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back to article Jumbo-jet laser cannon tested against missile

The US Missile Defence Agency has released video of its jumbo-jet-mounted laser cannon - intended to beam down nuclear missiles lifting off from enemy countries - in action, playing its ray on a test rocket off California. Here's the vid: According to the MDA: The Airborne Laser (ABL) research and development platform …

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Black Helicopters

747?

Pah! If they wanted to take that LASER where it could do its job, they should have mounted that on a B-52.

Mine is the one with the cowboy hat tied on the back.

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FAIL

Earth Shattering Kaboom

Was it just me expecting there to be at least a small explosion towards the end. I understand intertia and all that but after quite a long blast from the laser the target... keeps going unhindered and unchanged. NORK must be quaking in it's boots (or am I missing something)

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Boffin

Lethal destruction

Yes, you're missing the part of the quote which says "This test engagement was not intended to lethally destroy the missile." I suppose that does leave the possibility they were intending to non-lethally destroy the missile, although I'm not quite sure how that would work.

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Yup, you're missing something

The target isn't just a missile sans warhead - it has instruments on board. If you obliterate the instruments you're going to struggle to get much useful data out of the test. It's also going to be a more expensive test, which given the funding cuts isn't a good thing.

Destroying the thing is a piece of piss. Targetting it is rather more difficult, and that was what the test was for.

We'll prolly end up with improved blueray tech out of it rather than nuke defences tbh, but it's US tax payers money so I'm not too fussed. Although at least the yanks get cool (if useless) stuff out of their tax spends - we get broken IT systems :o/

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Silver badge
Black Helicopters

I'll be very dissappointed...

if I need a C17 full of chemicals every time I want to watch a blueray movie...

Hey, this icon's almost like the laser hazard warning.

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Black Helicopters

Paint?

Doesn't this just mean that everyone with a missile just goes and paints them all with a can of silver paint?

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Grenade

stupid question

but wont this just lead to the development of really shiny missiles?

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Coat

@stupid question

> but wont this just lead to the development of really shiny missiles?

I expect Jobs' boys are working on them right now.

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Ru
Flame

Not going obsolescent...

The fact that the chemical laser is a bit of an evolutionary cul-de-sac doesn't mean the project is a total waste. The laser optical train and tracking system both represent pretty useful bits of kit in an of themselves, usable with newer and better laser emitters.

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Silver badge

Good spin

"This test engagement was not intended to lethally destroy the missile"

Rule number one, always lower expectations. Then if it hit the real, secret objective (i.e. it blew up the missile) then you can claim epic success "ooh look, we don't know our own strength, I could crush a grape etc"

I'll bet there are still a few crest-fallen faces this morning.

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So, did they have smoke machines in space?

So we can see the laser beam?

And (scribbling furiously on the back of an envelope), if there are enough particles between the plane and the missile to bounce the laser beam, so that we can see it...then why/how did the beam not get wider or disperse completely. I'm sure that there are a few kms between the plane and missile, no?

(more scribbling, more cogitation...)

Oh, the laser 'beam' is a computer-generated animation! THAT's why there's no explosion!

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WTF?

Poster child for idiot paranoiacs

Not sure if you're a troll or an idiot, but what the hey, it's a slow day. I'll bite.

Missiles in 'boost phase', and 747's both operate in the AIR, not space. No smoke machine required.

I'm pretty sure your scribbling was done with crayons, apparently on your drool bib, not an envelope.

As for the scattering problem: when you're firing multi-kilowatts of energy, it doesn't take much scattering to make the beam detectable. (As opposed to visible; they appear to be using IR cameras). As to why it doesn't get wider and/or disperse: two reasons. One you might understand (I'll use little words to try and help) they are waaay up in the air. So, not much air to scatter the beam.

The other reason is called adaptive optics. Rather than spoil all your fun, I'll allow you the joy of reading about those somewhere else, and posting inane comments there instead (hopefully).

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Silver badge

@Richard 31

A powerful enough laser can burn or warp the paint before it can seriously affect the beam. Now, spinning the missile may help to diffuse the energy, as would firing through cloud cover. But some of us have to wonder, "Why use highly visible and easily tracked missiles?" Maybe it is because I've read "The Sum of All Fears", but wouldn't a rogue nuclear power intent on attack simply employ a nonconventional means to deliver the payload?

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Coat

the two previous videos,...

showed the first in the series (a 747 with a fuzz-light on it), and the 2nd in the series (a 747 with disco-ball lights on it). This was the 3rd (747 with static laser), and the next video will have a 747 with full-on programmable laser lighting. The next phaze will be a huge dance floor suspended between two 737's flying along side a 707 ticket office and cloakroom (£5 per grament) and toilets. These will be accompanied by two 727 'bars' and optional 757 stage (for live acts) - DJ's will be expected to provide their own planes

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Gold badge
Happy

This looks like an IR picture

Presumably because the laser is IR as well. As all the action is in false colout it's difficult to say what's going on.

