Print 121 comment(s) - last by TheGreek.. on Aug 31 at 1:35 PM

Laser weaonry may not be that far away from tomorrow's battlefields.  (Source: Wired, Danger Room)
The U.S. will possibly field man-sized portable laser weapons in coming years

One of the cornerstones of science fiction films and books is the laser rifle. The U.S. has spent millions of dollars trying to field laser weapons to do all sorts of tasks and, according to some analysts, we are getting close to fielding man portable laser weapons.

Time Magazine tells the story about developments in laser weaponry, circa 1972. Many of us are familiar with the laser weapons that are being designed to stop ballistic missiles before the warhead can separate from the missile body. These tend to be very large lasers that are mounted on trucks or inside specially outfitted aircraft.

One type of laser weapon that has yet to materialize is the man-sized portable laser. The lasers were described as being able to burn a quarter-inch hole in an enemy solider from as far away as five miles.  And, unlike Star Wars, real world lasers leave no visible trail.

The weapon would be a snipers dream since the laser beam would travel at the speed of light; once the target was in the sights, a hit was ensured. Another benefit of portable laser weapons is the fact that a laser beam follows a flat trajectory rather than a curving arc like a projectile. Gravity has practically no effect on a laser beam, so lining up a shot at extreme distances is much easier to do with a laser rifle than with a projectile weapon.

These laser weapons have yet to materialize and with the drawbacks of chemical laser technology, namely the storage of corrosive chemicals and harmful fumes resulting from the laser operation, who knows when or if man portable laser weapons will be perfected.

Chemical lasers get energy from a rapid chemical reaction and obtain continuous wave with power at the megawatt level. Common types of chemical lasers used in drilling and military applications include chemical oxygen iodine laser, all gas-phase iodine laser, and deuterium fluoride laser.  Almost all laser-based weapons to date have been chemical based.

Yet there are still some laser weapon technologies that could bring the long dreamed of laser gun to fruition. Solid-state lasers, the oldest and most mature types of lasers, are one of the more viable options since they don’t require corrosive chemicals to produce the laser beam. The solid-state laser simply requires a supply of electricity to produce a beam, and only needs enough power for a single pulse rather than a continuous beam.

Current solid-state lasers are used for everything from tattoo removal to optical refrigeration. However, unlike gas and chemical lasers, solid-state lasers cannot achieve megawatt capabilities without vast amounts of electricity -- not practical for mobile forces.  Yet kilowatt lasers may be enough for soldiers on the ground. 

From Boeing's $7 million High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator, to Northrop Grumman's $57 million Joint High Power Solid State Laser, 100kW portable solid-state lasers can now fit the size of a truck.

According to Wired we cold see solid-state pulse lasers fielded by U.S. soldiers in as little as two years. Of course, according to the Time's 1972 article on laser technology, man-sized portable laser weapons would have been viable for a decade now.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

By leidegre on 8/28/2007 4:00:00 AM , Rating: -1
More weapons is probably the single most unnecessary thing the world needs right now. Surly the research can be put into better use.

In this modern age people should be working on refining diplomatic relations and coming to terms with already tense agreements, the 21 century is not the place for a military arms race.

RE: Weapons!?
By James Holden on 8/28/2007 4:09:32 AM , Rating: 2
The best weapons are the ones you don't use.

Such is the motto of deterrence anyway.

RE: Weapons!?
By nosfe on 8/28/2007 4:52:30 AM , Rating: 5
Blackadder :[...] in order to prevent a war in Europe, two super blocs developed: us, the French and the Russians on one side, and the Germans and Austro-Hungary on the other. The idea was to have two vast, opposing armies, each acting as the other's deterrent. That way, there could never be a war.
Baldrick :Except, well, this is sort of a war, isn't it?
Blackadder :That's right, there was one tiny flaw in the plan.
George :Oh, what was that?
Blackadder :It was bollocks.

or so the saying goes in the final episode of Blackadder :P

RE: Weapons!?
By James Holden on 8/28/2007 5:02:32 AM , Rating: 2
Very true, although to my own defense, we didn't have WW3 with the Russians because of deterrence as well.

RE: Weapons!?
By BladeVenom on 8/28/2007 6:16:23 AM , Rating: 2
Be patient, you may get one yet.

RE: Weapons!?
By FrankM on 8/28/2007 7:11:48 AM , Rating: 3
Yes, unfortunately, we are again drifting back towards a Cold War.
Russia has started rearming and also restarted heavy bomber patrols this month. There have already been incidents with these bombers getting closer or even into Norvegian and British airspace, so the tension is rising. Hopefully this power play will die down soon.

RE: Weapons!?
By GlassHouse69 on 8/28/2007 12:56:15 PM , Rating: 3
I enjoyed the cold war.

It was pleasant. We had better music back then. Fear is better than girls showing their muffintops/backfat sticking out of their tanktop and moron guys putting gel in their hair to look like Gotti's kids.

Also, america became the cash cow when made and sold weapons. Weapons facilities, aviation and all of those sorts are american businesses. Now we dont sell anything ,we give it for free, and then pay 4-5 billion dollars cold cash to countries like Pakistan just to be our friends.

RE: Weapons!?
By rdeegvainl on 8/28/2007 4:50:10 AM , Rating: 2
Can't we do both?
I would rather have these first than someone else. Also people have different skills than each other, you cannot tell me that it would be more effective to take scientists and physicists out of their element just to put more people into diplomatic relations, that would be a waste and would probably be counter productive. And the biggest reason diplomatic solutions fail is because nations believe they can win in a war and get everything they want instead of compromising, so yes having a certain amount of military supremacy is extremely beneficial when supervising diplomatic relations.

RE: Weapons!?
By Creig on 8/28/2007 8:08:11 AM , Rating: 2
And nothing can get fanatical leaders to a peace conference better than the threat of being taken out from miles away with a hand-held weapon that can't be tracked and can hardly miss.

RE: Weapons!?
By Master Kenobi on 8/28/2007 8:12:43 AM , Rating: 5
Diplomacy doesnt mean squat unless its backed up by the possibility of an ass kicking.

RE: Weapons!?
By stromgald on 8/28/2007 12:22:41 PM , Rating: 2
In this modern age people should be working on refining diplomatic relations and coming to terms with already tense agreements, the 21 century is not the place for a military arms race.

When is there a good time for a military arms race? Never. Or maybe always? There will always be malcontent among humanity. Without weapons, whoever's disgruntled will pick up their hypothetical club and smash someone else. That is unless that person is being watched by other people with clubs.

The question of who polices the police is one that's brought up all the time, and there's actually a simple answer. The USA sometimes acts like they're the police for the world, and we do have the biggest 'club' so to speak. But, the US is very much kept in check by Britan, France, Germany, Russia, and China. They might not have as advanced weapons, but they certainly have more. The fear of the US becoming too powerful is irrational unless the US becomes much much more advanced than the aforementioned countries.

RE: Weapons!?
By GlassHouse69 on 8/28/2007 12:57:37 PM , Rating: 1
He's no fun.


RE: Weapons!?
By Combatcolin on 8/28/2007 1:20:18 PM , Rating: 2
Big manly sweaty muscles will deflect any laser weapon!

RE: Weapons!?
By codeThug on 8/28/07, Rating: 0
"We don't know how to make a $500 computer that's not a piece of junk." -- Apple CEO Steve Jobs
Related Articles

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki