Beta
×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

Airborne Laser Successfully Tracks, Hits Missile

Soulskill posted more than 5 years ago | from the sweet-zombie-reagan dept.

The Military 287

fructose writes "The Airborne Laser managed to acquire, track, and illuminate a test missile a few days ago. According to the press release, the Boeing plane 'used its infrared sensors to find a target missile launched from San Nicolas Island, Calif ... issued engagement and target location instructions to the beam control/fire control system ... fired its two solid-state illuminator lasers to track the target and ... fired a surrogate high-energy laser at the target, simulating a missile intercept.' The sensors on board the missile confirmed the 'hit.' Michael Rinn, ABL's program director, said, 'Pointing and focusing a laser beam on a target that is rocketing skyward at thousands of miles per hour is no easy task, but the Airborne Laser is uniquely able to do the job.' The next steps will be to test the high-power laser at full strength in flight and do a complete system test later this year. Its success or failure will determine whether the project gets canceled. Looks like the Real Genius fans out there are finally living the dream."

cancel ×

287 comments

Sorry! There are no comments related to the filter you selected.

Just what we need (0, Flamebait)

grolaw (670747) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076117)

Phasers - to attack rockets - if it is not raining...or foggy, or dusty.

Re:Just what we need (5, Informative)

ductonius (705942) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076137)

Which is generally isn't above the clouds in the stratosphere.

Re:Just what we need (1)

grolaw (670747) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076197)

But the aircraft has to be clear of clouds, sand and fog....

What prevents the target from cloaking itself in LOX fog, by venting ?

Re:Just what we need (5, Informative)

ductonius (705942) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076313)

Nothing, in theory. Just like there's nothing in theory that says the rocket can't have a zillion other systems designed to defeat this laser. In practice, however, the answer is weight. A rocket's weight is around 80-90% fuel with payload being from 2-5%. A small increase in payload weight leads to a great increase in the rocket's size and fuel load.

A rocket designer ends up having to make a series of compromises between the strength of the rocket itself, the payload and the range. If you want to protect your rocket you're going to have to give up payload, give up range or increase rocket size, all of which make them less useful as weapons.

Re:Just what we need (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076375)

I recently attended a workshop in which the speaker described terrorists putting industrial lasers in a U-Haul with a telescope as a focuser and parked next to an airport. Believe it or not, this makes a usable weapon within reach with modern industrial lasers. No missile trail. Food for thought. How to defend?

Re:Just what we need (2, Funny)

kdemetter (965669) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076651)

With shields , offcourse :-) .

Re:Just what we need (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076655)

Food for thought? Sounds more like paranoid skitzo rantings

Seriously though, if you shine a laser at a plane especially by the airport the police would be on you within seconds.

Anyways, there are videos out there already on Youtube and such of idiots shining lasers at passing jets overhead, sure enough they are all caught eventually.

My favorite one was of the police helicopter flying high out of sigh/sound and the idiot shines his light at a small plane, sure enough you could see where the laser was coming from several miles away and it wasn't even pointed at them.

You don't really defend against something like this because the chances of it actually working and the pilots can always look down to fly from their instrument panel, these guys have thousands of hours of flight and could takeoff/land the plane blindfolded.

Re:Just what we need (2, Informative)

grolaw (670747) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076443)

My brother-in-law analyzed satellite throw weights for Sandia Labs. A reflective or camo paint job is a trivial addition to the mass of the rocket. OTOH, a perfectly polished surface might well serve the same end at no addition to the mass.

Re:Just what we need (2, Informative)

OeLeWaPpErKe (412765) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076529)

That may be true, but you've got to see the limitations in that too. There are no paints that are reflective over a large amount of the light spectrum, so you gotta pick your poison. A normal mirror, for example, would not hold up against an infrared laser.

Furthermore doing that requires knowing the exact frequency of the airborne laser, something which is presumably not public knowledge. It is these days relatively trivial to change the frequency of the laser, e.g. doubling or halving it. Presumably such tricks could be built in and change the frequency "on the fly".

