before stopping at the composite armor, but that's better than armoring your tank only with super light weight ceramics.

RE: Easily defeated?
By Omega215D on 10/14/2009 9:11:33 PM , Rating: 3
As long as they don't take notes from the Star Wars Storm Troopers armor. Boy were those things ineffective, one blast and all you hear is "augghhhh"

Storm Trooper: "there they are! Blast them!"

RE: Easily defeated?
By Hogger1 on 10/15/2009 9:09:23 AM , Rating: 2
Isn't that the truth. It didn't even really protect them from the Ewok's sticks and stones.

RE: Easily defeated?
By johnsonx on 10/16/2009 12:44:41 PM , Rating: 2
yeah, on both counts, I always wondered why the storm troopers wore armor if it didn't protect them against anything.

RE: Easily defeated?
By mindless1 on 10/14/2009 9:37:02 PM , Rating: 2
You are overlooking that this isn't an infinite amount of energy nor duration. It doesn't have to perfectly reflect it all away, just reduce absorbed energy by a significant amount.

Remember, the laser isn't all THAT powerful to instantly vaporize the target, so for now it's entirely realistic to create a surface coating that would reflect at least a few dozen % if not more, or simply mount a mirror on the vehicle but in that lies the problem of tracking enemy vehicles carrying the lasers so you can aim the mirror but since these lasers aren't fitting on many vehicles for the time being it won't be difficult.

We need to remember this is not a finished weapon, it's just early testing necessary for further development.

RE: Easily defeated?
By Hawkido on 10/19/2009 2:16:36 PM , Rating: 2
The only effective way to defeat a High Powered Laser attack is to eject a cloud of dust when struck, such that the cloud is ejected into the beam path, scattering the photons before they can superheat the Normal armor to the point of failure. The only problem is you cannot protect troops, light armor, or unarmored vehicles with this method, as the cloud armor will be superheated instead of the conventional armor, thus cooking anything, quite effectively, in the cloud, possibly even detonating ordanance/fuel.

You should look at the photos of the first runs of this beam weapon when they didn't keep the beam enclosed in a dust proof chamber. Motes of dust took off like comets and burnt holes in the sides of the 747 that they were test firing this beam from... I think it was one of the tests in the 80's.

RE: Easily defeated?
By ipay on 10/19/2009 10:27:41 AM , Rating: 2
it seems like creating any kind of armor that could both protect against traditional HE-AT rounds and also dissipate laser weapon energy reasonably well would be extremely difficult

So layer them.

RE: Easily defeated?
By Solandri on 10/15/2009 3:04:44 AM , Rating: 2
Just to give you some numbers, aluminum coated mirrors (the most common type) are only about 90% reflective. 10% of the energy which hits them is absorbed. Silver is about the best there is, able to hit about 93%-95%, and is used on high-end optical telescope mirrors for this reason; but obviously has problems with tarnishing. Nickel/chrome, which is probably the most durable common reflective surface, is about 80%-90% reflective.

For better reflectivity, you need to move to prisms, which take advantage of a phenomenon called total internal reflection. At certain angles, 100% of the light energy is reflected. The most common applications are in fiber optics, SLR camera viewfinders and porro prism binoculars, and gem-cut jewelry.

If you look at the third picture, you can see the colors of the anti-reflective coatings on the glass bubble the laser is designed to fire through. Normal glass is about 93%-95% transmissive (5%-7% of the light energy which hits it is reflected). With a laser this powerful, that much reflection would probably destroy the laser and housing. A single anti-reflective coating can improve this to about 97% transmission. Multi-coatings can get you up around 99.5%-99.8%, and produce the characteristic multi-color sheen you see on camera lenses and in the picture.

RE: Easily defeated?
By 3DoubleD on 10/15/2009 1:26:19 PM , Rating: 2
It would be much easier to deposit a half wavelength interference film on the surface of any object you would like to protect. Assuming all of these lasers use the same laser technology, they should have identical wavelength outputs. Knowing this output wavelength you can create a nearly 100% reflective surface. If you deposited this over a metal a laser weapon would be very ineffective. If you coated a missile with a polished metal surface with a highly heat resistant material, like SiC, it would be virtually impossible to shoot down with a laser. Depositing thin films such as this is extremely easy to do, even in mass production. While I doubt small unorganized enemies will be able to do it, I'm sure any respectable military force that feels that this technology is a threat could easily implement it.

RE: Easily defeated?
By Samus on 10/15/09, Rating: -1
RE: Easily defeated?
By SpaceJumper on 10/17/2009 3:18:27 PM , Rating: 2
Not true. It depends on the wavelength of the laser and the lens has to be designed for the deflection of that laser frequency. The efficiency of the lens can be up to 99.999%.
It doesn't matter what the frequency of the laser is, the power of the laser is greatly reduced by the air, dust and clouds. It could only work effectively in the range of one to two miles with a one megawatt laser class.

RE: Easily defeated?
By nafhan on 10/14/2009 4:03:20 PM , Rating: 2
Newer Russian rocket and warhead designs do something along those lines.

