back to article Raygun 747 to fight 'one-off' tag with twin '09 missile fryings

Embattled raygun executives, in charge of America's jumbo jet mounted nuclear-missile-nobbling laser cannon, are fighting back against cuts which have largely sidelined the project. It has been announced that not only will the energy-weapon 747 shoot down a test missile imminently, but a second test will follow the first as …

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Silver badge
Boffin

In-air chemical refueling?

Not knowing which chems are used but remembering that someone may have said they are liquid, surely it wouldn't be beyond design capabilities to implement an aerial refueling rig with more than one hose, that also topped up the Jumbo's tanks whilst pumping in a fresh load (easy there, Mrs B, that was completely unintentional)? In theory, with aerial top-ups the Jumbo could stay on station and keep shooting for days if required.

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Anonymous Coward

Saving cash...

Just plug NK's next "satellite" launch.

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Coat

NASA beware

Note to NASA, don't schedule any launches for this window. Given the friendly fire history I wouldn't want to be sending a shuttle up with a trigger-happy 747 up there...

Will it be a fair test though? Will they be given the trajectory in advance? Will it have a bullseye on the back?

Not really surprised they're not testing with ICBMs - isn't the Star Wars project meant to be defending them from space?

By the way, the words you're looking for are "Oh good grief"

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Go

Slightly more realistic idea?

US forces abroad do come under missile attack and if this thing is is going to be any near term use it needs to capitalise on what it's good at. Flying to places and allowing you to deploy a big long range gun anywhere in the world within < 1 days flying time.

I think you'll find the "Cart" holding the machinery is actually a couple of pallets in size. It's the reactant tanks that fill the rest of the C17.

Now who wants to have a go at putting this baby down at Kabul International?

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Boffin

Testing...

Have they done any airbourne tests yet? say against a static ground target? I know there were reports of first light (on ground) but its been quiet since...

@MattB

I dont thing they will be doing any midflight refuels they would have to pumpout the waste chems too... (its a liquid conversion not a consumption) these chems are nasty and will require a haz crew to reload... probably why all up thee are two plane loads.. 2nd is the hazmat kit...

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Black Helicopters

Magic mirror on the SRBM

How long before <insert enemy of choice> starts plating their ICBM/SRBMs with mirrors, which can simply deflect the frikkin laser beam away?? I'm sure it's cheaper than armour plating and if all else fails just chrome plate them!!

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Bronze badge

Refuel

How often do they expect to be reloading this thing? Surely it would be case of "woah, there are some ICBMs heading for the US, let's get them", then it would either be "hey we got the lot", or "oops we missed some, bye-bye Michigan". The resulting US retaliation would likely render any probability of a second attack most unlikely... ;-)

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Stop

So...

... that makes it a two-shot wonder?? How many ICBMs does China have, again??

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Happy

@NASA Beware

> By the way, the words you're looking for are "Oh good grief"

Jed Bartlet got all the best lines.

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Bronze badge

Period

They seem very cagy about the time-period here. Do they mean that they are going to down a missile, land and refuel, then go black another one the same day, or do they actually intend to fire two shots on the same flight?

PS. I told you that this was meant for the giant greenland spiders...

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Flame

RE: Testing...

The Oxy Iodine "fuel" must be in a vapor state in the laser tube. Iodine is a volatile solid metal that needs to be heated (only slightly) to create a vapor (goes directly from solid to gas, through process called sublimation) and the oxygen is stored as a liquid (LOX) and changes state to a gas if the pressure is reduced or temperature is increased.

Add high voltage and light excitation and voila, instant single shot Laser (although I expect there is a significant microwave or X-ray component to the beam as well).

I also suspect the "fuel" is "consumed" but believe the byproduct of the chemical reaction could be explosive AND corrosive.

The flame icon for obvious purposes. ZZZZap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Thumb Up

RE: Testing

> pumpout the waste chems too... (its a liquid conversion not a consumption) these chems are nasty

And you are over enemy territory. Problem Solved.

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Flame

Re: Magic mirror on the SRBM

FTR, no mirror is perfect, and with a laser powerful enough, even a minor imperfection is sufficient to heat the surface enough to distort it and break the mirroring effect. After that, it's business as usual.

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Unhappy

@NogginTheNog

Unless, as some MAD critics have pointed out, the aggressor in question doesn't care for the welfare of his/her country. Indeed, a very bad scenario would be a leader who feels it's better for the world to burn than to lose (victory or armageddon).

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@ Dan Paul

'Iodine is a volatile solid metal'

It's a WHAT?

Iodine is a member of the halogen group and is most definitely NOT a metal. So whilst the rest of us engaged in the age-old ritual of blearily staring at Open University chemistry programmes through an industrial hangover, what were you doing?

500 words on the oxidation states of lanthanum on my desk by this time tomorrow.

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Unhappy

@ mirrors

So there you are all worried about the possible Death Ray Jumbo so you run down to your arsenal and strip off all the paint of your SRBM and polish the alluminum untill it is Oh so Shiny and reflects all the energy at the wavelength you think the jumbo laser shoots at. The americans are comming so you decide to launch some of your shiney missiles at them. They go up and lo and behold there are not Death Ray Jumbos in the area and your shiney missiles are now glowing like a muthaf$%ka on the radar designators of the "much more likely to be in the area" PAC3 anti-missile missile banks. Fudge, time to go hide in a spider hole.

