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Homing In On Laser Weapons

michael posted more than 11 years ago | from the now-all-we-need-is-some-sharks dept.

Technology 556

Bloodmoon1 writes "I just came across this article at GlobalSecurity.org that gives a very good summary of the current status of solid-state lasers as weapons. It gives you a good idea of where the JSF Laser system is at and just how much time, effort, and money has went into this project. Also has some basic, but very sufficent, explanations of some of the science behind the technology."

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I got laser in my pants (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563606)


Missile (5, Funny)

e8johan (605347) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563608)

I still prefer a good old missile! It feels more destructive to fire a rocket at your enemies instead of just flashing (a really *big*) light at 'em. :-)

Re:Missile (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563664)

hahahah you're so not funny and nobody cares.
this fucking bullshit news is pointless.

correction (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563627)

That should be "honing in." Homing is something else.

Mirrors (4, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563629)

Wouldn't a couple of mirrors ruin the whole thing? I mean seriously. Cover a missile in chrome and the laser would just bounce off harmlessly, wouldn't it? Wasn't that one of the main stumbling blocks to SDI?

Re:Mirrors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563726)

It depends on if the mirror can stand up to the heat that is produced by the laser.

Re:Mirrors (5, Funny)

briggsb (217215) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563789)

"We have a visual on the missile...er...wait...we're being attacked by a flaming disco ball!"

Re:Mirrors (2, Interesting)

Ariane 6 (248505) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563868)

Well, as any astronomer will tell you, no mirror reflects 100 percent of light, and making mirrors that even come reasonably close is extremely expensive. Shielding the entire survace of a combat vehicle with such a mirror would be impractical in the extreme under battlefield conditions.

Given the powers at which these lasers operate, I imagine that the mirror would be effective shielding for a few tenths of a second before the energy not reflected built up enough to scorch the silvering. Once that happens you're dead.

Re:Mirrors (4, Insightful)

Zathrus (232140) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563906)

Not really.

Most mirrors are only about 95% reflective. The other 5% is transmitted through the mirror and absorbed (either by the mirror itself or the backing). Really good mirrors are about 99% reflective.

Now, let's assume that somehow you manage to "chrome" a missile such that it's 99% reflective (not bloody likely in real life, but we're talking theory here). Someone targets a 100 kW laser at you. The mirror reflects/scatters 99 kW of the energy, while 1 kW is absorbed by the missile itself.

It takes 216 kWs to heat 11 kg of steel by 10 deg C. Certainly you're not going to be able to keep the laser on the mirror for 216 seconds. But, that's ok, that's not the point. All you have to do is melt the mirror at contact point, degrading its reflectance so you can effect the missile itself. So how long does it take to boil the mirror into vapor? Probably a couple seconds. After which you have no effective defense and the 100 kW beam will boil off enough of the missile to render it ineffective. After all, you don't have to destroy it -- just alter the aerodynamics enough so it's incapable of targeting correctly.

You could spin the missile to reduce spot heating, but that's going to complicate guidance considerably. And, frankly, I doubt that you'll get more than 80% reflectance on this sucker, which changes the equation drastically. And, of course, your maintainance crew didn't leave any oil, grease, or fingerprints on the missile casing right? Uh huh.

The main stumbling block to SDI was tracking, targeting, and blasting a laser through several miles of atmosphere - all in about 10 seconds after launch. That or you wait until the ICBM is in space, in which case you now have to destroy (not merely damage) a dozen warheads and a couple dozen dummys. Which means you now have 20-30 targets to destroy in 30 seconds instead of 1 target in 10 seconds. Fun!

Re:Mirrors (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563915)

Well, it's not completely trivial, because a typical chrome finish does not necessarily reflect infrared wavelengths very well. But yes, there do exist passive (and active) defenses against this thing.

But you might as well argue that flares make heat-seeking missile pointless, or that chaff ruins the effectiveness of radar. Countermeasures are never 100% effective, and they always come with a cost.

Basically, it's still a bit early to tell how well this thing will work. It all depends on what kind of intensities they will actually be able to put out.

