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back to article Nuke-nobbler raygun 747 scores 'surrogate' test success

The USA's amazing jumbo-jet-mounted blaster cannon, the Airborne Laser (ABL), continues progress through flight testing. Lead contractor Boeing announced last night that the ABL has successfully detected and locked onto a test rocket and held a "surrogate" low-power beam on it. Had a full-bore blast been fired, the rocket would …

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Silver badge

travelling at thousands of miles an hour

would there not be some cooling effect from the enveloping atmosphere - and/or even ionisation to prevent the beam doing the business?

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Anonymous Coward

Coat the missiles with highly reflective chrome

There I just obsoleted hundreds of millions of dollars worth of defence.

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Paris Hilton

All we need is....

... frick'n sharks with frick'n lasers on their frick'n heads!

Paris, because she knows a big gun when she sees one.

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Pint

Awww...

And here I was saving up for one too. Bugrit. Would have been awesome to have one in the back yard, could've kept the cats away a treat. *sigh* Oh well, I'll prolly go buy an icecream cone instead.

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Grenade

dont know about you but...

i wouldnt want to be the pilot on one of thos things if it went wrong.

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MnM
Coat

But can it power an iPhone?

Fanbois, that was a joke.

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Go

@Tom 7

Obviously not if they turn the "Lasor" up to 11

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Flame

Not so bad

"With electrically-powered solid state lasers going from strength to strength in recent years, the ABL's chem-ray tech is looking more and more like a dead end."

This is not a bad thing for the project.

They have developed it using the only tech available at the start of the project which would do the job. However, the chemical laser is not really the big news for this project, it is all the supporting systems, e.g. targeting. These should be able to be used with alternate technology, when it becomes available.

So even if the jumbo-laser never really takes off (pun intended) it is still an important development.

Oh, and why do people always see the downsides in new tech which fails to be continued beyond the prototype? These are the things which lead to human andvancement, and should be encouraged! There are too many people (mainly corporations and governments) holding back on the projects because they wont reap any benefits quickly enough. This drags back all of mankind! Take the example of patents help by oil companies on battery tech, which they have sat on for years (if not decades) so that we only see plausible electric cars starting to surface now. It makes me sick, and when the 'media' snubs a project like this one just because it won't be put to use immediately, they are just encouraging this sort of thinking.

Sorry, needed to blow off some steam, rant over now.

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Terminator

@Dr Mouse

"These are the things which lead to human andvancement, and should be encouraged!"

Laser kill tech? Really?

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Alert

If I had one of those I'd be pointing it at all sorts of different things

What happens if you fire it at the ground? Either deliberately or if you miss your target as the USAF sometimes does... I wonder how big & deep a hole that would make.

Could you burn a hole in a submerged submarine? Probably not, but you might have a chance of holeing a surface ship below the waterline.

And if you miss and the beam instead heads out into space, with no atmosphere to dissipate it would it go on for light-years and accidentally take out an alien spaceship, bringing intergalactic retribution upon us?

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Pint

Real Genius

Does this mean I can finally have that house of popcorn that I've been dreaming of since 1985?

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Alert

If I were in charge of decoy design

I would be sure to equip a few of them with retro-reflectors. Seems like that would take some of the fun out of flying one of these puppies.

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FAIL

This seems like a flawed concept...

...because: a) If a missile/rocket attack is launched by a foreign power, they will fire a large number of missiles. Just how many of these flying guns will we need? And how much for a large fleet? b) Surely a 747 is an easy target for air to air or ground to air missile? c) Surely the money spent on this could be spent on technology that could take out several missiles at once, such as some form of air burst explosion - based on the shut gun effect? d) And as an earlier poster mentioned, coating a missile in a reflective surface could render a laser obsolete overnight. Or is this thing way faster and more capable than we think? IE, capable of taking out several targets very quickly and able to penetrate reflective surfaces?

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Not chrome - gold

Wrapping the missile in a polished layer of gold would seem to pretty much make it immune to the laser. There is a clue in the targetting and beam steering system. It uses a steerable mirror. It is thus already shown that a mirror is capable of surviving the full intensity of the beam - in this case only a few metres from the laser. Gold is very reflective at infra-red wavelenghts - and is what the steerable mirror would appear to be coated with.

When the demonstration tests are performed to actually attempt to shoot down a missile it would be rather interesting if the congressional oversight comittee required that at least one missile be fitted out reasonably obvious passive defenses - such as a gold reflecting surface. I would bet that the test would fail.

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Grenade

Corner Reflector

Attach reflective corner reflectors [1] to the missile and super-deadly laser beam is sent back to the death-dealing 'merkan bird-o-steel.

I love it when future-tech is nobbled by high-school grade physics and maths.

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corner_reflector

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USE in the USA

Anyone who can't think of counter-measures should really not be in possession of ICBMs. That's why 6 shots is not good enough - you might as well point a Colt 45 at a missile. The problems with it would seem to be (a) a radar signature bigger than a barn door (read: grain silo), (b) no range or endurance for where it is needed (and that isn't N. Korea).

It will be pretty good tho for taking out revolting fleshies - when the USA falls apart.

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Anonymous Coward

Prototypes

Are a good thing. Besides --- how do we know there won't be even more advances in chemical lasers? Or that an on-board fuel cell wouldn't be required to power a solid state laser? Were we anticipating a very long extension cord perhaps using surplus barrage balloons for support?

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Joke

The real question is...

If they don't use it, can I have it?

I don't know how much it would cost, but having your own raygun totting jumbo jet has got to command some serious respect.

