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Laser-equipped 747

Hemos posted more than 13 years ago | from the isn't-this-old dept.


omnirealm writes ""Engineers are making plans to change the gentle giant (Boeing 747) into a hot-blooded killer with a swiveling nose-cone laser beam theoretically capable of destroying enemy missiles hundreds of miles away." Of particular interest is the fact that "No human finger will actually pull a trigger. Onboard computers will decide when to fire the beam." I find this to be a bit disconcerting. " Somehow I feel as if we had posted this a while ago - no search found it. i do remember that this has been talked about for quite some time, tho'.

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Fun Fun Fun (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#511050)

"If you look out the left side of the aircraft you can see the beautiful Grand Canyon. To the right of the aircraft is an ICBM that we are about to destroy."

Re:Smooth move USAF (1)

cheese_wallet (88279) | more than 13 years ago | (#511052)

So that is what the klaxons and flashing lights were on the stealth bomber.

The uses (1)

rppp01 (236599) | more than 13 years ago | (#511073)

I hope this isn't true. We are arming our commercial jets with firepower more powerful than what our fighter jets use? That doesn't make any sense. Then again, when was the last time the government made any sense?

Old News... (2)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 13 years ago | (#511077)

They were talking about that at least as early as next year. They finally figured out how to get the hardware down to the size where it'd actually fit in the plane.

Now all we need is an orbiting mirror and our Saddam Hussein problems will be history...

TWA 800 (1)

Flounder (42112) | more than 13 years ago | (#511082)

747's that can shoot down incoming missles. That's what this world needs.

Great parody material (2)

WickedClean (230550) | more than 13 years ago | (#511170)

I'd love to see the Zucker brothers make another Airplane! movie based on this story. I'd go see it.

So why do we need a Missle defense system? (2)

LtFiend (232003) | more than 13 years ago | (#511177)

If we can do this, And I belive there was another device that could use a laser to destroy inboud missles from the ground (it's being used in Israel) then why do we need to have orbiting satalites that in my understnading are going to have explosive weapons rather than lasers?

Interesting concept... (2)

Ron Harwood (136613) | more than 13 years ago | (#511181)

When you think about it actually does make a kind of sense... these things don't need to be really maneuverable - and they can carry a pretty heavy payload.

Add to that the fact that 747 are 'commercially available' and it even becomes financially feasible... and you could use commercially trained pilots - rather than expensive fighter pilots.

One step closer? (1)

Omar (12533) | more than 13 years ago | (#511189)

"You know, I have one simple request, and that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads!" - Austin Powers

Just for the military... darn.. (4)

Rombuu (22914) | more than 13 years ago | (#511195)

I mean, this could be real useful when you are in one of those holding patterns trying to land at O'Hare....

COOL! (1)

Bob McCown (8411) | more than 13 years ago | (#511205)

Now guys that piss me off will get a house full of popcorn!

...but will it keep up with the upgrades? (3)

mblase (200735) | more than 13 years ago | (#511208)

The one thing I didn't see in this news article was any description of how the computer-guided tracking system identifies something as a missile rather than, say, a pigeon or a stealth bomber.

I wonder how long it would be before someone else can develop a type of missile which isn't identified as such by this system? And how much more will it cost them to release a patch?

Supercool hot laserbeams of love... (1)

Tin Weasil (246885) | more than 13 years ago | (#511214)

What I would really like is something like this on the nosecone of an ultralite. And instead of shooting down missiles, it would need to shoot down cars on the ground.
Okay. Maybe I'm a little tired of morning commutes...

Chrome (3)

t0qer (230538) | more than 13 years ago | (#511216)

I bet saddam is having his missles chromed right now. Next we'll have to make a 747 that can take the chrome off a scud.


Let's hope a rogue state doesn't have a stinger (1)

georgeha (43752) | more than 13 years ago | (#511218)

While this is a nice idea, if some rogue state attempted to launch a missile at the US, don't you think they'd have a few terrorists with Stingers (or the Russian equivalent) hiding in the weeds outside the airports where the 747 takes off.

The 747 is an impressive machine, but I don't think it's maneuverable enough to dodge a shoulder mounted missile on take off.

Great, now 747's will be shot down all the time (2)

Ken Broadfoot (3675) | more than 13 years ago | (#511220)

I will be more comforable in an obvious civilian plane than in a possible war plane.

Old technology (2)

davidc (91400) | more than 13 years ago | (#511223)

Why is this news? Madonna has had such nose-cone lasers installed in her bras for years

Disconcerting? (3)

XJoshX (103447) | more than 13 years ago | (#511226)

I don't really see how a 'weapon' designed to eliminate the threat of ICBMs and other missles is 'disconcerting'.

I find it more disturbing that such a 'weapon' is actually considered a bad thing by some politicians...

The computer part of it isn't anything surprising. When your dealing with aiming a weapon fired from a platform traveling ~400mph at something hundreds of miles away traveling even faster the average quake players aim isn't gonna cut it.

this idea has been around for a while.... (1)

Rackemup (160230) | more than 13 years ago | (#511227)

I remember when this was discussed on TLC a while back... They were talking about prototype land-based laser defense systems and how eventually systems like this could be mounted on the nosecone of a plane "just in case" they needed to shoot down an incoming missle.

I think we should put more work into preventing or diffusing situations where you would need to arm a standard passsanger jet rather than on the weapons we could equip them with. Wouldn't these research funds be better put to use by developing some type of recovery program that could safely land those big jets? Something like giant parachutes, or a break-away escape capsule...

Danger to Civilians? (1)

kcwhitta (232438) | more than 13 years ago | (#511235)

Okay, so now we'll have two jets, one commercial, the other military, that will show up on radar as being identical. This seems to me to greatly increase the chance that civilians will be killed accidentally.

Re:The uses (2)

tie_guy_matt (176397) | more than 13 years ago | (#511238)

You probably can't put it on a fighter jet cause it is to big. You need a plane as big as the 747 just to carry it all. The point will be to blow up in coming nuclear missiles. This thing will probably only work at high altitudes since non-linear optics would limit the range of a laser that powerful close to the ground. And no, you can't just put a mirror on the missiles. There is no way to make a perfect mirror. The mirror will still absorb a small amount of the power; this power will at least be enough to screw up your mirror so that the second blast will surely kill the missile. I believe this is some kind of chemical laser. I wonder how long you will have to wait for the next pulse? You will probably need the 747 to be escorted by fighter jets to stop the enemy (whoever that would be) from blowing it up.

There's even a website for it (3)

Dg93 (10261) | more than 13 years ago | (#511244) [] - it's kind of funny, and very surreal. I thought it was a joke the first time I saw it, and watching the promo films [] on there made me think of the opening to Real Genius [] . Gotta love it...

Put the laser INSIDE!!! (2)

Hates (168348) | more than 13 years ago | (#511250)

I think the laser would be of more use inside the plane. To get rid of: 1. Annoying people behind you who decide it's funny to keep kicking and moving your seat. 2. Children who don't stop crying. 3. People who put their seat back as soon as they get on the plane. Leaving tall people like me with their TV about 10cm away from their face. 4. All the people who can afford to fly first and business class and who look down upon us mortals who fly coach when we walk by. 5. People who hog the toilets. KILL THEM! KILL THEM ALL!!!

Smooth move USAF (2)

laetus (45131) | more than 13 years ago | (#511251)

Jeez, you'd think the flyboys would think about this for a second. OK, so we're going to retrofit one of the most widely used passenger airplanes with war-making technology.

Now an enemy knows that the US has 747's used to shoot down missiles. Doesn't that suddenly make every 747 in the sky a suspect? Someone, please correct me if I'm wrong, but this seems likely in stressful times to make civilian airliners a legitimate target.

All I want is... (4)

Jafa (75430) | more than 13 years ago | (#511268)

some 747's with freakin' laserbeams on their heads! Honestly people, throw me a freakin' bone here...

-Dr Evil

Re:So why do we need a Missle defense system? (3)

Yo_mama (72429) | more than 13 years ago | (#511271)

The killer satellites are to kill other satellites. The fuel needed by anything to vector towards a ballistic missile that is A) only going to be in the upper atmosphere for a short time B) traveling a lot slower and on a different course than anything in orbit.... there's just better ways than to put a floating fuel tank in space. Hence the 747 with a big stick :) I do believe that the chinese and Russians are pretty peeved about this though; upsets strategic balances, donchaknow.

So.. (5)

Gehenna_Gehenna (207096) | more than 13 years ago | (#511275)

It is at least theoreticly possible that we will have 747's blowing up terrrorists? Is it just me or is the irony overwhelming?

Real Genius anyone? (3)

tonyj (20863) | more than 13 years ago | (#511278)

This story reminds me of the movie Real Genius [] . The parallels are staggering: Big laser mounted in a plane to be able to fire anywhere. In the movie, they talked about a 5 MegaWatt laser, and here they are saying the laser is more than 1 MegaWatt. Hmmmm.

You think a person can aim & fire a laser better? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#511284)

I don't think that the computer will be allowed to decide on its own(override a person) that something should be shot at. It is probably just saying that the computer will do the aiming and the timing for the firing.

Have you ever played with a laser-pointer and tried to aim it at things like street signs as your car dives by them (while driving or not, it is difficult--and these are stationary objects)? It is *very* hard to aim it correctly, and it is not just a bullet (which can miss, but is only in one place at a time), but it is more practially thought of as a line ir thin column of light which can do damage to or destroy things at *any* point along its presence instantly. I, for one, feel more secure knowing that no person will actually be manually aiming and squeezing the "on" button for one of these death-rays.

Huh (1)

sharkey (16670) | more than 13 years ago | (#511286)

I guess it really WILL be a "Blue Screen of Death."


Missile Command! (2)

weston (16146) | more than 13 years ago | (#511289)

I beleive the problem with the failed missile defense systems so far has been targetting. We can get defense projectiles into the air, but getting them to meet incoming stuff has been a problem (ask anyone who's played Missile Command :).

I'd like to see more info on how they solved the
problem. I'm sure it helps that a laser beam travels a bit faster than a projectile, but there
would still be some sort of tracking problem to solve, wouldn't there?


Beam weapons (2)

Alien54 (180860) | more than 13 years ago | (#511292)

Well the military and police forces have been trying to come up with something resembling science fiction beam weapons for a while.

Someone has even figured a way to come up with "phasers" that stun a person. Two laser beams ionize the air enough to provide the path of an electric current. sort of like a taser(?) without the wires.

In any case, I am sure we will here more of this sort of thing.

The US looks like it is walking in the direction of high tech beam weapons, etc. while the under developed nations go in the direction of bioweapons.

An interesting balance of power, to say the least.

Re:this idea has been around for a while.... (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#511312)

They're not arming "standard passenger jets", these planes are owned by the Air Force.

Discovey (1)

THX113895 (74457) | more than 13 years ago | (#511315)

I remember seeing this on discovery channel. Looks like a damn good idea specaily if nukes are baring down on us.


Quite a while ago (1)

Gorgonzola (24839) | more than 13 years ago | (#511317)

I remember this being mentioned on Slashdot in one of its early incarnations. Must have been autumn 1997 or something. Perhaps articles weren't archived back then. I am quite confident it must have been 1997, I have been using an artists impression of that 747 as a wallpaper for a while in that period.

"no human finger" (2)

banky (9941) | more than 13 years ago | (#511320)

Having the computer decide when to fire is nothing new. The fire control systems of modern tanks consider the trigger as a "release", more or less, but the computer decides to actually fire the gun. Granted the difference between the trigger being pulled and the gun going boom is miniscule, its important; the fire control computer makes last minute adjustments of things before firing. Its almost like using a "predicting gunsight" on a fighter plane.

After all, its hard to teach a human operator about things like barrel warp.

Re:The uses (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 13 years ago | (#511321)

This report is about a specific test aircraft, not a device which will be installed on all 747s. The phrasing in the Slashdot story does read as if it's about all 747s.

article (1)

Sideswiped (259402) | more than 13 years ago | (#511324)

There was an article a few years(?) back in either Popular Science or Mechanics that even had an artist's rendering of the plain. I remember them saying something about a 747 being a mobile command center in the sky and it having various defense radio jammers etc... and even the nose mounted laser... Kind of cool to see it all starting to come together.

This is definitely NOT new news . . . (1)

Tanman (90298) | more than 13 years ago | (#511325)

The Discovery Channel ran a program over a year ago, maybe even a couple years ago, in which they talked about various measures being tested for missile defense. An entire segment of the program was given to the 747's. Pretty much, the problem with them is that the amount of fuel required to power a laser strong enough to destroy a missile is enormous, and each 747 could only physically hold enough fuel for 2 or 3 missiles (the entire area normally used for cargo and passengers was converted to a huge power cell).

There's some REAL GENIUSES at work here (1)

enjar (249223) | more than 13 years ago | (#511340)

Maybe MS will write the software... (4)

MongooseCN (139203) | more than 13 years ago | (#511343)

"During todays first test of the laser weilding 747, a freak accident occured and the DOJ headquarters was turned into a raging inferno..."

Nicola Tesla (1)

Elias Ross (1260) | more than 13 years ago | (#511346)

I remember seeing on PBS the other day that Tesla had the idea of creating directed energy beam weapons over eighty years ago. Anyway, it's one of those ideas that has resurfaced many times. Like in Reagan's Star Wars initiative, which was to shoot down missles in space.

I guess it has never been practical to actually create a weapon like that, when it's pretty cheap and effective to use depleted uranium bullets to tear missles apart like they do on Navy carriers and the like.

Of course no human finger (1)

Christopher Craig (1394) | more than 13 years ago | (#511349)

If this is the same system I heard about a few months ago then it is designed to be used as part of a missle defense system. There is no way that a human is going to accurately aim at an ICBM and pull the trigger. You need a computer for that sort of precision. (or a storm trooper)

Re:All I want is... (1)

ArthurDent (11309) | more than 13 years ago | (#511368)

Damn. Somebody beat me to it. :)


Evil plan (4)

Hard_Code (49548) | more than 13 years ago | (#511370)

Man, with one of these we could hold the world hostage for

<pinky>one *million* dollars</pinky>

A really old toy (1)

opkool (231966) | more than 13 years ago | (#511371)

Being an aeronautics fan myself, I have to say that this is really, really old toy turned real with a convincing budget.

The first ideas of a 747 with an ICBM lauch-detector telescope and laser mounts to shot-down those missiles have been around since the eighties.

I have in my hads (paper support: really old) a drawing of one of those military B-747 as an intergal part of the SDI (Strategic Defense Initiative: a.k.a "Reagan's Star Wars).

Reagan years went away and SDI was dropped because the "enemy" collapsed (= the cold war was won by economics). But now, Dubyia thinks that some major contributors of his campaign must make some bucks building an eighties-idea with new-millenium technology and Daddy's advice.

Anyway, nothing new under the sun.

Regards, opkool

No MS OS please! (1)

garoush (111257) | more than 13 years ago | (#511374)

I hope they don't use MS OS to control the laser, cause I don't want to see the blue-screen-of-death while the laser is being used. :-)

Still just another tool (2)

drew_kime (303965) | more than 13 years ago | (#511377)

While I can sympathize with the discomfort that the system will fire itself, I don't think we are (yet) at the point where we should fear the technology. After all, there are still people deciding where the plane will fly and what the rules of engagement will be for the laser.

This system is far more refined in its targeting capabilities than nuclear weapons. Nukes take out whole cities indiscriminately, this will only -- okay, it's designed to only -- take out missles and aircraft. Missles are obviously not civilian, so that only leaves the possibility of targeting the wrong aircraft. And since anyone flying a plane should know how to use the radio, there shouldn't be cases of civilians accidentally ending up in the path of an autonomous system.

When someone decides to apply an AI to deciding what is a target to begin with, then we'll have gone too far.

real geniouses (1)

Brigadier (12956) | more than 13 years ago | (#511380)

anyone watch that movie real genious where they did this, ... and ended popping all that pop corn ...

all saddam has to do nwo is wrap all his tanks in foil wrap and that should do the trick.

Re:The uses (1)

SEWilco (27983) | more than 13 years ago | (#511381)

Your reference to "nuclear missiles" is too specific (as to missile type) and implies too general an application (worldwide coverage). The story makes clear this is a test of a theater weapon. That is, it is intended to be used in a specific area of operation, such as orbiting over Desert Storm forces and shoot down Scuds and other airborne threats.

The initial design is to make it hit a missile during the first half-minute after launch, while the missile engine is still firing -- punching a hole in a missile both weakens it and is likely to make the engine do messy things. Right now they're only talking about big targets; later we'll see if they can detect, aim, and shoot at smaller SAMs which fly for a shorter time.

Re:Old News... (1)

jgodfrey (128572) | more than 13 years ago | (#511384)

Wasn't this from the movie, Real Genius [] , with Val Kilmer?

This will come in handy (1)

Cardinal (311) | more than 13 years ago | (#511385)

When we discover that a massive asteroid is heading towards us, so that we can shoot it down with three laser beams.

Like in that super-cheesy TV movie, Asteroid [] .

Frequency of light? (2)

Malc (1751) | more than 13 years ago | (#511386)

I wonder if this thing is in the visible range? That amount of energy for that length of time is going to light up the sky if it is visible. Good job they can fly by instruments as they'll have to cover the cockpit windows.

747 _and_ 767 (1)

11thangel (103409) | more than 13 years ago | (#511388)

The discovery channel had a special on this about 3 years ago in which they used a 767 for this. They used a small targeting laser then a high powered laser that would burn through the sides of the missles. They estimated 1000 USD per shot. I'd be careful if they named it "project Dagobah", you never know what they have planned next.

Re:Smooth move USAF (5)

psychosis (2579) | more than 13 years ago | (#511389)

Not true - period. One word covers this: LOAC (Law of Armed Conflict)
Since the aircraft will be a combatant vehicle, it will have to be CLEARLY marked with insignia showing that fact. It will have the ubiquitous "U.S. Air Force" on the side, star/stripe logo on the wings, etc, etc.
Just realize that the Af has been flying commercial aircraft retrofitted to do other duty for years and years - most WWII cargo craft were McDonnell Douglas civilian carriers, and there are many incarnations of the 707-737 variety in service today.
Not to mention that the large lens that is needed to make this platform a reality makes the nose bulge in an unmistakable way.
BOttom line - don't worry. It's nothing new.

That's Really Genius (2)

RobertPearse (16838) | more than 13 years ago | (#511390)

Somehow I feel as if we had posted this a while ago - no search found it. i do remember that this has been talked about for quite some time, tho'.

You're right. It's been discussed since about 1985. []

Innovation! (1)

mholve (1101) | more than 13 years ago | (#511391)

A great new way to avoid mid-air collisions.

Simply blow up the other plane before they blow you up!

Re:Smooth move USAF (1)

lrichardson (220639) | more than 13 years ago | (#511392)

Yeah, right: KAL-007 ring any bells?

Old tech. (1)

[AD]Defenestrator (156769) | more than 13 years ago | (#511393)

A few years ago there was a documentary about the SDI ("Star Wars"), and there was footage of a test from the 80s.
IIRC a DC-10 was used to store the laser and computers for the targeting (big ass computers back then, therefore big plane, I believe a plane smaller than a 747 could be used nowadays(ie, a smaller target)).
Anyway, a F-4 Phantom then fired a heat seeking missile at the plane (the warhead had been removed, but the missile could still have brought down the plane). There was some great footage of the missile being sliced in two by the laser.
They must have been pretty confident that it would work as if it hadn't there was a chance the plane would have been destroyed.
Now of course, over 10 years later the US can't get missiles to hit other missiles, when back then they had a working laser.

It was done almost 20 years ago! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#511404)

It was called the Airborne Laser Lab, and it successfully destroyed several Sidewinder Missiles that were fired at it back in 1983. .html

Re:COOL! (1)

Flounder (42112) | more than 13 years ago | (#511406)

Now guys that piss me off will get a house full of popcorn!

Now, that's a vague reference. It's a shame that was about the only funny part in that whole movie.

Saw this stuff on TLC or Discovery a while back (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 13 years ago | (#511411)

I remember seeing a show- and I can't remember exactly which one- on TLC or the Discovery channel last year about military lasers. One of the biggest problems they encountered was distortion due to atmospheric interference. They solved the problem with a flexible mirror, controlled by many little actuators that changed the surface angle(s) to correct for disturbance miles up. Pretty cool. As to whether they should- it's a moot point. Progress is inevitable, and the military is hardly going to abandon all that research and possible technology just because there's nobody worth killing right now. Funny, Real Genius was on TV last night. Quite relevant!

Re:Interesting concept... (1)

Sadfsdaf (106536) | more than 13 years ago | (#511413)

Heh, not to mention that you can use those "defensive" lasers in 747's which means that oh, you can relabel the plane as an "American Airlines" plane. As opposed to sticking it in a military bomber plane, which would raise some attention.

Think about it. You're flying the plane to some place where you need to "defend" against missles. All you need to do is relabel the plane as some commercial service and ta-da, no suspicion in enemy territory.

Oh yea, thats just what we need (1)

Kyron (303022) | more than 13 years ago | (#511414)

More tax dollars well spent....lets put a huge laser on a commercial airliner for no apparent reason what so ever...........yeah..makes since

Not really a bad idea... (2)

eAndroid (71215) | more than 13 years ago | (#511415)

If a bird or birds flies into the motors of a plane like this it can badly damage the plane or down it. If the laser mistakes a flock of oncoming geese as a missle it's probably best to shoot them down anyways.

Re:Interesting concept... (1)

Mondo54 (48155) | more than 13 years ago | (#511416)

Actually, you'll just be giving the military pilots a head start on commercial jet aviation, before they head out to the big bucks of the corporate world.

This is way old news... (2)

joshamania (32599) | more than 13 years ago | (#511417)

The US Air Force has been working on what they call an "Airborne Laser" for years. The idea is to provide a defense against ballistic missiles in a particular theatre of battle. For instance, in the middle east, when Iraq was shooting scuds all over the place. The airborne laser, like the Patriot missile, would be used to shoot down missiles, but unlike the Patriot, which shoots down ballistic missiles as they are approaching their target, the airborne laser would shoot down the missile just after launch. That way, the payload and the missile would fall near the launch site.

If you want more info, go over to FAS [] , the poor man's Jane's Defense Review.

Computers already decide when to fire (1)

Jenova_Six (166461) | more than 13 years ago | (#511418)

The US Navy Aegis-class cruisers have a surface missle defense system (called Aegis) that, once actvated, is completely controled by computer (decides when/where to fire). The computer is a lot faster, and more reliable when there are several (dozens) of anti-ship missles coming your way rather quickly.

So don't worry about the computer firing the laser, unless it's name HAL, or Shodan, or Skynet, or something... :-)

For more information (3)

jfunk (33224) | more than 13 years ago | (#511419)

A very good history of laser beams can be found at [] .

I believe you will find it informative and of relevance to this story.

Ground targets (1)

Vassily Overveight (211619) | more than 13 years ago | (#511420)

I wonder if this could be used against ground targets, or is it only good against the relatively fragile missiles? I can imagine that it would be handy to be able to be waaay far away and zap your enemy without risk. Even if all you could do is blind the troops, that might be nearly as good as blowing up their stuff.