Re:Mirrors (5, Informative)

Idarubicin (579475) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563961)

Wouldn't a couple of mirrors ruin the whole thing?

In principle, yes. In practice, no. If you were to put a very high quality coating of silver (for visible wavelength lasers) or gold (for IR lasers) on your missile, in principle you could reflect 95 to 98% of incident light. Special optical coatings can result in >99% reflectance, but only over narrow wavelength ranges.

In other words, if the enemy knows the wavelength at which your laser operates, he can reduce the effectiveness of your laser weapons. For ground based installations, this still isn't a big problem--you just need a laser that's an order of magnitude more powerful, and you can cook even the reflective coatings on the other guy's missiles. I've done research work involving lasers in both physical chemistry and medicine, and I've seen a number of purportedly highly-reflective optical elements get toasted by a powerful enough beam. Also, high-quality optical coatings usually aren't meant to handle the stresses (physical and thermal) experienced by your typical missile (ballistic or tactical).

Get out the Popcorn (4, Funny)

Ececheira (86172) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563636)

Anyone ready to blow up a house from too much popcorn? :)

Re:Get out the Popcorn (2)

TheSync (5291) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563977)

Looks at the facts: very high power, portable, limited firing time, unlimited range. All you'd need is a big spinning mirror and you could vaporize a human target from space!

But seriously, I propose that all dictators be given 60 days to establish multiparty democracies. Failing this, aircraft and space based lasers will be used for the vaporization of all remaining dictators. Should they be replaced by other dictators, then the replacements should be vaporized as well.

Is it just me... (5, Insightful)

danro (544913) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563638)

Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "is hot on ... the notion of zapping people,"

Is it just me, or does this make someone else worried.
That man is kind of scary...

Re:Is it just me... (1)

rovingeyes (575063) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563719)

BART: Well it's offical. Donald, you make the coolest guns man! They look even better than that Ultramax Laser Uzi I bought on ebay a few days ago. HOmer: Why you little @#$!&##

Re:Is it just me... (2, Insightful)

Sn4xx0r (613157) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563887)

It is certainly better zap a person with a shoulder-mounted anti-aircraft missile, than to take a 1000 pound bomb to blow him up, and the couple of houses next to him.

Reading the comment as if Rumsfeld would be some wannabee massmurderer just for kicks and grins is a disgrace to one of the few people in the US cabinet that actually has a brain and uses it. Hope he doesn't click my sig.

Re:Is it just me... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563988)

in the US cabinet that actually has a brain

Yes, but it's an EVIL brain!

E = mc? (5, Insightful)

Cutie Pi (588366) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563642)

"The technology turns atomic particles into light with enough radiation to damage an object it encounters."

Umm... anyone know how that is supposed to happen?

But seriously, I'm sick and tired of science related articles being written by journalists with no clue about the science they're writing about. These articles should be checked for accuracy by the people the story is about.

Re:E = mc? (2, Flamebait)

ksw2 (520093) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563737)

I'm sick and tired of science related articles being written by journalists with no clue about the science they're writing about

Perhaps you should clarify your argument with the journalist's statement, and post your own facts to illustrate the point for those who don't know any better. Who knows, you may even help educate a future journalist.

Smoke and mirrors (2, Funny)

wiggys (621350) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563650)

I suppose the ideal enemy defence would consist of a mirror which could be adjusted to redirect the laser to a target of choice, along with a decent magnifying glass to add that extra bit of punch!

Fancy a game of real-life Deflektor anyone?

Re:Smoke and mirrors (1)

isorox (205688) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563710)

Hmm ,set up a network of one way mirrors and lenses, storing the power of a 5 minute laser burst, then release it all at target of choice

The problem with mirrors... (3, Informative)

caldaan (583572) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563913)

Would be finding one that woulnd't be instantly vaporized when touched by a laser of that magnitude. Certainly paint isn't going to work as it would instantly oxidize and loose all reflective properties. Polished metals might help but they too would loose structural integrity. The mirror would have to be close to if not 100 percent reflecive of all the radiation being pointed at it and remain so for the duration of the attack. As far as using smoke cloud around missles as protection, they too need to see for guidance purposes, plus it would be almost impossibly to keep a leading smoke edge on something moving that quickly as the drag on the particles would loose the impulse of the rocket engine as soon as they were ejected, leaving the rocket exposed.