RE: Easily defeated?
By HrilL on 10/14/2009 5:17:22 PM , Rating: 1
the aegis system uses active tracking and it can track around 600 objects at a time. While the new Russian rockets have interesting defenses I don't think they'll be too much for our tacking systems. It is not as if we track the angle of flight and speed and automatically calculate is location. Aegis actively tracks objects in real time. Seems like we're always a few steps ahead of the Russians.

RE: Easily defeated?
By blowfish on 10/14/2009 11:34:06 PM , Rating: 1
Seems like we're always a few steps ahead of the Russians.

Absolutely! Like getting the first satellite into orbit.... the first man in orbit, the longest duration for a man in orbit. Add to that, the largest yielding hydrogen bomb, the development of reactive armour for tanks and vectored thrust for air superiority fighters - oh, wait a minute, those were all Russian achievements. Hmmm.

RE: Easily defeated?
By StevoLincolnite on 10/15/09, Rating: -1
RE: Easily defeated?
By AntiV6 on 10/15/2009 7:27:26 PM , Rating: 2
Thrust vectoring really is a moot point nowadays... All it does is show off a feature that would never be used in combat at public air shows.

In reality, there will be almost no more dog fighting like you see in movies such as Top Gun. Almost all air-to-air combat occurs miles apart when one pilot sees the other on his radar and sends out an AIM-9X.

If you approach the argument of superior Air-to-air fighters, the F-22 is still miles ahead of the closest rusky warplane.

About the Tsar Bomba(largest nuclear warhead) I'd rather have multiple smaller ICBM's that are unstoppable, cheaper, and don't require a plane that can be shot down to deliver it. Just my two cents though.

RE: Easily defeated?
By lemonparty2 on 10/16/2009 3:07:50 AM , Rating: 3
Except that for all its costs F-22 has never, ever actually been used in a combat mission for a real world test of its abilities, since due to brilliance in design it cannot be launched from carriers, and is thereby limited to defending the US airspace from Mexicans or something.

RE: Easily defeated?
By Headfoot on 10/19/2009 12:21:51 AM , Rating: 2
Ay Caramba

RE: Easily defeated?
By 91TTZ on 10/19/2009 2:00:41 PM , Rating: 2
Those were all Soviet developments, and the Soviet Union collapsed and no longer exists.

RE: Easily defeated?
By MrPoletski on 10/15/09, Rating: -1
RE: Easily defeated?
By MrPoletski on 10/15/09, Rating: 0
RE: Easily defeated?
By ArcliteHawaii on 10/15/2009 4:22:59 PM , Rating: 3
I don't know that Russian missile tech is far ahead of the US. They have far less money for research than we do, and our manufacturing ability far exceeds theirs. However, the Russians are very clever and well educated (esp in math and sciences), and have some interesting and unique technology. Certainly, going up against Russia or a client state armed with their newest technology would incur losses on our side. And those losses would probably be heavy enough to force both sides to do their best to avoid a shooting war in the first place. Certainly such a war would not be the same as fighting against Iraq a few years back.

As far as your claims of superior tech, please provide links. Thanks.

RE: Easily defeated?
By lemonparty2 on 10/16/2009 3:19:09 AM , Rating: 2
The Russian S-400 anti-aircraft missile has over twice the range of Patriot PAC-3, and in tests has been able to hit ballistic missiles in flight. Even the prospect of last-generation S-300s getting in the hands of Iran has been causing great headaches for US and Israel. Air-to-air AA-12's are likewise superior to AMRAAMs in range and maneuverability. There are definitely areas where the US is dominating, but the Russians do know their missiles.

RE: Easily defeated?
By ArcliteHawaii on 10/16/2009 7:23:34 PM , Rating: 2
Russians do know their missiles.

That's the math and science training among other things. They don't have swaths of religious fundamentalists dictating school curriculum like the US does.

I know that the Navy is extremely concerned with ships in the Persian gulf having to go up against Iranian owned, Russian built SS-N-22 Sunburn anti ship missiles should a shooting war with Iran begin. I understand these are hard missiles to defeat. Whether they are superior to the Harpoon is an open question, but my inclination would be to say probably not. However, it probably wouldn't matter if the weapon is effective enough and cheaper to boot.

Do you have links to the S400 and AA 12 testing?

RE: Easily defeated?
By Headfoot on 10/19/2009 12:23:19 AM , Rating: 2
And the liberal english professors telling me being a trasvestite is good is any better?

RE: Easily defeated?
By ipay on 10/19/2009 10:42:18 AM , Rating: 1
Why did you choose a shitty school?

RE: Easily defeated?
By jonmcc33 on 10/14/2009 4:30:05 PM , Rating: 2
RE: Easily defeated?
By oralpain on 10/18/2009 9:16:54 AM , Rating: 2
Many lasers have zero problems cutting transparent or very reflective materials.

This laser isn't visible light.

You'd need to precisely match the material to the laser to defeat it, and it would need to be kept perfectly clean and in pristine condition.

Ship defense?
By garrun on 10/14/2009 4:30:05 PM , Rating: 2
Anyone know if the reactor on an aircraft carrier could power one of these to be used for carrier group defense?