Re:The uses (1)

Black Rabbit (236299) | more than 13 years ago | (#511421)

It wouyldn't be anywhere near the first time that an aircraft designed for civilian purposes was converted for use as a military platform. From the DC-3/C-47 to the DC-10/KC-10 and onwards, this has been going on for decades, and I don't think that using a 747 for a test bed suddenly means the equipping of all civvie airliners with weapons, although all those old CCCP badged aircraft could easily be converted into bombers, complete with a plexiglass nose cone for the bomb aimer, during the cold war.

Re:...but will it keep up with the upgrades? (4)

Yo_mama (72429) | more than 13 years ago | (#511422)

a couple different reasons why they won't have to. Ballistic missiles follow a parabolic course... a great arc to get maximum range. It's a signature that the computer can pick up. Most planes fly straight and level or at constant rates of climb, decent, etc. and can be filtered out. Also the ballistic missiles are shapped the way they are for max range, lowest cost, etc. No one is going to make a missile to spoof a radar into thinking it's a supersonic piper cub at 80,000 feet, maybe decrease it's signature so that it's harder to spot; but then again these things get so hot and throw out so much heat a lot of the detection is done thermally anyway.

Now, if they start wanting to use it on planes as well they're going to have to really watch it and make sure the computer can pick out the right guy or gal!)... sometimes the IFF (Identify friend or Foe) doesn't work or is turned off to lower the aircraft's emissions.

Re:article (1)

tdandh (191232) | more than 13 years ago | (#511423) _tech.html []

Popular Science Best of What's new from 1998.

I believe there was a full article about this in one of the issues too, but I can't seem to find it online.

Re:A really old toy (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 13 years ago | (#511424)

Reagan years went away and SDI was dropped because the "enemy" collapsed (= the cold war was won by economics). But now, Dubyia thinks that some major contributors of his campaign must make some bucks building an eighties-idea with new-millenium technology and Daddy's advice.

Wow, that's harsh. Is the idea that bad or are you just blinded by your hate?


Re:"no human finger" (2)

Malc (1751) | more than 13 years ago | (#511433)

Yes, I didn't see what the complaint was here. The system has a manual over-ride.

Cool but a BFT (Big F*SCKING Target) (4)

brassrat77 (9533) | more than 13 years ago | (#511435)

USAF has been working on airborne laser concepts for years as part of various theatre and strategic missile defense projects. The 747 is a good platform for this - lots of payload capacity (power generation for the laser) and plenty of duration to loiter in a threat area.

But don't think this is going to be a "Battlestar Gallactica" with wings. The plane is going to be one great big high-value target. It will need escort fighters, tankers to refuel the fighters, maybe an AWACS to manage things,... you get the idea. Then there needs to be a ground base to maintain the laser system, housing for the technicians, facilities.... Multiply by the number of aircraft necessary to provide 24x7 defense of an area and you begin to get an idea of the difference between a one-off technology demonstration and a real weapon system.

The best use will be... (1)

mcmonkey (96054) | more than 13 years ago | (#511440)

To make a house full of pop corn!

Just wait until.... (1)

d-ude (106541) | more than 13 years ago | (#511441) decides to track a Cessna at a few miles out and destroy it because it 'seemed' to be on an intercept course. Wasn't 'Wargames' enough of a lesson that we shouldn't give up control?

good old winx (1)

dreadknot (113745) | more than 13 years ago | (#511444)

Hopefully whoever engineers this project decides NOT to equip the guidance system with a M$ OS, i could see it now "nuke bearing off from cuba... fire fire.. OMG not another Blue Screen of Death"

Re:...but will it keep up with the upgrades? (1)

cehardin (163989) | more than 13 years ago | (#511445)

Hmm, Why is this an issue, after all, pigeons don't travel at Mach 3!

If you have any info relating to weapon systems having difficulties like this, please divulge.

Re:The uses (4)

IronChef (164482) | more than 13 years ago | (#511446)

On the contrary, it makes perfect sense. There are just some times when the military needs a couple of gigawatts of directed energy in a self-propelled package! If we had a couple of these in the Gulf War, we probably would have done better shooting down SCUDs. That's the sort of thing these are made for -- theater missile defense.

This weapons platform isn't made for popping fighter planes or tanks. I'm sure it could be re-tasked to that if they wanted. That would be an interesting battlefield...

The CNN article is quite good. It pulls together facts that I have in the past seen scattered all over, or that I had to get from the ABL guys when I met them at an air show. And when it talks about a fleet of these things -- they are serious. They will test a couple of prototypes, and if they work out, they'll build like 20 of them, according to the guy I talked to and the flyer he gave me.