So yes, given enough information you could probably protect the rocket from a single specific laser, for a few years until the next generation of lasers. But it'd require spies to get the information to start with, it would be dependant on not having spies in your own organisation and you'd need a few doctors in chemistry to actually make the paint (since that paint needs to do more than just reflect laser pulses, it must hold up in mutli-mach flight and not heat up, it must not peel off with a constant explosion just below it, it must stand up to both the freezing temperatures in clouds and the heat the rocket will develop during descent. It must even be able to deal with ice formation on the rocket itself, so it's not like you can buy this in your local toy store).

Re:Just what we need (4, Informative)

geckipede (1261408) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076711)

Changing the output frequency of a giant high energy chemical laser is extremely tricky. Frequency doubling demands a very pure coherence to get good efficiency, and even then "good" in this context means above 50% power converted to the new frequency. With a weapons laser, you're going to have a hell of a cooling problem in the converting medium. Then again, if reflective anti-laser coatings become common, it shouldn't be too difficult to add on a free electron laser system to burn off the mirror layer before the main beam strikes. A free electron laser can change operating frequencies trivially, just by adjusting its internal magnetic field.

Re:Just what we need (4, Interesting)

grolaw (670747) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076805)

It is merely a single contrarian idea. The laser tests would be visible from orbit - and frequency/energy could be sampled as simply by mere spectroscopy: the interaction between radiation and matter as a function of wavelength and easily measured. Displaced / superheated air will reveal the operating wavelength and energy density of the laser.

If we are talking dye lasers or tunable cavity lasers - you still have massive problems dealing with the excitation as frequencies change. It might well prove to be too complex to fit aboard an aircraft.

I built the Scientific American CO2 Laser project back in the 1960s - it was impressive and it could shatter glass at more than 100 ft. Still, the energy necessary to power an airborne device is going to have to be stored - probably in banks of capacitors.

Realistically, an aircraft mounted rail gun might serve just as well and be far less complex to deal with (absent the effects on the aircraft of the massive magnetic impulse).

Re:Just what we need (1)

ductonius (705942) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076533)

Paint still adds weight. Remember the Space Shuttle's external fuel tank used to be white, but they stopped painting it because they could save weight.

Reflective coatings have very little utility against high powered lasers. The best mirrors we have only reflect 90% of the light that hits them (these are pampered telescope mirrors mind you) and 10% of 1mw is still 100,000 watts. Any polishing will be distorted and any reflective coating will be baked off in a very short period of time. Such coatings might give the rocket an extra second or two, but no more, and even less if more powerful lasers are used.

Re:Just what we need (2, Informative)

scotch (102596) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076615)

90%? citation needed. Dialectric layered mirrors can achieve better than 99% reflectivity for select wavelengths. These types of coatings are probably heavier than polishing the rocket body (or even a simple paint). This whole line of counter-counter measure would depend on the secrecy of the ABL frequency and its ability to change it.

Even if you are right, if it's simple to increase the reflectivity of the rocket by an order of magnitude, then you make the ABL's job an order of magnitude harder. This would be huge of course, increasing the requirements of the ABL to compensate for atmospheric distortion, increasing the time the ABL has to stay trained on a specific spot, probably affecting effective range, and ultimately reducing the overall cost effectiveness of the ABL. All this for a simple polishing of the rocket.

Re:Just what we need (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076783)

The laser delivers over 1 megawatt for 5 seconds. A just-cleaned telescope mirror might live through this but anything just exposed to a rocket launch won't.

the problem with that trick is (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076545)

Even if 99.999% of the energy was reflected then you would still damage the surface (causing the refection amount to drop) and then you still have the problem of SHINY != STEALTH.

the best way to evade is to NOT BE WHERE THE BULLETS ARE
and with this system even if it just "paints" the target i would bet is has a nice range to it

Re:the problem with that trick is (1)

grolaw (670747) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076675)

Our anti-rocket defenses have been gross failures. This technology has a long way to go to be viable. Meanwhile, we spend vast sums on this technology when we really ought to be looking to get outside of Earth orbit. 40 years is 30 years too long. We ought to have manned Moon and Mars bases by now.

Re:the problem with that trick is (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076821)

Meanwhile, we spend vast sums on this technology when we really ought to be looking to get outside of Earth orbit

The better we get with lasers, the better we can do fusion, and a laser make a holram fuse is definitely something we would want for propulsion, rather than chemical rocket crap. Why spend all this money on chemical rockets, when if we get really good at lasers, and then fusion, we can be on our way to Mars with container ship sized payloads, rather than a boy scout tent?