The Airborne Laser (5, Informative)

Tikiman (468059) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563654)

Check out the Airborne Laser Homepage [airbornelaser.com] . It's a project to strap a giant laser to a 747 that will fly around enemy launch sites and shoot down missles right after they launch.

Re:The Airborne Laser (5, Interesting)

Daniel Dvorkin (106857) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563781)

They started talking about that a couple of years before I got out of the AF, in the mid-90's. Although research has (obviously) been progressing, the idea ran into immediate and vocal opposition from the "fighter mafia" -- fighter pilots hate the idea because in the long run it means they wouldn't be able to strap on their sexy little planes any more. There's something about the idea of a big, clunky 747 circling around and zapping small, nimble targets out of the air that strikes deep animal terror into a fighter jock's soul.

I can imagine..... (5, Funny)

Chardish (529780) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563658)

The warning labels on the outsides of laser weapons:



Re:I can imagine..... (1, Funny)

markom (220743) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563721)

Yes, yes, "this side facing enemy" sign should be there, too.

Re:I can imagine..... (1)

danro (544913) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563997)

I have actually seen that sign on a live weapon, and whats more, it makes sense to have that much rediculed thing there.

It was a directional mine, and the front and back was reasonably similar except for the sign (that was in embossed so you could feel even if it was to dark to read it properly).

Someone deploying it while under stress might concievably have turned it the wrong way and as a consequence taking out his entire squad if it weren't for that sign.

Sure they look stupid, but those signs actually serve a purpose.

That said, i don't like weapons.
Not even if they include a big friggin' laser.

Re:I can imagine..... (2, Funny)

CPIMatt (206195) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563758)

No, no. You have to add 'WITH REMAINING EYE'. If you want to do the joke, do it right.


Re:I can imagine..... (2, Insightful)

sql*kitten (1359) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563806)


Heh, like Claymore mines are labelled "FRONT TOWARDS ENEMY".

targeting system? (5, Interesting)

sczimme (603413) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563661)

A Navy ship could use the laser, with its beam traveling at the speed of light, to fend off even the fastest missiles. And ground troops could use a Humvee-mounted version of the weapon to instantly knock out incoming enemy artillery and mortar shells.

I would like to know how such a weapon will acquire/track/target an incoming projectile. (That was not sarcasm; I really would like to know.) Mortar rounds generally travel in a high parabolic path - think of the St. Louis arch. Larger artillery shells - such as those fired from a battleship - follow a flatter trajectory. The targeting system would have to acquire a small incoming object, predict the path it will follow, and fire within a few seconds. That looks like a daunting task.

Re:targeting system? (1)

Cirvam (216911) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563713)

I think the AEGIS cruisers can already find and start firing off decoys and other such coutermeasures at incoming projectiles. I guess they could just take the technology that they use there and replace whatever fires off the decoys with the laser and it would work the same, assuming the laser could charge up fast enough to catch more then one target.

Re:targeting system? (3, Informative)

bheilig (516136) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563932)

You're right. I used to work on the AEGIS weapon system's SPY radar. Once a projectile is completely ballistic it's trajectory is easily predictable. It's more difficult to determine the trajectory of a missile that is still burning fuel. In this case the radar must determine the type of missile.

In AEGIS we would fire an interceptor missile at a threat. The interceptor has mid-course guidance capability with a window of opportunity, so you can't fire the thing in the wrong direction and expect it to still hit the target. Therefore, your predictions must be highly accurate, accounting for wind, earth coriolis (the earth is moving underneath the projectiles), non-constant heterogenous gravity (weaker as the projectiles move further away from the earth, not in a straight line, and different for different parts of the earth).

The equation for filtering in this case is quite a mess. I'd imagine predicting for a laser is much easier because your interceptor is much faster, more stearable, etc.

If you're really interested in how it works, get a book on the Kalman filter. By the way, this technique is also useful in enemy AI development for games!