RE: Ship defense?
By Redwin on 10/14/2009 5:04:43 PM , Rating: 2
absolutely, those reactors generate way more energy than a "laser weapon" needs. In fact sometime a while back I recall reading about a system designed to do just that, intended to be mounted on a nuclear powered destroyer and provide fleet missile defense.

The main difference is that those are solid state lasers. Its just a piece of machinery that you put a bunch of electricity into and a laser comes out the other end.

The laser in this article is a chemical laser, you need big tanks of nasty stuff to react and create the laser, not electricity (which is good, since C-130's lack nuclear reactors lol).

Chemical lasers are big, use nasty stuff, and only get so many shots before needing to reload (refuel?). Solid state lasers are a far cleaner technology, better suited to making a weapon from, but they are difficult to get up to the power necessary for a weapon.

In my opinion we will see a limited number of chemical lasers like the ATL deployed, and once they prove the concept of laser weapons in general, we'll see the research money to create real weapon-class solid state lasers going forward, and that will likely be the way laser weapons off into the future are built.

RE: Ship defense?
By AstroGuardian on 10/15/09, Rating: -1
RE: Ship defense?
By Misty Dingos on 10/15/2009 8:54:15 AM , Rating: 3
The waste material from a COIL weapon system contains little CO2. It is expelled from the aircraft in this case at high temperature. It is a nasty collection of corrosive gasses that are dissipated in the atmosphere to neglible levels in a few seconds. If you were standing next to one during a ground test you would probably melt and die. Or perhaps you die and melt.

So you don't have to blaim the chemical laser programs of the USA for us not signing onto a document designed to hoble progressive free countries in favor of repressive backward ones.

RE: Ship defense?
By ArcliteHawaii on 10/15/2009 4:29:36 PM , Rating: 2
I agree. Solid state lasers on destroyers, cruisers, and carriers have the potential to provide superior anti missile defense than the current Phalanx 20mm radar guided Gatling gun. A solid state laser could take out targets 10 or more miles out with better accuracy, while the Gatling gun range is only a couple of miles at best. And the nuclear reactors on such ships provide more than enough energy to power them.

RE: Ship defense?
By ArcliteHawaii on 10/15/2009 4:55:14 PM , Rating: 2
Just as a follow up, almost three years ago, researchers were able to make a solid-state heat-capacity laser sustain 67 kilowatts in testing (burning through steel plates and such). The magic number is 100 kw, so they must be getting close now, although there hasn't been any news since then. These solid state lasers don't require the chemicals that the aforementioned plane based ones do, which makes them more compact and less dangerous. They could deploy the chemical ones on ships. Plenty of room for them, however, the chemicals are very dangerous if the ship were damaged in some way, like the USS Cole. This is less of a concern in an aircraft, where, unlike ships, there is little chance of a recovery from a direct hit anyway.

RE: Ship defense?
By HrilL on 10/14/2009 5:10:05 PM , Rating: 2
I was under the impression that they have two in case one fails or has problems. Given the size of a carrier they could probably add another one just for this type of weapon. Or maybe they could have a new class of ship that is pretty much a moving reactor to have almost limitless shots. Could cover the whole battle group from a missile barrage.

Or how about a gigawatt powered one in space or at a power level that would make it work at a distance that far.

RE: Ship defense?
By Jabroney701020 on 10/14/2009 7:38:13 PM , Rating: 2
No. An aircraft carrier does not have a 2nd reactor as a backup or a safety measure.

An aircraft carrier does have another reactor but it does the exact same thing that the first one does, operating at the exact same time, unless one is down for maintenance/emergencies.

If you were to add a 3rd reactor to an aircraft carrier you would have to extend the length of the whole craft by 1/4 of its current length.

RE: Ship defense?
By Jeffk464 on 10/14/2009 8:04:44 PM , Rating: 4
Pilots would probably like that.

RE: Ship defense?
By energy1man on 10/14/2009 8:50:42 PM , Rating: 2
As lasers continue to advance they will make most pilots obsolete, espicially if our adversaries acquire them at some point. If they are getting to the point of being able to take out a moving ground vehichle, a relatively thin skinned fighter probably would make for an easier target. This will not happen soon, and when it does it will happen for our opponents first.

RE: Ship defense?
By mindless1 on 10/14/2009 11:24:06 PM , Rating: 2
How do you figure a fighter that can fly much faster than the plane housing the laser, and easily shoot down that plane, would make for an easier target?

When an enemy fighter is around they're going to fly this thing the other way!

RE: Ship defense?
By energy1man on 10/15/2009 7:54:10 AM , Rating: 2
As I said would not happen soon. AS they progress I'm sure the range will increase. A laser with a 100 mile range instead of 9, changes the equation. Does not matter how fast the fighter is, good luck evading a weapon traveling at the speed of light. Also lasers have been mounted on humvees, and the with possibility of ships it is only a matter of when not if.

RE: Ship defense?
By Symmetry27 on 10/15/2009 9:57:48 AM , Rating: 2
It would certainly make things more complicated, but a plane shouldn't have any trouble staying below the horizon until its only 20 kilometers away, and most anti-ship missiles have a range over 50 kilometers. The ship can try to shoot down the attacking missiles when they come over the horizon, of course, but they already try to do that with anti-air missiles and point defence guns.