Re:Just what we need (1)

john.r.strohm (586791) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076789)

Well, in theory, nothing.

Except for the HIGHLY nontrivial cost of designing, testing, fabricating, and deploying a whole new missile.

Except for the HIGHLY nontrivial cost of either building a whole new set of launch silos, or trashing out the existing missiles it replaced, because those existing missiles are still vulnerable to the Airborne Laser.

This is PRECISELY the continuing technological obsolescence and financial ruin scenario that Reagan promised Gorbachev, that eventually resulted in the reunification of Germany and the fall of the Soviet Union. It is a LOT cheaper for a technologically-superior adversary to develop a counter to your new weapon than for you to develop a whole new weapon that was immmune to his previous counter.

Read "The Strategy of Technology", by Kane, Possony, and Pournelle. Your library should be able to find a copy.

Re:Just what we need (1)

jamesborr (876769) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076141)

It is frequently not any of the above at higher altitudes where this weapon is designed to operate -- it is on a plane after all...

Re:Just what we need (1)

grolaw (670747) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076221)

And, that aircraft has to be ready and at altitude.... Are we going back to routine sorties similar to the old B-52 runs? How much will that cost??

Re:Just what we need (1)

RobertLTux (260313) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076567)

givem a few years and i bet UAVs will have these (and if you assume a 1 way trip you just doubled the range/time on station)

Re:Just what we need (1)

grolaw (670747) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076819)

They still have to be in the right place at the right time. Also, loss of the technology is entirely possible when using UAVs. Suppose you just ran out of fuel and the self-destruct mechanism fails?

And, that aircraft has to be ready and at altitude (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076589)

Are we going back to routine sorties similar to the old B-52 runs? How much will that cost??

That's what I was thinking too. The only way I could see something like this as being feasible would be to have planes up in the air all the tyme which would be expensive.

Love those B52 though. My dad retired from the Air Force as a mechanic on them and he used to take me to look at and explore them.

Falcon

Re:Just what we need (1)

john.r.strohm (586791) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076809)

Routine sorties would be really cheap compared to what it would cost to replace, say, Seattle or Los Angeles after Kim Jong-Il successfully nuked it.

Nobody ever said freedom was free.

Re:Just what we need (1)

GreenTech11 (1471589) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076161)

Or slightly windy. Well, that leaves us about 3 days a year. However, I think these guys have probably worked out a way to get around all that, I certainly hope they have. A high powered laser would be able to burn through most of that stuff, so I doubt it's a problem.

Re:Just what we need (2, Informative)

grolaw (670747) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076243)

Refraction, reflection, dispersion and absorption. Those are the problems.

How many Joules does it take to burn through silica dust? How reflective is LOX? What if the inbound craft is covered with retro-reflecting beads (like stop signs)?

Re:Just what we need (1)

inwo42 (1245506) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076531)

But we can make enormous Swiss cheese!

Real Genius Fans? (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076151)

Looks like the Real Genius fans out there are finally living the dream.

Eh, it's cool and all, but I'd rather see a house explode with popcorn.

Laser tag (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076165)

Billion dollar laser tag. They didn't destroy the missile. The missile's laser tag vest scored the hit.

Re:Laser tag (1)

Brian Gordon (987471) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076519)

Because they didn't use the real laser. It was just to test the aiming system.

How does it aim? (2, Interesting)

scribblej (195445) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076169)

If it uses mirrors of some type to aim the laser "beam", won't missile designers just make the missile housing out of the same reflective material?

If it does not, how does it get pointed in the right direction fast enough?

These articles are always so light on the interesting details.

Re:How does it aim? (1)

hampton (209113) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076195)

If it does not, how does it get pointed in the right direction fast enough?

Easy. Think of how fast a shark can turn!

Re:How does it aim? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076223)

Details? It's a FLYING LASER! That almost works! That is cool. Now, if only we had some deflector shields.

Re:How does it aim? (1)

rumith (983060) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076237)

Although it would be difficult to produce a reflective material that could withstand the influence of the atmosphere during launch, it might turn out to be effective to pulverize some substance opaque for that laser frequency around the missile (either by spreading it from auxiliary projectiles launched a second before the real ICBM, or from a device mounted on the top of the missile itself)...