Re:targeting system? (5, Informative)

FeloniousPunk (591389) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563724)

The answer to your question is called AN/TPQ-36 and AN/TPQ-37 "Firefinder" target acquisition radars. We've had them for 20 years - the -36 is designed to track mortar shells and the -37 other types of artillery (though IIRC, the -37 has all the functionality of the -36).
They are very effective. They calculate the location of the firing tubes, and that information is passed to artillery units tasked to provide counterbattery fire (usually MLRS rocket artillery). This all happens very quickly - 30 seconds to a few minutes' time.

Re:targeting system? (1)

sczimme (603413) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563962)

They calculate the location of the firing tubes, and that information is passed to artillery units tasked to provide counterbattery fire (usually MLRS rocket artillery).

Okay, but that is targeting the entity that fired the round; the article about the laser weapon describes it as targeting the round itself. These are very different concepts: the tubes are essentially stationary [compared to the projectile], and a near miss with return [artillery] fire may be good enough. The inbound projectile projectile is moving quite fast and a near-miss from the laser probably won't be good enough.

Re:targeting system? (3, Informative)

Unipuma (532655) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563756)

The advantage of a laser system is that you do not need to calculate the trajectory. Since you are firing at the object with the speed of light, the object will be (almost) in the same location from the moment you fire till the moment the beam hits.

Re:targeting system? (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563766)

At the speed of light, you would think that prediction of the path was unnecessary, as the laser would hit the object virtually instantaneously.
Acquire->Fire - and you end up hitting the object pretty accurately.

Just a thought.

Re:targeting system? (4, Informative)

mikewas (119762) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563798)

A daunting task, but one that has been solved by systems such as Aegis. Presently, systems must track an incoming threat which may either be an umguided weapon traveling in an arc such as a mortar round, a guided but unpowered weapon such as a bomb that uses fins to alter it's ground course as it drops, or a powerred guided weapon such as a missile which can turn in any direction at any time.

Present systems not only have to aquire the target, catagorize the target, determine the best weapon to use in response. Then there's the same problem with the weapon you use to retaliate -- it also doesn't travel in a straight line so you must compensate not only for the threat's non-straight-line behaviour but also your own countering weapon's non-straight-line behaviour.

Is you use the LASER, the second half of the problem goes away!

BTW: Aegis solves the problem in a manner that is elegent or brute force, depending on your point of view. It uses an electronically steered RADAR to track incoming targets, shoot a gattling gun in the direction of the target, then tracks both the incoming target & the outgoing rounds, uses this data to modify the direction the guns are pointed. Elegent in the simplicity of its concept, brute force due to the fact it applies massive processing power to allow it to track an enormous number of targets.

Re:targeting system? (5, Informative)

sql*kitten (1359) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563880)

I would like to know how such a weapon will acquire/track/target an incoming projectile. (That was not sarcasm; I really would like to know.) Mortar rounds generally travel in a high parabolic path - think of the St. Louis arch. Larger artillery shells - such as those fired from a battleship - follow a flatter trajectory. The targeting system would have to acquire a small incoming object, predict the path it will follow, and fire within a few seconds. That looks like a daunting task.

It's a solved problem. The Sea Wolf [mbda.net] point defence system can shoot down 4.5-inch shells as well as supersonic missiles. Sea Wolf was first deployed in combat in 1982. Of course, you are likely to run out of missiles before they run out of cannon ammo, but maybe you can buy enough time to hit them with an Exocet [mbda.net] .

Warships are expensive, so a lot of money has been spent on ways to protect them!

Can this be right? (1)

seosamh (158550) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563662)

The article states that

"The technology turns atomic particles into light with enough radiation to damage an object it encounters."

That sounds more like a matter-antimatter reaction than anything else. IANAP, but turning particles
into light sounds like matter to energy to me.

Is there a physicist in the house?

You're right... (2, Informative)

doru (541245) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563709)

Roughly, a laser works by changing one form of energy (provided by a "pump") into another (coherent light radiation). No "atomic particle" is turned into anything.