RE: Ship defense?
By ArcliteHawaii on 10/15/2009 4:39:28 PM , Rating: 2
I hear that the Chinese are investing heavily in laser technology. Supposedly they have ground based lasers capable of taking out satellites.

As for aircraft, I agree. If anti-aircraft/missile lasers get cheap, powerful, and small enough to fit in an Abrahams tank sized chassis, it could change the dynamics of war as we know it today where the aircraft is the primary weapon. On the other hand, remote controlled drones (the direction the US airforce is headed), with their far lower cost could be mass produced to overwhelm such systems.

RE: Ship defense?
By Xenoterranos on 10/15/2009 12:42:59 AM , Rating: 2
The USS Enterprise (The aircraft carrier) has 8 nuclear reactors (1967-present).
The current super carrier USS Ronald Regan though does only have two.

RE: Ship defense?
By acer905 on 10/15/2009 12:44:32 AM , Rating: 2
To be fair, The USS Enterprise CVN-65 has eight A2W nuclear reactors producing 210MW... but then again its one of a kind. In comparison, a Nimitz-Class carrier has 2 A4W reactors producing 194MW for the ship. Now, the real question is how much bigger is an A4W than an A2W...

(Enterprise top speed 33.6 knots @ 1123ft long; USS George Bush, 30+ knots @ 1040 ft long)

RE: Ship defense?
By Saesmere on 10/17/2009 8:52:12 PM , Rating: 2
It's not so much the size of the reactor that is the limiting factor, it's the electrical conversion of the steam being produced from the heat of the reactor. The 210 and 194 MW values you gave are in MW-thermal, not electrical.
While I know from personal experience the Enterprise has the spare capacity on its turbine-generators, it's electrical system is not as efficient as the Nimitz class carriers, being 460 VAC instead of 4KV AC.

RE: Ship defense?
By delphinus100 on 10/15/2009 3:59:54 AM , Rating: 2
I thought they were more interested in particle beam weapons for that role?

RE: Ship defense?
By TennesseeTony on 10/15/2009 8:21:14 AM , Rating: 2
ABSOLUTELY NO, the reactor on board an aircraft carrier can NOT power this laser, nor any of the variants, nor any future refined/perfected laser of this type.

This is a CHEMICAL laser, not a solid state electrically powered one. In short, the toxic chemicals the article mentioned is ROCKET FUEL. This weapon uses the exhaust from a rocket as the light source, and somehow focuses that energy into a laser beam.

"Pew pew" can't be heard over the roar of the rocket inside the laser. But yes, if the laser was quiet enough, every tiny spec of dust, water, etc would be heard violently exploding within the beam's path. How loud that would be, I dare not venture a guess.

RE: Ship defense?
By ArcliteHawaii on 10/15/2009 4:57:55 PM , Rating: 2
No, not this one. But a solid state laser like this one, it could:

*obligatory laser-related post*
By therealnickdanger on 10/14/2009 3:17:55 PM , Rating: 5

RE: *obligatory laser-related post*
By Jacerie on 10/14/2009 3:57:04 PM , Rating: 4
I would have to say that this thing is more of the "ZZZZZZZZHAT!!!" variety.

RE: *obligatory laser-related post*
By jonmcc33 on 10/14/2009 4:32:49 PM , Rating: 2
It's a laser...not a Tesla coil. Most likely you won't hear a thing.

RE: *obligatory laser-related post*
By PlasmaBomb on 10/14/2009 4:57:03 PM , Rating: 4

By ArcliteHawaii on 10/15/2009 5:01:10 PM , Rating: 2
The only thing you would hear is the sizzling egg sound as the laser melts your skin.

By RubberJohnny on 10/14/2009 11:48:49 PM , Rating: 2

I was expecting you to ask - 'when will these things be small enough to fit on a (frickin') shark's head?'

In Response to the Thumbnail...
By brizz on 10/14/2009 3:50:53 PM , Rating: 3
Does Dr. Hathaway know about this?

RE: In Response to the Thumbnail...
By Mitch101 on 10/14/2009 4:27:18 PM , Rating: 2
What is this giant jiffy pop looking thing in my living room?

RE: In Response to the Thumbnail...
By Schmide on 10/14/2009 4:35:30 PM , Rating: 2
Nothing like blazing a stick of dynamite.

By Obujuwami on 10/14/2009 7:13:21 PM , Rating: 2
Its not blazing, its lasing...we are talking about lasers here!

Though I wonder if the engineers get help from a chick who doesn't sleep?

Advanced Tactical Laser
By AnnihilatorX on 10/14/2009 5:18:21 PM , Rating: 3
Since when we have a working tactical laser and henceforth this is an 'advanced' version of it?

People need to stop using Advanced, Super, Ultra, Extreme, etc for the lame cool factor without pondering what they really mean :)

RE: Advanced Tactical Laser
By knutjb on 10/14/2009 9:30:02 PM , Rating: 2
The aircraft was flown to the museum in May 1988.

They have been doing this for some time. After so many iterations you start to run out of names.