One thing the article didn't mention was range, which I was told would be 120-150 miles. Whoop! I want one.

some problems ? (2)

Weh (219305) | more than 13 years ago | (#511447)

1. clouds ? - the strength of the laser will decrease as it shoots through a cloud.

2. aiming the thing; the missile is moving very fast, the plane is moving fast and is not so stable, the missile and the plane are far away from eachother... all in all that makes it very hard to aim correctly.

3. power of laser ? It takes a very powerful laser to destroy something, this requires some serious power generation. How hard would it be to make missiles resistant against a laser ?

All in all I wouldn't be surprised if this plan came from a politician that is friendly with Boeing or one of the laser weapon manufacturers.

Re:...but will it keep up with the upgrades? (1)

mrzaph0d (25646) | more than 13 years ago | (#511448)

i think that by the time a missle has gone through development, testing, and final deployment there will have been some sort of intelligence as to the physical characteristics. plus, 1) i don't think there are any pigeons capable of flight over mach1 and 2) any planes on our side i'm sure will be advised to stay away. besides, it says in the article that the computer will be given specific rules of engagement before being launched. i would hope that would include things like identification of what types of missles they'd be going after.

"Leave the gun, take the canoli."

What OS controls the Tracking System? (1)

phunhippy (86447) | more than 13 years ago | (#511449)

Lets see... what would happen if the officers had to use one of these OS's to fire the weapon....

DOS: The officers would see this after firing: Abort, Retry, Fail?
Windows 98: the officers would miss all the targers trying to get the wizard to configure the laser properly.
Windows 2000: the officers would fire and the plane would blow up from a blue screen of death(wonder if the laser color is blue?)
Mac OS:As soon as they fire a Type 11 error, Please Reboot comes up and laser does nothing
Mac OS X: Officers are too tripped out watching the fire app scale from big to small in the docking bar.
Linux: Officers are to busy re-compiling their kernel's to fire
Amiga OS: Officers miss chance to fire while ranting how this 10 yearold OS is still the best
BeOS: never installed.. could'nt find a copy so they installed DOS instead.


Re:Great, now 747's will be shot down all the time (1)

mrzaph0d (25646) | more than 13 years ago | (#511450)

i know that a soldier dressed as a civilian behind enemy lines (according to the geneva convetion IIRC) is considered a spy and can be summarily executed without trial, so what would this mean for a plane that is labeled "Air America" that flies over enemy territory to shoot down missles as they're being launched?
"Leave the gun, take the canoli."

Re:Interesting concept... (1)

psychosis (2579) | more than 13 years ago | (#511451)

It will still be a military aircraft, and will be flown by military pilots. We can't really require a civilian to fly a warplane into a battle zone while they are at the controls of a pretty high-value asset (i.e. major target).
Also, tanker/cargo/airlift pilots really cost about as much as a fighter pilot... Close to the same amount of training.

Better than a projectile based missile system. (1)

dfenstrate (202098) | more than 13 years ago | (#511452)

I'd give this a lot more credibility than the anti-missile system based on projectiles. (incidentally, we've recently setup an immobile system like this in isreal for defense, as I recall, it works).

If you think about it, a projectile has to calculate a collision in turbelent air for two things - itself and the target- at ridiculous closing speeds - maybe mach 6 or higher. and if it misses the first time, you need to send another missile.

a turreted laser, on the other hand, only has to follow it's target- if it misses one second, it can readjust the next, and depending on how far away the missile is, the tracking speed of the turret doesn't have to be that fast - maybe three degrees a second for a missile thats twenty miles away, and thats' probably being generous.

the only problem is having this big easy target in the sky over hot spots, but if it can destroy incoming anti-aircraft missiles, it should be safe with a fighter support and available SEAD weapons. (Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses)

also, on a cool extra-geeky note, it might be the first significant use of energy weapons! how far off are the Phasors?

And I bet a beowulf cluster of these couldv'e gotten every scud ever launched in the gulf war.

Re:...but will it keep up with the upgrades? (1)

ErikZ (55491) | more than 13 years ago | (#511453)

Amazing, they didn't tell you how to design you missiles to avoid from being shot down by this thing? Who would of thought of that?


Don't they see it coming? (1)

interiot (50685) | more than 13 years ago | (#511454)

...and then the 16 year old who designed it will aim the laser at the seargant's house and cause it to burst open with popcorn.

Don't they know that good will always win over evil?

Airborne Laser (1)

BWJones (18351) | more than 13 years ago | (#511455)

Major assembly began last August, but I remember seeing an unmarked 747 at the Boeing plant a few years ago with some strange hood over the back part of the "hump". It appeared that this hood slid backwards, perhaps not a laser but a high altitude telescope to check out satellites?