Re:How does it aim? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076603)

I wonder what happens if you include a material that, when heated, produces vapor that's opaque to the laser in the hull of the missile...

Re:How does it aim? (2, Interesting)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076273)

If it uses mirrors of some type to aim the laser "beam", won't missile designers just make the missile housing out of the same reflective material?

Weight and strength. Plus, it's a game of measure/countermeasure. You invent the gun, I invent armor. You invent a stronger gun, I counter with reactive armor.
Eventually, someone will counter with a missile skin able to defeat this. And then a different type of laser/phaser/deathray will be invented.

Re:How does it aim? (2, Insightful)

wealthychef (584778) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076341)

it's a game of measure/countermeasure. You invent the gun, I invent armor. You invent a stronger gun, I counter with reactive armor.

Eventually this is going to stop being the way we work, I hope. We could also think outside the box: put more resources into improving things for other human beings on the planet. Yes, we need to defend ourselves against REAL threats, and the biggest strength the U.S. has at its disposal is the good will we manage to generate by helping others and spreading wealth and peace in the world.

We do this enough... (1, Offtopic)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076799)

and the biggest strength the U.S. has at its disposal is the good will we manage to generate by helping others and spreading wealth and peace in the world.

The USA has a trillion dollar trade deficit. Every year the USA buys more junk than it can possibly afford, made all over the world. Look at what the good will this has gotten us. Nothing. Germany and Japan and South Korea and China dump all their junk on the USA, and take our market for granted, but what have they done for us lately?

Conversely, the British are in worse shape than we are, but, when push comes to shove, if the USA needs an ally, the British come through.

You know what I think? I think the USA needs to recognize that it has some friends and others are not so much friends, no matter how much money you put on the table, and reprioritize its trade based on that. Don't you think its kinda B.S. that a British or Canadian soldier that actually fights alongside the USA in Iraq or Afghanistan, deserves in peacetime more of a job working for some company that exports to the USA than, say, a South Korean or a German? Certainly the British and the Canadians are no lovers of war but they stood with us and actually have made some real contributions in money and in blood.

If we were really going to do the right thing, we would be importing cars from Britain, not Korea.

Re:How does it aim? (1)

Yvanhoe (564877) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076389)

Eventually ? Russians have announced at the beginning of this program that their new ICBMs defeated this technology through their specific armor and the very short ignition time they use to gain their maximum velocity. I doubt that the "big laser" technology will be of that much use. The tracking technology, however, could have some applications.

My understanding is that they don't use mirrors, they rotate the whole lasing cavity.

Re:How does it aim? (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076613)

What about going the really expensive route and making a stealth missile that the laser operator doesn't even know about until it separates from its payload?

Re:How does it aim? (2, Interesting)

wfstanle (1188751) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076279)

Not only mirrors (that occurred to me as well), but have the missile spin so the energy of the laser is spread out over a much larger surface. Spinning would also allow the areas of the missile to cool down somewhat.

In all military advances in offense, the defense will find a way around it (and vice-versa). It's a cat and mouse game. Look at how Iraq tried to foil GPS guided ordinance, they jammed the GPS signals. I don't know how successful they were but given time they might have been successful.

Re:How does it aim? (2, Insightful)

rumith (983060) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076301)

Spinning is not likely to be useful: the laser impulse is going to be pretty short. I agree with the rest of your comment, though.

Re:How does it aim? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076715)

Spinning is not likely to be useful: the laser impulse is going to be pretty short.

As Tom Clancy explained it, imagine a ballerina spinning to deflect a shotgun blast.

Re:How does it aim? (4, Insightful)

vsny (1213632) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076281)

They've proven that standard mirror materials will ablate and burn up very quickly with this laser power. Even rotating the missile does not help. The missile body still heats up significantly.

The laser optics in the airborne laser probably have to be made out of narrow band reflectors which in practice can be made more than 99.999% reflective to a laser. It would be easy to slightly change the laser wavelength and optics (a few nm's perhaps) and the missile would absorb again.

Re:How does it aim? (2, Insightful)

moosesocks (264553) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076291)

I think this is one of those "why don't they build the entire plane out of the black box material" questions.