RE: Advanced Tactical Laser
By energy1man on 10/15/2009 8:57:48 AM , Rating: 2
Ground based tactical laser system, has been used to shoot down artillery shells, and Katushya rockets.

Tough to Defend
By tech329 on 10/15/2009 6:01:40 AM , Rating: 2
I remember years ago, in the eighties, at the Toronto Science Center, they had a working laser that burned a hole through a 1" steel plate from about twenty feet. It was a demo of the technology.

Since then in my career in the machine tool industry I had worked on industrial laser cutters where the laser head moved three dimensionally on a gantry mounted structure to whatever angle necessary and made short work cutting the workpiece. The concentrated energy of these things would be very hard to defeat.

The current state of the physical sciences and materials technology doesn't permit either the absorption, dissipation or redirection of that much energy in the time required. It might be possible one day but not in the forseeable future.

I was particularly struck by the size of the beam. Ten centimeters is crazy huge. The more tightly you focus the beam the greater is the energy concentration. I don't have any idea of this particular laser but it would seem that improvements are sure to yield a greater energy concentration (smaller beam cross section) with an exponential increase in destructive capability. I've no doubt that even the thickest armor will be punched through in the blink of an eye when they get this perfected. I can easily envision, given time, punching a hole straight through an Abrams tank. Concentrating the energy in a smaller beam cross section is the holy grail of this technology. Its a good bet materials scientists are losing sleep over how to get there.

RE: Tough to Defend
By ArcliteHawaii on 10/15/2009 5:20:28 PM , Rating: 2
I would think you'd be able to have more powerful ground based mobile lasers than airborne lasers, all things considered. Wouldn't fact this still basically mean the end of air superiority against countries with this technology? This laser in the C130 weighs in at 20 tons, I think the 747 version is twice that. But you can pretty easily move 100 tons on the ground. The Abrahms tank weighs 65 tons, and there are larger vehicles than that. The larger the laser, the further the range, etc. And the laser can be separate from support vehicles like radar for tracking, whereas the plane must house everything in one package.

RE: Tough to Defend
By ArcliteHawaii on 10/15/2009 5:40:04 PM , Rating: 2
I agree with your assessment, but I think before tank-like vehicles are shooting at each other with lasers, they'll probably be using rail guns. This technology is much closer to being deployable than a laser. And in a tank, the sabot round can be fired at 10 miles a second (10x faster than a conventional shell) and fire three times a minute using the turbine to charge super capacitors. For all intents and purposes, that's instantaneous. I can't find the article where I read this, but there are a bunch of online articles about the naval version. The shell leaves the ship at mach 7, and strikes the target 200 miles away at mach 5 (ten times greater range than currently available). Each non explosive shell has the equivalent energy of a 1000 lb bomb. Because the variability of chemical explosives is not involved, accuracy is greatly increased.

A little late?
By SiliconAddict on 10/14/2009 5:48:07 PM , Rating: 2
I think I saw this reported about a month ago somewhere else. Better late then never I guess. :P

RE: A little late?
By SiliconAddict on 10/14/2009 5:56:02 PM , Rating: 2
PS- They should have removed the engine in the truck and put in jiffy pop

Repurpose a B2 Stealth
By Fnoob on 10/14/2009 11:35:55 PM , Rating: 2
with a small (working fusion) reactor onboard, to provide high powered, multishot capability. Should something like this actually be possible, in the works... then the debacle of the pull back from the Chech / Pole missile defense system is abated. Comments at the time where in the direction of something "bigger, badder, better" thats why we are scrapping these plans. This technology might well explain that as it bears fruit. Nicely toasted fruit.

RE: Repurpose a B2 Stealth
By ArcliteHawaii on 10/15/2009 5:14:22 PM , Rating: 2
1. First we need to make a WORKING fusion reactor.
2. Then we need to shrink it.
3. Then we need to make it safe enough for an aircraft.
4. Finally, I think you'd need something larger than B2 to house the whole thing.

Interestingly, there are types of fusion reactor that are being developed that might be safe enough for use in large aircraft.

Inertial electrostatic confinement fusion:

General Fusions approach:

Stealthy? Only one country has this tech
By ArcliteHawaii on 10/15/2009 4:08:01 PM , Rating: 2
The greatest promise of the aircraft is its ability to make stealthy strikes. It will be hard for enemies to prove that the U.S. gunship is to blame, as the results are less obtrusive than a bomb or missile. The gunship can fire on targets from up to 9 miles away.

Riiiiight, because if a vehicle spontaneously combusts from a 10 cm melted hole with no shell or missile fragments remaining, no one would suspect the only country with the technology capable of such a feat.

By Kenenniah on 10/16/2009 3:59:54 PM , Rating: 2
Suspecting and proving are two different things entirely.

Frikkin laser beams !!!
By HaB1971 on 10/14/2009 6:47:27 PM , Rating: 3
Where is the Dr Evil picture?
No article about lasers should be published without one!

So Close
By SavagePotato on 10/14/2009 9:36:27 PM , Rating: 3
When doing internet technical support, I always wanted an orbital laser that could obliterate the customer with the push of a large red novelty button.

One step closer.