Not a feasible weapon (-1, Informative)

PhysicsGenius (565228) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563666)

Lasers work by creating an inversion of atoms into an excited state and then releasing that exciting energy in a burst. But exciting the atoms obviously takes energy and, by E=mc^2, it takes a LOT. Industrial and scientific lasers can manage this by being plugged in to a dedicated power supply capable of delivering the gigawattage required for even small lasers, but a soldier in the field clearly doesn't have the luxury of an outlet needed to power his weapon.

Re:Not a feasible weapon (1)

FeloniousPunk (591389) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563776)

Read the article. These are not going to be weapons carried by soldiers on foot like rifles, but mounted on aircraft and large vehicles.

Re:Not a feasible weapon (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563782)

Ahem? Why don't you read a physics textbook.

Where does E-mc^2 come into it?

Re:Not a feasible weapon (0)

PhysicsScholar (617526) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563819)

Since E = h*f = [h*c]/l, the shortest wavelength of light this atom can emit will correspond to the highest energy jump, and likewise the longest wavelength will correspond to the smallest energy jump.

If you use interval pulsations of the said laster, one may be able to obtain a small enough frequency such that the power requirement is largely rendered asunder.

Also, many of these lasers will be deployed on non-human devices, such as tanks and Land Rovers.

Fellow troll, I salute you. (-1, Offtopic)

MondoMor (262881) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563881)

Few other trolls are as good at their jobs as you. You've got the pulse of this "community", all right -- just enough pseudoscience to get modded up by idiot Lunix-worshipping know-it-alls.

You: Yadda, yadda E=mc^2 yadda yadda

Power source Re:Not a feasible weapon (3, Insightful)

YrWrstNtmr (564987) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563950)

Well, gee...I guess if you can power a laser pointer strong enough to blind you with a couple of AAA batteries, a 747 or Navy destroyer can supply enough power to run a laser strong enough to affect an incoming missile.

Re:Not a feasible weapon (3, Informative)

Phosphor3k (542747) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563960)

A 15 watt Argon Ion laser will punch holes in aluminum cans. It will also cause severe burns to peolple and go through clothes like mad.

Reply to the story, not the headline (2)

ksw2 (520093) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563966)

Argh! Read the article. They're talking about mounting them on Spectre gunship and aircraft carriers, not someone's back.

Ob Austin Powers (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563671)

When are they going to attach these to sharks?

Oh yeah, isn't using these against people a violation of the Geneva convention? No, I didn't read the article...

Re:Ob Austin Powers (4, Interesting)

quick_dry_3 (112334) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563846)

The October edition of Aerospace International journal touches on this problem.

Yes, Geneva Convention bans blinding weapons (what party poopers), but accepts that combatants may be blinded as a side-effect of the use of a normal weapon.

So, while you can blind someone with it (e.g. a pilot) at a much longer range than the range you could destroy missiles/planes/etc, once you are within that lethal range blindeness created by the weapon would be a side-effect, not the main effect.

Bit of a grey area.

Tactically Flawed (2, Interesting)

BoBaBrain (215786) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563673)

The big disadvantage to large laser weapons is that they give away their precise position since laser beams travel in perfectly straight lines.
Once their exact location is determined (in a matter of milliseconds) they can be targeted and destroyed.
Cool, but expensive one-shot toys.

Re:Tactically Flawed (3, Informative)

FeloniousPunk (591389) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563743)

Military lasers do not lase in the visible spectrum; you're not going to see the beam. And they would fire a pulse of energy lasting only a fraction of a second.
If the target had a laser sensor, it could figure out where the fire is coming from, but I suspect the target is going to be having other concerns once it receives the laser pulse.

Re:Tactically Flawed (1)

BoBaBrain (215786) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563823)

Even if the laser is not visible this is still a viable tactic.
Remember, the initial targtet need not survive for it to determine the direction of the laser as these readings can be taken in a fraction of a second.
Also remember that the initial target may not be the one which returns fire.

Just my 2 cent.

Re:Tactically Flawed (1)

JKR (198165) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563930)

But the laser is mounted on a supersonic strike fighter... it's not like you can fire back along the straight line and expect the fighter to still be there. The best you could do is use the reverse path as a starting point path for (probably more than one) smart missiles, and hope they can find the source before they run out of fuel.