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Basic science

Simple polished metal is not much of an issue for the laser - the mirror is only so good, and what looks like a mirror at visual wavelengths is often not at others. However we know the wavelength of the laser - 1.31 microns. Amusingly a polished gold plated missile would be almost totally invunerable - as gold reflects over 99% of energy here, whilst aluminium only reflects about 95% at best, and drops to less than 90% if provided with a (necessary) protective coating.

The contiunal rhetoric about huge amounts of toxic fuels and byproducts is a bit disengenuous. Amusingly it isn't hard to find out how a COIL works - they patented it. They even patented the airborne use: US Patent 4,667,088. The fuels are chlorine gas, iodine, and a hydrogen peroxide solution made with a mix of sodium hydroxide, potassium hydroxide and lithium hydroxide. They also use liquid ammonia in a flash cooling system. Some waste is burnt and ejected from the plane. The main other residue is potassium chloride. Which is hardly toxic. Indeed it isn't clear what in the byproducts is toxic at all.

OK, some of the fuels are not pleasant materials to handle. But compared to many other fuels and materials that are handled on a day to day basis in industry and the military, they are not exactly dire either. The F-16 APU uses hydrazine as its fuel, and the ground crews are expected to service any F-16 with it. You can follow tankers on the road filled with equally or more hazadous stuff any day of the week.

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To those with more knowledge than I

Just a random bit of questioning here --

How does the protection/armoring of an SRBM compare to that of an ICBM? Could it be that they want to test against an SRBM because it will be easier to destroy?

Will the SRBM used in the firing tests be a real SRBM (with the same protections as a real one would have), or would it merely be a mock-up (to make it easier to shoot down, thus giving the illusion of better performance)?

For any missile with a nuclear payload, what would the damage be of destroying the missile at its zenith? For example, would the nuclear fallout still be dangerous? If so, more dangerous than if the missile landed in a remote or uninhabited location (if it was redirected off-course, for example)?

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Gold badge
Boffin

NaOH(aq) + KOH(ag) + LiOH(ag) -> H2O2 ??

I think not. My memory on H2O2 mfg is hazy but the commercial method seems to involve an electroytic cell and a quinone cycle. In any case Hydrogen Peroxide is storable on time scales of months (at the *very* least) in properly cleaned compatible containers up to at least 90% purity.

That US patent # belongs to a bubble memory based computer device.

AFAIK the F16 APU is still fuelled by hydrazine and it is very nasty but its for emergancy use only following total engine failure.

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Coat

Just getting this thing into the air...

...is pretty neat engineering.

But this is an aircraft designed to shoot down other flying machines. We used to call them "fighters". And Boeing didn't sell any fighters between about 1934 and 2002.They're only in the fighter business because they bought McDonnell-Douglas.

(Irvin jacket, of course.)

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@John Smith - I think not

'I think not. My memory on H2O2 mfg is hazy"

The solution isn't for the manufacture of - but rather there is a solution fo H2O2 in the Sodium, Lithium, and Potasoum Hydroxides. It seems that for various second order reasons this works well in the COIL. It is in the patent. They term it BHP (basic hydrogen peroxide solution).

" In any case Hydrogen Peroxide is storable on time scales of months (at the *very* least) in properly cleaned compatible containers up to at least 90% purity."

Very true. So long as you keep chlorides away it is very stable. That is part of the point, that it isn't all that horrid a material.

"That US patent # belongs to a bubble memory based computer device."

Darn. Finger fumble. Core patent is : 5,974,072 - "High energy airborne coil laser"

For useful background info on COIL lasers try: 7,397,836. It covers it all quite well. Also 7,116,696.

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Gold badge
Boffin

Lordy, it's a bit of a beast.

Just looked over the patent. Although its described as an Oxygen Iodine laser that's a bit misleading.

From my (very rough) reading your going to need a supply of aqueous Sodium, Potassium and Lithium Hydroxides, liquid Oxygen and Iodine (powdered or in solution?) and a fairly large supply of Hydrogen Peroxide. Oh, and a Chlorine supply. So 7 consumables in all. None of them is exactly harmless. Most (5) seem to deal with producing "Delta Singlet Oxygen" which is what combines with the Iodine to lase. However the Hydrogen Peroxide also mixes with JP8 (I thought jet engine fuel was JP4?) to drives some turbo-pumps, so probably needs a few drums at least. The collection of carbon-carbon nozzles sounds a bit extravagant given that I always through Peroxide burns at a fairly low temperature (relative to say O2/H2).

I hope all of this gear is *very* carefully leak checked before flight. A bit much for the back pages of Scientific Merkin. No one's going to be cooking one of these up in their basement any time soon. It's not clear to me if O2 and I2 are the bulk chemicals and most of the rest are in litre quantities, but doing turbo pump drive with Peroxide suggest substantial quantities. In flight refuelling from a 3 way hose (including LOX) would be "challenging."

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Alien

Erm...

What happens if they miss? does the "laser" beam keep on going?? how long for??? what if it hits a planet????

...where aliens live?????

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