By SavagePotato on 10/14/2009 9:40:39 PM , Rating: 3
We build airborne lasers, they build reflective turbans. It's a never ending cycle.

By HeavyB on 10/14/2009 6:03:44 PM , Rating: 2
Someone had to say it.

Just say NO to war
By Cookoy on 10/14/2009 6:24:33 PM , Rating: 2
why can't we just be friends? someone needs to sell more Command & Conquer games huh

By bupkus on 10/15/2009 12:28:01 AM , Rating: 2
It will be hard for enemies to prove that the U.S. gunship is to blame, as the results are less obtrusive than a bomb or missile.

Yipp... the Hatfields will clearly blame the McCoys for the surgically precise cut splittin' their Jed Clampet family truck into two pieces.

Wonder which moving vehicle it was...
By Dobs on 10/15/2009 2:23:06 AM , Rating: 2
I'd bet it wasn't the mirror finish veyron:)

All-seeing eye?
By samoya22 on 10/16/2009 9:31:18 AM , Rating: 2
Does it not creep anyone else out that this laser looks like a giant all-seeing eye? I'm just saying.

The whole blame thing
By putergeek00 on 10/16/2009 10:32:18 AM , Rating: 2
confuses me...

It will be hard for enemies to prove that the U.S. gunship is to blame,

How many other countries have technology like this?

The beam generated is approximately 10 cm in diameter and cuts like a blowtorch.

"Commander! Someone snuck into our camp with a huge blowtorch while we were sleeping!"

You don't win wars with planes.
By dark matter on 10/14/09, Rating: -1
RE: You don't win wars with planes.
By IcePickFreak on 10/14/2009 5:47:04 PM , Rating: 5
Someone should of told Japan that 64 years ago then.

RE: You don't win wars with planes.
By hadifa on 10/14/2009 6:28:46 PM , Rating: 1
If nothing else, scare crow!

RE: You don't win wars with planes.
By Jabroney701020 on 10/14/2009 7:41:21 PM , Rating: 1
I bet less troops would have to die.

RE: You don't win wars with planes.
By Jeffk464 on 10/14/2009 8:08:40 PM , Rating: 1
true, but you do loose wars without air superiority.

RE: You don't win wars with planes.
By TerranMagistrate on 10/14/2009 9:05:05 PM , Rating: 2
Air support for the soldiers on the ground via ultra precision strikes with almost no collateral damage. This plane has nothing to do with air superiority besides the fact that it can operate as intended once the airspace is secured.

Good enough for ya?

RE: You don't win wars with planes.
By dark matter on 10/15/09, Rating: -1
By ArcliteHawaii on 10/15/2009 5:46:16 PM , Rating: 3
It's true that this weapon isn't a game changer in wars like the Afghan conflict. To "win" there, the US needs to rebuild the infrastructure and help provide a government that is superior to the Taleban and is willing to protect the population from them. So far, we're failing in that regard. And no amount of military technology can fix that, since it's a political and economic struggle.

RE: You don't win wars with planes.
By knutjb on 10/14/2009 9:45:55 PM , Rating: 1
Planes provide support to those on the ground. Far more than you will likely ever know, and I'm not talking remote control.

Go back and look at that area before the Brits split it up. You'll find the tribal regions cross the borders between the countries and the current boarders mean nothing to those tribes other than a safe haven.

Iraq is pretty much over.

RE: You don't win wars with planes.
By dark matter on 10/15/2009 10:02:36 AM , Rating: 1
Dude, you cannot bomb or laser an ideology.

LOL, Iraq is pretty much over. Yeah, its now in Pakistan.

You're still fighting in Afghanistan.

RE: You don't win wars with planes.
By ipay on 10/19/2009 10:57:33 AM , Rating: 2
What are you talking about? The Iraq war was over on May 1, 2003. MISSION ACCOMPLISHED

RE: You don't win wars with planes.
By Fnoob on 10/15/09, Rating: 0
By ArcliteHawaii on 10/15/2009 5:48:55 PM , Rating: 2
The problem isn't that we don't have weapons powerful, accurate, or long range enough to kill Osama or other Al Queda leaders. The problem is that we don't know where they are.

RE: You don't win wars with planes.
By TSS on 10/15/2009 9:40:15 AM , Rating: 1
I'd have to post this here:

Not for people with weak stomachs :) but it shows, definitively, that ground warfare has had it's day.

But to be honest. Air warfare has had it's day as well. Since the advent of ICBMs, wars can be won or lost at the push of a button.

Just look at the end of world war 2... when the leaders get tired of losing men all it takes is 2 little bombs...

By dark matter on 10/15/2009 10:04:30 AM , Rating: 2
I would say no-one wins a war when you start dropping nukes.

Maybe if you were the only country to have them, yes.

Why do you think your so keen on Iran not having one?

Oh, and here is a question for you.

North Korea.

Enough said.

Laser for the sake of laser
By carniver on 10/14/09, Rating: -1
RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By MatthiasF on 10/14/2009 3:26:31 PM , Rating: 3
Projectile weapons have flight times of several seconds from high altitudes, while bombs and missiles are even slower.