Odds are that high-performance mirror glass is extremely expensive, heavy, and fragile. Similarly, it's difficult to keep something clean when blasting through the atmosphere at 1000mph.

Re:How does it aim? (3, Insightful)

Animaether (411575) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076321)

you can always track a missile optically, or via infra red, or.. etc.

as for 'pointed in the right direction fast enough'... see Phalanx and Goalkeeper systems for some seriously-fast-aiming systems. As long as you can track the missile itself*, you can aim something at it. Lasers come with an advantage over the above systems... the laser tends to travel in a fairly straight line, bullets.. not so much. Even with atmospheric distortions, you should get much better aim with a laser than with bullets.

* As for tracking a missile - keep in mind that this system is intended to be used from some distance. Tracking a missile going 'thousands of miles per hour' just means having to rotate the system (fractions) of degrees. Think of regular ol' human camera operators tracking the space shuttle, which goes much faster than a typical missile, and having no problems doing so. It becomes easier the further away it is, in fact. (well, easiest is when it's still sitting on the launch pad, but you get the idea.)

Re:How does it aim? (1)

bami (1376931) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076353)

But the field of view of a camera is a lot bigger then that of a single laser beam.
You still have to point that tiny dot at something moving very fast.

Re:How does it aim? (1)

Animaether (411575) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076539)

true, but keep in mind that these camera operators tend to keep the shuttle in the center of view pretty well - a computer would be even better at this simply because it doesn't suffer as much from influences like hands shaking, and a much more solid platform than a (relatively) flimsy tripod. /nokarma

Re:How does it aim? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076441)

Probably because the interesting details are classified.

Frequency tuning gets you... (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076807)

won't missile designers just make the missile housing out of the same reflective material?

Free electron lasers, I think, can actually have their frequency tuned. It's like Star Trek. The Borg put up a shield, the Enterprise changes its phaser frequency.... blammo.

The question is... (0)

rumith (983060) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076199)

...how do they plan to target and shoot down ICBMs on a cloudy day, of which in a certain large northern country (but not Canada) there are plenty? :)

Re:The question is... (1)

nysus (162232) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076407)

They will place these lasers in New England. They say you only have to wait 5 min. for the weather to change there.

Re:The question is... (1)

rumith (983060) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076457)

In order for that to work, it would be required to bring the ICBMs to New England as well. Which is precisely what they are working to prevent.

Re:The question is... (2, Informative)

nysus (162232) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076435)

Actually, the lasers are on a plane, presumably above the clouds. See article.

If a Boeing can do it... (0, Offtopic)

Sumbius (1500703) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076201)

So, when can we expect to see these things on sharks?

Re:If a Boeing can do it... (1)

scotch (102596) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076647)

OMG you are so funny.

I'm sure that... (1)

Hashey (800708) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076213)

This technology will be quite useful when we are facing the Space Chinese in 2385.

Space Chinese (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076673)

This technology will be quite useful when we are facing the Space Chinese in 2385.

By then we'll be cruising around in Fireflies. In another star system because the earth became too crowded.

Falcon

okay well... (1)

ILuvRamen (1026668) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076241)

What happens when the enemy mirror coats the missile? Like totally chrome it out so it reflects like 99.9999% of light?

Re:okay well... (3, Insightful)

jjohnson (62583) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076283)

Doesn't matter, apparently. The total amount of energy in the laser overheats the reflective surface long before a significant amount of the light is reflected. One of the problems of aiming high powered lasers is that the mirrors that guide the beam melt.

Re:okay well... (2, Insightful)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076355)

so, we tune the laser to a color that your reflective surface doesn't reflect; or, since no reflective surface is 100% reflective (some energy is always absorbed) we amp the laser up until the absorbed energy is enough to vaporize the reflective coating. Then, you're toast.

Re:okay well... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076593)

> Like totally chrome it out so it reflects like 99.9999% of light?

And if that doesn't work, they could try adding some spinner rims.

Does this mean... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076251)

That now we'll have to fit sharks with wings too?

Good (1)

WindBourne (631190) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076255)

WHile I am a BIG believer in Gates(robert, not bill), I think that his idea to kill ABL was dead wrong. If anything, we should be building these faster. These are absolutely ideal for dealing the current and future situation. Now, we just have to learn to quit allowing the specs flowing to other countries.