Re:Tactically Flawed (3, Informative)

quick_dry_3 (112334) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563947)

From October edition of Aerospace Internation journal (strange this gets posted just after i'd finished reading this article)

"beam is expected to take anywhere from five to ten seconds to burn through the casing"

That was from an article about the ABL mounted on a 747.

But as you said, if you're getting hit with a megawatt laser beam, you've got bigger problems than finding out where it came from.

And when that something firing is the size of a 747, finding it probably isn't such a huge problem.

Re:Tactically Flawed (2)

jandrese (485) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563941)

How is this different than firing a missile, mortar, or even a bullet? Once you start firing on a group of people, they usually figure out where it's coming from in fairly short order. Lasers are line of sight only. Unless they're seeing a laser shoot down a missile overhead, they're going to be able to see the unit anyway. Shoot and scoot will still be the order of the day, even if you have a laser. Besides, if they're busy shooting down missiles, then they've already been spotted anyway.

Frickin' Lasers (5, Funny)

vasqzr (619165) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563676)

Dr. Evil: Back in the 60's, I developed a weather changing machine which was in essence a sophisticated heat beam which we called a 'laser.' Using these 'lasers' we'd punch a hole in the protective layer around the world which we called the 'ozone' layer. Slowly but surely ultraviolet rays would pour in, increasing the risk for skin cancer, that is...unless the world pays us a hefty ransom?
No. 2: Ahem....that also already has happened.
Dr. Evil: Shit!

Frickin Laser Beams! (3, Funny)

Anonymous Custard (587661) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563682)

  1. I have one simple request, sharks with friggin' laser beams attached to their heads, and it can't be done?
  2. ???
  3. You mean I actually have frikin sharks with frikin laser beams attached to their frickin heads?!

from the now-all-we-need-is-some-sharks dept. (5, Funny)

tiltowait (306189) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563687)

From Austin Powers [google.com] :

Austin - Dr. Evil, do you really expect them to pay?

Dr. Evil - No Mr. Powers, I expect them to die. Even after they pay me the money I'm still going to melt every city on the planet with liquid hot magma. Release the sharks. Mr. Powers you'll notice that all the sharks have laser beams attached to their heads. I figure every creature deserves a warm meal.

Number 2 - Dr. Evil, it's about the sharks. When you were frozen they were put on the endangered species list. We tried to get some but it would have taken months to clear up the red tape.

Dr. Evil - Y'know, I have one simple request and that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads. Now, evidently my cycloptic colleague informs me that that can't be done. Can you remind me what I pay you people for? Honestly, throw me a bone here. What do we have?

Number 2 - Sea bass.

Dr. Evil - Riiiiight.

Number 2- They are mutated sea bass.

Dr. Evil - Really? Are they ill-tempered?

Number 2 - Absolutely.

Dr. Evil - That's a start.

Re:from the now-all-we-need-is-some-sharks dept. (0, Offtopic)

macdaddy357 (582412) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563753)

I'll build a giant, "laserbeam." I'll call it the Alan Parsons Project.

The future (1)

Kj0n (245572) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563690)

In the future, this will give great opportunies to remove "unwanted" persons from society. Just launch a few satellites, containing a powerful laser, and bye, bye Saddam (if he is stupid enough to show his head).

(This also reminds me of Ant City [channel4.com] .)

Wavelength? (3, Informative)

Cutie Pi (588366) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563696)

Does anyone know what wavelength these lasers are operating at? The article mentions that the lasers have a hard time piercing through clouds. It seems to me that an infrared laser would be more effective at piercing clouds than a visible one. Infrared solid-state laser technology definitely exists (the laser used in green laser pointers is in fact a 1064nm IR laser diode that is frequency doubled to 532nm).