Lasers arrive in several milliseconds and open up the possibility of shooting down enemy missiles in flight.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By Redwin on 10/14/2009 3:46:08 PM , Rating: 5
I agree with what you're saying, speed is an excellent differentiator between lasers and projectiles, but your time scale is off by an order of magnitude (several microseconds not milliseconds).

9 miles (stated max range) = 14,484 meters.
C (speed of light) = 299,792,458 m/s

Simple division yields that the laser beam will arrive in about 0.04 milliseconds, or 40 microseconds. Granted that's c in a vacuum, not through air so numbers aren't 100% exact, but the takeaway is that lasers are REALLY fast :)

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By lukasbradley on 10/14/2009 4:28:47 PM , Rating: 1
Not to continue the splitting of hairs, but the chemical reaction doesn't happen at the speed of light.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By Redwin on 10/14/2009 4:43:06 PM , Rating: 5
Neither does pulling a trigger, or the motion of a firing pin. I was discussing ordinace flight time only (the time to cross the 9 mile distance) comparing a projectile to a laser beam.

If you wanna start adding in factors like the laser power source, the mechanical pre-firing motion of the projectile gun, the combustion time of the gunpowder, and perhaps even the reaction time of the weapon operator to actually push the button, we will very quickly be talking about meaningless incomparable numbers.

When the poster I was replying to said "laser beam arrives in several milliseconds" I don't think he was referring to any of those things either, so you're the only one here searching for something to disagree with. :)

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By nafhan on 10/14/2009 3:56:35 PM , Rating: 5
So, lasers are great for shooting down missiles or other very fast lightly armored targets. I agree. However, that doesn't seem to be the intention of this program here. It seems like they are going to use this as more of an alternative to the AC-130 gunship, which is used to attack ground targets.
Also, the claim that the enemy won't know who it is seems kind of silly. For example, imagine the following conversation: "Looks like a giant laser cut through the truck. Who has giant lasers..."

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By jonmcc33 on 10/14/2009 4:25:27 PM , Rating: 2
Also, the claim that the enemy won't know who it is seems kind of silly. For example, imagine the following conversation: "Looks like a giant laser cut through the truck. Who has giant lasers..."

We can finally blame...aliens.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By bjacobson on 10/14/2009 7:22:54 PM , Rating: 2

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By Morphine06 on 10/14/2009 7:40:36 PM , Rating: 2
We'd be like, "PEW PEW PEW PEW!"

And they'd be like, "WTF?"

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By MatthiasF on 10/14/2009 5:50:56 PM , Rating: 2

I don't think this is meant to be completely covert, albeit I'm sure they could use it in that fashion.

For instance, targeting a gas tank. Very unlikely someone would find any evidence of the laser in the remains of the car after the gas tank exploded.

Or because of it's precision, it could even be used to disable vehicles. Targeting a tank's treads or a truck's wheels is easier than trying to destroy the entire vehicle. Won't be too clear either was broken by a laser either unless it's very closely examined.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By bjacobson on 10/14/2009 7:24:02 PM , Rating: 2
Gas tanks don't explode quite like you think they less movies please.

Further, gas tanks are on the bottom of the vehicle usually. Makes getting to them with a laser beam difficult.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By delphinus100 on 10/15/2009 4:04:46 AM , Rating: 2
Yeah, the driver's eyeballs (and crotch) are rather more accessible from above...

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By MatthiasF on 10/15/2009 1:31:27 PM , Rating: 2
Megawatt Laser + gasoline = boom

It's not like a bullet or a flame. The laser can quickly get the gasoline to it's 500 F degree flash-point.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By Reclaimer77 on 10/14/2009 6:33:27 PM , Rating: 3
lol Yeah not to mention the AC-130 is about as quiet and stealthy as a dump truck driving into a gasoline plant. Seriously lol.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By Symmetry27 on 10/15/2009 10:03:12 AM , Rating: 2
Up close, sure, but they guns on that thing have a pretty long range. I've heard that when they opperate in Iraq at night their targets usually have no idea they're out there until the 20mm shells start raining down.

By ArcliteHawaii on 10/15/2009 5:54:51 PM , Rating: 2
Exactly, you can't really hear the plane when it's 3 miles out, but they can sure as hell see and target you. If you haven't seen it already:

Footage is black and white FLIR video, but still graphic. Viewer discretion is advised. The enemy has no idea that anyone is watching them until the howitzers and grenades start raining down.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By kontorotsui on 10/14/2009 4:40:37 PM , Rating: 2
Lasers arrive in several milliseconds and open up the possibility of shooting down enemy missiles in flight.

If accuracy is as good as in the picture where they barely got the side of the (not so small) square on a stationary vehicle... good luck... they'll need it!

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By MatthiasF on 10/14/2009 6:03:07 PM , Rating: 3
Uh, they're firing at the truck from several miles away. So, I think the accuracy ain't so bad.

Even so, they don't really need to be spot on. They could wash a small area with the laser and still do enough damage to warp the nosecone of a missile, destroy it's sensors/electronics or damage the steering fins.