Re:Good (1)

KDR_11k (778916) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076627)

Weren't anti-nuke measures cancelled during the cold war due to an international treaty banning them?

Also wouldn't one country having anti-nuke systems and noone else make a global thermonuclear war much more likely as it no longer becomes "everybody loses"?

Re:Good (1)

falconwolf (725481) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076739)

WHile I am a BIG believer in Gates(robert, not bill), I think that his idea to kill ABL was dead wrong. If anything, we should be building these faster.

Like these lasers are going to help prevent a smuggled bomb from being detonated in LA Harbor. And the US needs another treaty to break, well Bush already broke the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

Falcon

Money for health care... (0, Flamebait)

IdleTime (561841) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076267)

Mr President!

Yesterday in a Townhall meeting, you had some problems coming up with another 30 billion dollars in order to fund health care reforms. Please inform the NRA-clown who asked you the question that the 30 billion can easily be taken from the military budget seeing that the US already spends more money on the military than the rest of the world combined, reducing the budget with 20 billion from 500 billion to 470 billion would not be any problem whatsoever unless you think the socialistic program called the military is not able operate on only 470 billion dollars per year.

Canning useless systems like this laser show is a good start to reduce the budget with 30 billion!
Thank you!

Re:Money for health care... (1, Interesting)

quercus.aeternam (1174283) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076467)

Wait, you're deriding the military program as being socialistic while suggesting that money should be redirected to health care reforms? Perhaps you should rethink that one a little...

Shoot it down (2, Insightful)

The_church_of_funzie (940003) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076285)

Being able to aim a laser turret at moving object for a few seconds is impresive, but shooting it down another beast altogether. Protective coating from dense material or ablative coating for missile is pretty easy to make, all you really need is another booster stage to compensate for extra mass. Making missile spin to reflect heat better is also pretty simple. Moore's law makes computational power necessary to spin a missile faster, easyer then makeing a more powerfull laser. Air borne laser is also infrared, it will not travel far through the atmosphere. Does anyone have some hard numbers? Or is this another cost understated, ability underated, "Flying Edsel" funded by Republican party, just for sole purpose of being "Strong On Defence" ?

Time to buy lots of popcorn (1)

j741 (788258) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076295)

Time to buy lots of popcorn and tinfoil. You're in for it now Hathaway; hope you're house is insured.
-
There. Now you've had your nod to 'Real Genius'. ;)

Real Genius laser was in SPACE (1)

localroger (258128) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076315)

I'm here to tell you I'm not living the dream until I see scum-sucking bad guys brought down from SPACE, preferably vaporized in their lawn chairs while their horrified guests look on in awe.

Re:Real Genius laser was in SPACE (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076491)

Real Genius laser was turret mounted in a B1 bomber bay. Did you even watch the movie?

Furthermore, Val Kilmer's character had it all wrong. Assassinations are way better than wars. In wars, the peasants who join the armies do all the dying, while in assassinations, only the assholes who command the wars get killed, because it's too expensive to assassinate each member of an opposing army individually.

just remember. (4, Funny)

nimbius (983462) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076325)

this technology is totally useless in its current state. high power flying lasers will never find a use without a high power flying shark to combine it with.

Re:just remember. (1)

dunkelfalke (91624) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076501)

here you are. [wikimedia.org]

Re:just remember. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076731)

This one is more entertaining.
It proves that flying sharks, even without lasers, can be used to take down planes: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=skYRZ_-RXtk

Was REAL GENIUS wrong? (1)

wisebabo (638845) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076333)

I mean the technical idea behind the laser which I've always wondered if it would work. In the movie, some (Caltech?) students take an optically pumped up gas (like the gas used in a carbon dioxide or neon laser I suppose) and freeze it into a solid while it is still optically pumped up. Since the now solid gas is still optically pumped up and is many many times denser than a gas, they achieve a corresponding increase in the power density which allows a small rod of it to pop a lot of popcorn. Sure beats the oxygen-iodine(?) chemical laser they're putting in the 747 for the airforce. The gas tanks are huge which is one reason why it's limited to 40 shots I think. Also the environmental impact from that much combusting iodine is probably not good (wonder what it does to the ozone up there).