Terrorist Sniper (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563700)

As a sniper I would kill (literally) for a silent laser sniper rifle. With the range, accuracy, lack of kickback, weight, and stealth provided by even the crudest laser rifle I can single handedly assassinate every major government official in this country. Since the beam travels at about the speed of light, instead of a couple miles per second for the fastest bullets, it would be a lot easier to target the wing fuel tanks of commercial airliners since you don't have to compensate for the latency between firing and hitting the target. Since laser sniper rifles are so accurate I can attach a robotic mechanism to aim so that targets more distant than 20 miles can be hit. Laser rifles (or cannons) can even target satellites so that I can cause havoc on the communication infrastructure of the Western Nations while myself and my subordinants can launch a full scale assult on the major cities. Laser weapons are gifts from Allah for us to destroy the great evil of this world.

But what the world really wants to know is . . . (2)

Pike65 (454932) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563701)

"When can get my own light saber?"

Re:But what the world really wants to know is . . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563964)

Light sabers are not possible to create via lasers.

At least not through the 'canon' explanation of them, which insists they're lasers whose beams magically fold at a certain point for no discernable reason.

Wait a few thousand years, maybe we'll figure out some other tech that'll make fanboys happy.

Thank the Gods I'll be dead by then.

Killing people (1)

Jump (135604) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563703)

What is great about to have yet another way to kill people? It's not about killing people who deserve it but all about money and imperialism. Killing people with lasers is not better then by bullets.

Soon (wrings hands) (5, Funny)

velcrokitty (555902) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563705)

I'll be able to walk into a store and ask for: "Phased plasma rifle in 40-watt range. "

Excellent... Oh wait. 40-watts isn't very much. Is that what the Terminator really asked for? 40 watts? Sheesh. I could just hook up a light bulb and start shining bright lights in people's eyes. Perhaps the idea is to convince them to stare into the bulb for hours on end (like several of my classes that I attended) and eventually go blind-ish...

I will be back...

Re:Soon (wrings hands) (3, Informative)

JKR (198165) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563879)

A 40W laser could weld steel plate - it all depends on the beam spot size. Think about it - a 10 mW laser pointer isn't eye safe; a 40 W laser focused to a 2 mm spot would burn a hole straight through the eyeball and out the other side.


High-Tech vs. Low-Tech (1)

BShive (573771) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563731)

This is going to be another case of a low-hech solution will be able to beat the billion dollar high-tech toy. What do you think a good old-fashioned smoke bomb is going to do the effectiveness of a laser beam? Any kind of dispersed particles are going to hamper it - they've spent this long needing to jump the power enough just to not disperse too much in the atmosphere.

Nice use of our tax dollars (1, Funny)

bazzert (603969) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563741)

"$4.5 billion" of our hard earned tax dollars so over grown schoolboys can play with their toys ... great ...

Re:Nice use of our tax dollars (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563889)

Better than dumping it into a multitude of failed social programs. Personally I'm glad that at least some of our tax money is being spent on something the founding fathers actually considered a role of government: providing for the national defense.

Interesting, but is it legal? (1)

suman28 (558822) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563771)

I thought that according to one of the provisions of the United nations, it is not legal to build any lasor guided weapons, isn't it? I am sure that there are loop holes, but it would be interesting to see how the U.S utilizes those loop holes

nitpick (1)

misterhaan (613272) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563899)

you've made an interesting typo in 'lasor'

'laser' is actually an acronym, which stands for light amplification (through) stimulated emission (of) radiation.

'lasor' then might be light amplification (through) stimulated omission (of) radiation, which basically sounds like a powerful light sucker, instead of a the powerful dark sucker [google.com] that a laser is.

Re:Interesting, but is it legal? (1)

goldspider (445116) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563909)

I believe you are grossly misinformed. What do you think brought all those bombs to their targets in the Gulf War (as was so wonderfully seen on TV every day)?

Re:Interesting, but is it legal? (1)

Jaysyn (203771) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563992)

What are you smoking? The U.S. has had laser-guided bombs for years. Just ask Saddam or Ossama.


Unlimited use in battle! (1, Insightful)

jaredcoleman (616268) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563786)

This would be the first weapon mounted on aircraft/heavy machinery that the pilot/operator wouldn't have to worry about running out of ammo in combat! That's a pretty serious advantage, no matter what other shortcomings the weapon may have.