Plus it would look lovely in my volcano lair.

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WTF?

Sad....

"No matter how well the tests go, however, the ABL may not have a future."

So NOT a Nork nuke nobbler then?

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Thumb Up

Dattle Rast Glallactikka

Hmmmmmm despite the many legitimate objections to this.... and all the high tech counter measures like slapping a coat of shiny tinfoil onto the ICBM etc... And it's whole logistical "issues" -

What these people have accomplished is actually quite remarkable - in terms of optics, lasers, airborn kill capability and weapon platform etc....

Sure it's a dead end concept - as is, but as an intermediary issue.....

I mean "Long Range Star Wars types of Death Ray Lasers".......

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Bronze badge

Idea for a cheap test shot...

Instead of an ICBM, why not have a pot-shot against a falling spent rocket stage on the next satellite launch?

Not a spectacular bang, but it might make it's eyes water....

Or, Vulture-1... Sorry, couldn't resist...

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Bronze badge

Sadly no congressman would dare vote for gold-plated target

Simply a gift to the opponents' speechwriters come next election

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@Francis Vaughan

One problem with such tech is that it's a) frikkin' expensive, b) very likely to get fouled during takeoff.

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How many shots do you need?

You're not trying to defend against the weight of the Soviets... Its the little buggers like North Korea and Iran that this would be deployed in opposition to.

If they got more than 4 or 5 off, it would be a big enough act of war to warrant total annihilation. If it was just one or two they could say it was a rogue act.

Either way, once the first one comes out of the silo, they've invited a whole world of hurt. And this will help to prevent the first one.

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Grenade

on reflection

wrt Francis and Dalen, gold plating a missile (to make it work like the steering mechanism)

"It's a) frikkin' expensive, b) very likely to get fouled during takeoff."

Missiles are by definition expensive (anything these guys make is ridiculously expensive). Adding a bit of gold plating is a relatively small extra cost. And if it gets fouled during takeoff, so what, so long as the gold layer survives, the fouling gets burnt off by the laser, thus exposing the gold reflecting layer to do its thing.

wrt retro/corner reflectors

Sounds like a fine idea. After all, if a prat with a 2mw visible laser pointer can cause chaos criminally around an airport, what's a bit of retro-reflected infra-red (?) beam from one of these going to do?

wrt what if it misses and hits the ground

I wondered that too. I also wondered what would happen if it was unlucky enough to hit an aircraft in flight, lined up behind the missile. Still, that's about as likely as an aircraft crashing into a nuclear power station, right? (Wrong, but that's another story).

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Knowing

How good is such a test if you know where the missile is headed? One of the most common criticisms of anti-ballistic missile defense I've read on the Net is that since the missile's path is already known, it's hardly the massive set of variables even a small number of launches is likely to present.

Then there's always the possibility that the launch folk will put something - say an ionic generator - on the missile head that'll coat it in the launch phase with a disturbed layer of air. And incidentally cut down the laser power by about a fifth, if not a third.

Then there's the reality - already pointed out - that such a large contingent of 747 laserjets (somebody had to say it! ;) on patrol has a lot of allure to it, and since 747s are hardly stealth aircraft, they'll be decimated rather quickly. (Hmmmm, how aerodynamic would such a laser device be on one of those B2s? My bet is that it'd flip it over the short axis and kill everybody on board.)

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Flame

Re: Corner Reflector et al.

Which is exactly why you shouldn't have stopped at high-school level.

It's very, very easy to keep a highly polished, highly refelective surface in that state in an environmentally sealed chamber, like, oh, for example, a laser unit built into a plane. I have yet, however to see any missile launch that did not develop a substantial amount of dust and garbage. Nor have I ever seen a missile launch that wasn't flown through a not insignificantly dirty atmosphere that, due to your highly polished gold layer with its concomitant enormous surface energy wouldn't be attracted all over that lovely shiny surface.

Oh dear. Not so reflective anymore. That's all it takes.

Just a little degree level physiscs there for you.

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Gates Horns

Re: Not chrome - gold

Great. So when we all go up in smoke we'll have the humiliation of knowing we've just been annihilated by some tasteless rich git.

Way to go.

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@reflectors/gold plate 2.

My understanding is that the steerable "appature", among other things, is a multi-mirror device that combines mutliple beams, because no single mirror or focusing apparatus is capable of handling the full power of of such a device.

Further retro reflectors are not ideal devices. The individual reflectors will not have mathermatically perfect internal right angles, nor will where the reflectors meet be mathematically perfect lines. How close these ideals can be aproached would be highly dependent on the effort expended in fabrication (and hence how much money is thrown at the problem) . But no matter how much money and time was thrown at the problem, some flaws (even if only in the form of a dust grain) would always be present and once those flaws started adsorbing energy, they would grow rapidly.

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Toujours la meme chose

Every time laser weapons are discussed some genius thinks of the reflective coating idea. Are we to assume that nobody in these programs has thought of this obvious downfall? I don't have any direct knowledge of these devices myself, but what I have heard is that any reflective coating is not likely to make the slightest difference. At these sorts of energy levels you must regard the beam as having much the same effects as a hammer blow of the same sort of energy.

As to why the devices own mirrors survive, I gather that persuading them to do so is not the least difficulty in building such a system. One thing that helps is that the beam is not actually focused to a minimum size point, the energy is spread over the area of the mirror, so the density is not as high, and of course the mirror designer knows exactly what wavelength is coming too.

Of course corner reflectors on the missile would have a wonderful effect on its aerodynamics too.

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