At any rate the home page of the airborne laser is here: /i ndex.htm

Second Hand experience (5)

Eil (82413) | more than 13 years ago | (#511469)

I am an enlisted member of the Air Force and first wish to note that I am not a member or participant of this project. I have no affiliation with it whatsoever. However, it is interesting use of technology to me and I've been following it very closely.

The official website: Airborne Laser [] .

To be blunt, this isn't new news. It's been in design for a couple years now and they're just now getting ready to test fly the actual aircraft with the laser onboard pretty soon now. It's undergoing preliminary testing at the base I'm currently stationed at. (Kirtland AFB, NM)

The slashdotter's concern that a computer controls the laser should come as a surprise to no one. Almost every part of every aircraft and space vehicle is controlled primary by computers, to include weapons systems.

Perhaps there is the concern that this plane will go up, fly itself, and indiscriminately shoot down whatever it finds. That is bull. It will be flown by experienced pilots with expertly trained individuals operating the laser weapon systems. The computer *has* to be the one to "pull the trigger" because the calculations are far to numerous for humans to do. But the computer is always being operated by a person.

How it works is rather interesting. The crew first receives news of a missle launch somehow and it's approximate coordinates. The fly to the approximate area of the missle and try to identify it. Based on the type of missle it is, the computer picks out a specific spot to fire the high-powered laser at on the missle, (such as the fuel tank) to ensure its destruction. A tracking laser locks on to the missle while the high powered laser fires and destroys the missle within seconds. This is, of course, greatly simplified.

Hemos noted that this hasn't appeared on slashdot before.. that's partially correct. It's never been an actual story, but the conversation has come up many times before in the comments where discussion has been on the topic of US defense against global weapons. I know I've mentioned the airborne laser at least once to prove my point.

Re:Cool but a BFT (Big F*SCKING Target) (1)

NineNine (235196) | more than 13 years ago | (#511471)

Well, since it's going to have a large, maneuverable laser that can shoot down missles... don't you think it could... oh, I don't know... shoot down missles shot at it? I don't see why not. And, I would think that jets would be an easy target for this thing. They're much slower than missles, and they're much larger.

Re:Beam weapons (1)

billcopc (196330) | more than 13 years ago | (#511473)

Consider this parallel : U.S. is headed for precise beam-type weapons, while other nations use crude, random bioweapons. Absolute accuracy and control vs random chaos and terrorism.

I don't know which solution I prefer. One is "safer", the other is foolproof (you can disarm/destroy a laser turret but curing someone from an engineered virus is difficult and the effect is generally too slow to be any good).

Here's my proposition : Everyone gets spud launchers and we kill these aggressive power-tripping armies before they wipe the whole damned planet out.

So the computer decides? (2)

Mr T (21709) | more than 13 years ago | (#511474)

This is the first step the living in the world of Terminator! Better go buy some German Shepherds so that you can tell when the real humans come to your house or when the termintor robots do..

Re:...but will it keep up with the upgrades? (1) (196820) | more than 13 years ago | (#511477)

I'd imagine the speed will be the deciding factor...not many Mach 5 pigeons around... ;)

Re:...but will it keep up with the upgrades? (1)

r1ch (166865) | more than 13 years ago | (#511479)

And what about turbulance? What if a huge gust of wind hits the plane just before it fires? How likely is it to hit something completely unintended?

I know this is a troll, but anyhow... (1)

mikael_j (106439) | more than 13 years ago | (#511480)

If the Concorde disaster has shown anything...
Well, considering it's the first one to crash, ever, I'd have to say they are in fact quite safe...

/Mikael Jacobson

"But surely we won't be still stuck with Linux in 25 years!?"

Actually, this scares me less than ... (2)

Tom7 (102298) | more than 13 years ago | (#511482)

This scares me less than Microsoft driven voting systems.

Pulling the rigger (1)

captaineo (87164) | more than 13 years ago | (#511483)

No human finger will actually pull a trigger. Onboard computers will decide when to fire the beam." I find this to be a bit disconcerting.

This is a fairly common thing for time-critical weapons. The human operator controls the system with an "enable" button -- holding down the button signals that it's OK to fire the laser or drop the bomb or whatever. It's the computer that decides the precise moment to shoot. If the enable button is not held, the weapon can't go off.

Why the nose? (1)

BoBG (9969) | more than 13 years ago | (#511484)

I am confused...why the nose. It would seem like the worst possible place to put this thing. The targeting system requires a predictable and stable platform from which to fire, I imagine the nose is not the best place....

Besides, don't you get 360 degrees of viewable space from the bottom? You could'nt do much better than say 270ish from the nose, at best, less you run the risk of burning your wings off. =P Sure, you lose the ability to shoot up, but I don't imagine these things will be flying below (very close to the ground), or at the level of (maneuvering?) likely targets, will it? I imagine well above the action is the best place for such a weapon....or am I on crack?
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