I know it was just a movie and probably for some very simple thermodynamic/quantum physics based reason it couldn't work but why not? Would the atoms/molecules in a "pumped" up gas have to be lowered to a lower energy state before it could be frozen? Is there a correlation between the energy levels of the electrons in their shells and the temperature of a gas? Any answers out there?

Re:Was REAL GENIUS wrong? (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076507)

Disclaimer: IANAP(hysicist)

If I remember the laws of thermodynamics from my physics courses correctly, things at lower temperatures have lower amount of energy. Things are frozen by taking away the matter's energy at the molecular level. If you "pump up" some matter (i.e. give it lots of energy or make it hot) then the effect of pumping it up is negated when the matter is frozen, since you need to remove all the energy.

Re:Was REAL GENIUS wrong? (2, Informative)

Legendre (634519) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076693)

The quantum processes of state inversion, pumping electrons, etc. are all done assuming 0 K temperature already.

anti-laser system (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076369)

coat the missle in a layer of popcorn kernels, with a wrap of aluminum foil.

I don't trust the source of this story (4, Insightful)

nysus (162232) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076373)

Wouldn't Boeing have a lot of incentive to hype this to ensure that the contract got renewed for further research? It's possible that they set the bar for success so low and/or made the experiment so contrived that they couldn't help but achieve it.

Countermeasures (1)

gurps_npc (621217) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076387)

Several people talk about counter measures.

They cost money to do. A lot of money.

More importantly, such as system provides immunity to all the old out dated missiles.

We are no longer facing a gigantic super-power threat. Russia and China are friendly, (and Germany and Japan are some of our best friends).

Our enemeis now a days are Terrorists

They are not known for scientific innovation. They are not known for expensive equipment. They make do with what they have. They do suicide missions because they can't afford robotic drones.

They will not be able to test their countermeasures easily. Effectively this development can triple or quadruple to cost for them to fire a missile.

More importantly, it will require them to spend more time and get better engineers. That gives us more time and places to detect their work.

This innovation might delay their attack enough for us to stop them.

Re:Countermeasures (3, Insightful)

nysus (162232) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076487)

So how will this anti-ICBM technology be used against a terrorist carrying these suitcase a-bombs that are said to exist?

The problem is, ss soon as we get a 100% effective missile shield, enemies will find a way to deliver nuclear armaments. It wouldn't even be that hard. They can just park a ship off a Manhattan and light one off if they wanted to.

This whole idea of shooting down missiles is a waste of fucking time and money. If we gave the money we were spending on this bullshit to the countries to foster good will, we'd be a lot better off.

Re:Countermeasures (2, Insightful)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076745)

They can just park a ship off a Manhattan and light one off if they wanted to.

Ships move at 20-30mph. Ballistic missiles move at 15,000mph +. If we make it so that our enemies have to get a ship into one our harbors, it becomes a much simpler problem. We would need to have more Coast Guard people to basically board every ship, with neutron detectors, but, its something we can do. We can track ships as they are approaching the USA, track them as they leave ports, follow them, and pretty much monitor every boat on the ocean.

Re:Countermeasures (1)

iceborer (684929) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076781)

The problem is, ss soon as we get a 100% effective missile shield, enemies will find a way to deliver nuclear armaments. It wouldn't even be that hard. They can just park a ship off a Manhattan and light one off if they wanted to.

That's when we deploy the sharks!

Re:Countermeasures (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076499)

When the terrorists blow up Los Angeles, they aren't going to be using an ICBM. They're going to be floating a bomb into the harbor on a container ship. Your fancy airborn lasers will be useless.

But don't let that stop you from wasting billions of dollars on this. It's just all the sooner China takes over as the world's primary superpower.

Re:Countermeasures (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076771)

When the terrorists blow up Los Angeles, they aren't going to be using an ICBM. They're going to be floating a bomb into the harbor on a container ship. Your fancy airborn lasers will be useless.

Will they?

I mean, everyone seems to think that loading a ship full of explosives is some unstoppable defense, yet, we certainly have the means to board, inspect, and if necessary, sink pretty much any ship.

Re:Countermeasures (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076827)

If we know which ships to stop.

The occasional container load of immigrants has made it here. What's to stop them from loading up a bomb?