Obligatory Real Genius Reference.... (0, Offtopic)

shftleft (261411) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563800)

Are those they?

--a big mirror, makes a big beam

Re:Obligatory Real Genius Reference.... (1, Redundant)

justruss (128099) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563965)

I like:

"To put it simply, in deference to Kent, it's like lasing a stick of dynamite."


Asteroids (2, Insightful)

Doug Neal (195160) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563818)

Instead of spending public money on researching new ways to blow each other up, I wonder if this technology could be put to better use, perhaps mounted on satellites as an asteroid defence system?

It's not entirely impossible that a large asteroid will head straight for us at some point... and somehow I don't think a re-enactment of Armageddon would work!

Asteroids! (2, Funny)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563957)

Hey... Then we could use the laser to heat up one side of the asteroid... and make it land on our enemies! GENIUS! :D

I'm torn... (4, Interesting)

SquierStrat (42516) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563827)

As someone who might one day fly the JSF (I'm trying to become a Marine Aviator...I have one of my first interviews next week *crosses fingers*) I'm kind of torn on this whole idea of a laser. The geek in me says that's too kewl! It's like Star Wars or something!

But then there is that overly logical Marine in me that says sounds unreliably. Much rather have a tried and true missile. This is is going to be very interesting to see when it actually goes into service how well it performs and is used. I could see this project either changing the way the military develops and uses weapons, or eliminating the whole idea for at least 50 years.

Re:I'm torn... (2, Interesting)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563926)

If I remember correctly from previous reading (ie: I haven't read this article...), isn't the JSF Laser a replacement for the ubiquitous Vulcan in place on practically all US fighters? I don't think they'd honestly drop missiles totally in favor of a Laser (Especially not w/ all the money and time we spent on AMRAAM and what I've heard about the AIM-9X :) so I wouldn't worry, you'll still get to shout cool things like "I've got tone!" "Fox 3!" etc. ;)

BTW, thanks for your willingness to serve our country. Good luck in your endeavours and Godspeed. :)

Re:I'm torn... (3, Insightful)

sql*kitten (1359) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563928)

But then there is that overly logical Marine in me that says sounds unreliably. Much rather have a tried and true missile.

I've no doubt that the first laser weapons will be pretty poor. But back in the 50s there were probably overly logical Marines just like you saying they'd rather have a tried-and-true machine gun fitted to their planes. Once a concept has been proved to work, the military have a history of being quickly able to turn it into something practical.

GI-JOE (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563871)

GI-JOE has been using these for a long, long time.

Re:GI-JOE (1, Insightful)

MondoMor (262881) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563923)

GI-JOE has been using these for a long, long time.

My childhood tells me that laser-warfare is ideal:

Shoot at tanks, helicopters and everything, and NEVER, EVER actually hit a person. They'll just parachute or jump to safety as soon as their vehicle is destroyed, not even suffering burns or shrapnel injuries from the explosion.

War is fUN!

Like Akira.. only for real (2)

forged (206127) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563895)

At the pace Research is going, they're going to have their laser ready in a decade - just in time to match what was depicted in Akira (1988) [imdb.com] with satellite SOL. One of my favourites movies btw. :)

Just for your information (2, Informative)

Crasoum (618885) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563920)

A kilowatt is 3,600,000 joules, 10 kilowatts in respect is 36,000,000.

Lightning is 1,000,000,000 to 10,000,000,000 joules.

Basically they are trying to make a weapon that could blast the hell out of that tree in your front yard, but right now will have to settle for your cat.

To put this in prespective, the adverage person uses 64,800,000 joules a month, or 18 kilowatts... So for every time they fire this baby, they are blowing 50-100 bucks....

They essentially are what cause the blackouts in California.

And Americans wonder why the world hates them... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 11 years ago | (#4563942)

Tactical nukes and lasers from the sky... I wish someone would just wipe you all out before you fuck things up worse than you already have.

Retrograde reflector (0, Redundant)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | more than 11 years ago | (#4563980)

A beam shined into the interior corner of a cube comes out in exactly the opposite direction. Send that beam right back atcha!
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