So, don't imagine a pinpoint being hit like in the video, but the laser painting the full size of that square or drawing a specific pattern, like an X or infinity symbol, that's more likely to hit.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By mindless1 on 10/14/2009 11:32:29 PM , Rating: 2
Uhh, you don't think the missile would be several miles away too? And moving at high speed? Remember the laser has to be aimed, a mechanical process requiring anticipation of the missile's path too.

Yes it could hit a missle, and more likely it'll miss that missle.

If it could hit the missile already then this basic level of testing would be long ago redundant.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By knutjb on 10/15/2009 12:30:39 AM , Rating: 2
RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By MatthiasF on 10/15/2009 1:26:32 PM , Rating: 2
During the experiment, the Airborne Laser Lab destroyed five AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and a Navy BQM-34A target drone.


By mmcdonalataocdotgov on 10/15/2009 7:54:15 AM , Rating: 2
Missile-schmissile. This is a people killer, not a hard target killer. It is too expensive to take out 6 trucks in a convoy and have to head home to fill up the very deadly caustic chemical tanks. You would do better with a regular Puff. Note the target size on the hood of the truck is about the size of a head. Now it's personal.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By carniver on 10/14/2009 6:31:04 PM , Rating: 2
Yes it can hit the target in no time, but like light jabs (pun not intended) it doesn't pack much punch. I expect it takes couple seconds of continuous heating to do any damage, that isn't even easy on stationary targets, and for moving targets like a missile that becomes trickier. Add weather effects to the equation (rain, fog, etc) this cool idea isn't so practical in warfare. And yet another concern I have is how much efficiency that laser will have. The emitter itself will have to generate considerable heat.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By RubberJohnny on 10/15/2009 12:05:40 AM , Rating: 2
I bet they said the same sorts of things about missiles and other warfare tech back in the day and look what we have today.
Wait for the kinks to be ironed out and you'll be eating your words!

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By Jedi2155 on 10/14/2009 3:33:04 PM , Rating: 2
Give it time....all I have to say is give it time.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By Murloc on 10/14/2009 3:35:30 PM , Rating: 2
if you get nuclear fusion you can get huge amounts of energy, and you could use these instead of some "barbaric" antimissile system.

but what if one of these gets shot down?
toxic chemicals will do collateral damage and potentially make water undrinkable.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By invidious on 10/14/2009 3:44:50 PM , Rating: 5
So our enimies wont want to shoot down our planes? I fail to see the downside.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By kattanna on 10/14/2009 4:18:44 PM , Rating: 2
or even better..

what if we send those planes over to a war zone.. unmanned

have it kill its primary target, then fake a missle attack on the plane causing it to crash doing even more damage. yet we then get to blame it on them

double win, in strictly military thinking that is.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By MatthiasF on 10/14/2009 6:05:36 PM , Rating: 3
You, sir, have a job waiting for you at the CIA.

By foolsgambit11 on 10/14/2009 7:07:59 PM , Rating: 2
It's doubtful the damage that could be done by a crashing C-130, even with toxic chemicals on board, would be worth more than the plane and laser system, at least for the forseeable future. So from a strictly military point of view, it's not really a double win. Not to mention the fact that you can't guarantee the adequate destruction of the laser tech in the crash (unless you intentionally blow it up while mimicking the 'missile attack'). It certainly won't work after the crash, but valuable state secrets may still fall into the wrong hands.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By Jeffk464 on 10/14/2009 8:01:20 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, all the need is that nifty little power source the powered the suit in the movie Ironman.

RE: Laser for the sake of laser
By Jeffk464 on 10/14/2009 7:53:59 PM , Rating: 2
I know, it seems to me the current gunship with the 105 artillery piece would have done more then burn a hole in the hood. The 105 is aimed by computer so it hits even if its slower then the laser.

Great, a weapon that can easily
By eickst on 10/14/09, Rating: -1
RE: Great, a weapon that can easily
By AnnihilatorX on 10/14/2009 6:08:03 PM , Rating: 2
No. Mirrors aren't perfect reflectors, much worse in ambient conditions when dirt and mud is on it. It is likely that a high power laser would easily break the mirror.

Also, how is it exactly you have a shiny reflective vehicle on a battlefield without getting bombed to shards due to the intimidating appearance?

RE: Great, a weapon that can easily
By mindless1 on 10/14/09, Rating: 0
RE: Great, a weapon that can easily
By MrPoletski on 10/15/2009 10:53:57 AM , Rating: 2
That vehicle would be seen from miles away and blown to hell, not to mention the fact the laser could just hit the windscreen and kill the driver.

Covering your car in mirrors will not help.

RE: Great, a weapon that can easily
By mindless1 on 10/19/2009 12:49:47 AM , Rating: 2
You still don't get it. They don't "see" you to blow you away from a distance of miles, it's all about radar.

Any weapon with a short enough range that it's aimed by hand is in a range where it's obvious the vehicle is there even if it were a color other than mirrored.

That my prior post was rated down just shows how ignorant some readers are about modern warfare.

By MrPoletski on 10/26/2009 5:52:21 AM , Rating: 2
dude, your MIRRORED vehicle will reflect radar, that's my point. It'd be like driving a giant radar reflector down the highway, you'll probably attract nearby roaming cruise missiles fer christ sake;)

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