Worse yet, they'll stash one in an old freighter and pile bails of pot on top of it. If they make it to port, they can sell the dope and fund future operations. If the Coast Guard seizes the boat, the first thing they do is tow it into port for the obligatory press briefing on the big bust. The bomb goes off when the network cameras are rolling.

Not living the dream - yet. (2, Funny)

fahrbot-bot (874524) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076399)

Looks like the Real Genius [wikiquote.org] fans out there are finally living the dream.

Sigh. Not until I can hammer a six inch spike through a board with my penis.

Re:Not living the dream - yet. (1)

Smooth and Shiny (1097089) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076431)

You mean you... can't? Dammit! She was right. I AM some sort of freak of nature!

Those are toys (1)

Cannelloni (969195) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076427)

Airborne laser? Pffffffffff, just toys. What's needed is a real Death Star.

Re:Those are toys (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076543)

aahhh, airborne starfish with frickin' lasers attached to their heads! mwuhahahahaha.

Next up - negative refraction skins? (1)

MartinSchou (1360093) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076465)

Will take a while to achieve, but I'm somewhat curious if materials with negative refractions still vaporize if hit by a powerful laser at the frequency at which the material exhibits that quality.

How about retroreflective coatings? (1)

vadim_t (324782) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076635)

Ok, a mirror won't work because it's not perfect and will quickly ablate, at which point the laser makes a hole in the missile even if it takes a second or two longer.

But what if you make a missile covered with retroreflectors that reflect that 90% or whatever a mirror can manage, but back at the laser itself?

Could an anti-laser missile be developed, which instead of a payload has several layers of retroreflectors to try to make the laser fry itself?

kids don't remember it's an old story (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 5 years ago | (#29076653)

/**
03/11/1983
@author T. Axdollars
**/

class StarWars implements SdiSpending { ...

try
{

frikkinLasers.pretendToShoot ( missle );

missle.pretendToGetHit ( frikkinLasers );

}

finally {

profit();

} ...

}

There is an even easier work around (2, Informative)

aepervius (535155) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076705)

Beside suitcase bomb, jsut multiply the number of missile or decoy with a "heat" source in it or whatever.

Can you imagine the energy requirement and the number of laser necessary to deflect a full scale attack of say, the russian ? Even if only 50% of the missile go through (and from seeing the dfficulty of development I am being generous) , your country is about as parking-lotted as it can be.

Re:There is an even easier work around (1)

PPH (736903) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076775)

The ABL isn't intended to knock down warheads in mid flight. It goes after missiles during the boost phase. That's when they can get the laser relatively close to the target, its easy to spot (from the propulsion IR signature) and it hasn't released decoys yet.

What I'm wondering is whether the full power tests will be conducted against targets equipped with ablative or reflective coatings. Or worse yet; corner reflectors.

The problem with ABL (1)

tjstork (137384) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076727)

ABL is certainly a cool concept but the problem is they are working on the wrong kind of laser. Since the ABL project has started, free electron lasers have made way more progress than the chemical laser used in the ABL. With a free electron laser, you don't have to haul around all the nasty chemicals, can have more shots, more power for the beam and even offers the hope of adjusting the beam frequency. I'm not one to really want to kill a defense project, but, if I were in charge, I would junk the chemical laser part of the program, and go straight to free electron.

I think Raytheon just got a contract for a 100kw FEL, from the Navy. Perhaps the AF won't ever really succeed with the chemical ABL, but, if the Navy comes through with a free electron laser mounted on ships or even carrier borne aircraft, the capability of the ABL is something that we can get much more quickly.

Useless (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076769)

So basically they have a system that must be on station when the missile is launched and can be defeated by launching more than 1 missile.

The Russians or Chinese would just use mobile launchers and launch 10+ ICBMs at one time, or better yet just launch from a submarine out in the middle of nowhere in the Atlantic.

If any useless program needs to be canceled this is it.

Transpart Aluminum (1)

inject_hotmail.com (843637) | more than 5 years ago | (#29076825)

I think this will be a fantastic use for transparent aluminum. If you can't see the thing, you can't shoot it down. Even if you could see it (to aim at), it won't absorb the energy from the laser too much.
Load More Comments
Slashdot Login

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>