Incidently let me add another *possible* anti-laser defense. Carbon. Basically a layer of charcoal or lampblack on the outer surface of the warhead. Highly laser absorbing and with a melting point north of 3000c. Also pretty cheap if you don't go for some kind of fancy heat shield material. Coupled with even a *slow* spin it should up the laser power levels by an astonishing amount.

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Silver badge
Go

not a waste

As someone has already said - the tracking part of this can probably be tacked onto any laser. Imagine an AWACS with a laser defence onboard - you'd need good old fashioned dogfighters to take it down.

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Badgers

So what do you dump overboard...

making the AWACS useless because it's now carrying mostly laser and equipment to power the laser. There's always a weight tradeoff here when you're loading junk into an airplane.

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Boffin

nah!

Two AA batteries to power a keychain-sized green diode laser. You can blind the pilot! AHH! MY EYES!

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Flame

now just has to be able to take out the ‘known surprise’

..the KT-2 series of anti-satellite/anti-abm mizziles that China's PLA demonstrated when they intercepted a (PLA) missile in the midcourse phase of its flight . The K-2 was launched by a WS-2400 Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL). The US reaction is available at http://gsn.nti.org/gsn/nw_20100112_1311.php , strangely the PLA forgot to phone the DoD to mention the intended exoatmospheric collision (which happened on Jan 11th)

Once the US has fully developed their DEW sharkbourne laser system, and Goooogle has archived it, and the PLA have d/l'ed and built a cheaper one, then the world will be a safer place.

This week's keyword is 'resilience'

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Coat

Chargin' your lazer?

Mine's the one with the keys to a shiny, mirror-finish ICBM in the pocket.

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Boffin

oh yeah?

I'm attaching photocells to the fuselage of mine for charging the batteries!

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Black Helicopters

747 = Flying Sitting Duck?

Or will there be a large fleet of these things?

As a North Korean missile shield, I guess you figure they have limited resources and you get the 5 or 6 that don't explode on launch.

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FAIL

It works.... or does it?

@John Smith - many missiles DO spin (for enhanced stability)

@Fred Mbogo: have you ever stood beside a B52? They're a LOT smaller than a 747. The ABL just won't fit or one would have been used.

@danny14: dogfighters.... Will they have laserproof sunglasses? Kind of hard to fly a plane if you've been blinded and can't even see the instruments. Only problem is the Geneva convention prohibits using blinding weapons (I'm kinda surprised the Taliban haven't cottoned onto the idea of a 10W IR laser targetting the eyes of soldiers yet)

I would have suggested the 747 needs a pulsed laser for best effect, but ablated material is going to be pulled clear of the beam by slipstream, even at altitudes up to 100 miles.

You don't need to blow a missile up to render it useless, just knock it sufficiently off course that it doesn't go near its target and/or disrupt the electronics for the nuke detonator. In any of the 3 cases there's still going to be a toxic mess to clean up which far outweighs 2 C17-loads of chemicals.

(in lower atmosphere or at reentry, disrupting the aerodynamics is enough, the airflow will take care of the rest, just ask NASA)

Even with a fleet of 747s this is a fairly useless weapon - All a hostile outfit needs is more (cheap) missiles than available (highly expensive) laser shots. Nork isn't going to stop shooting while the planes trundle off to reload.

BTW, the issue with big electric lasers isn't making one: It's gathering enough joules in one place at one time with available power sources to fire it more often than once a week. The amount of energy being expended in each shot equates to more than that in all the jet fuel the plane is carrying.

This could be compared with the Valkryrie but at least 3 of those flew... I'd compare with the Xray laser plans but thankfully noone was stupid enough to put a nuke in space (you need gamma rays to pump up an xray laser and the only available high power source is ..... yup)

Why not just stick a BIG fin on it and call it a Shark?

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Boffin

Range

Not really, no. I mainly suggested a B52 for the range but what you said makes a lot of sense. Maybe they'll keep 'em parked in SK, ready to fly at a moments notice?

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technology in other countries - "Jumbo-jet laser cannon"

comment to "Jumbo-jet laser cannon..."

It is widely known that Brazil has publicly demonstrated a laser cannon, shoulder-manned which successfully downed an unmanned plane more than 2 years ago.

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Silver badge
Boffin

Remember the first guns?

For all those doubters out there laughing at the idea of a jumbo-sized laser, just remember what the first guns looked like. Quite literally a pole with a short, fat tube on the end, holding a charge of blackpowder and a metal ball shot, and triggered by a smouldering length of string. Some poor footman had to point in the whole shebang in the general direction of the enemy and pray the whole thing didn't just blow up in his face. Now look at modern guns, which can fire thousands of rounds a minute, or shoot accurately to over a mile, in darkness or in daylight, or be made small enough to slip into your pocket. The ABL is not far off the original guns in the development of a portable laser weapon, but the tricky bit is the aiming, the weapon shrink will come with time, either with chemical lasers (compare to the original blackpowder) or with electrical ones (think cordite). The more knowledge gets dragged out of the tests now the better will be the eventual systems that will fit into the weapons bay of an F-22 or a B-2. And kudos to the States as it does look like they are leading the way on laser weapons.

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Joke

Hey stopit stopit...

That tickles... Stopit already, right?

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Anonymous Coward

"hostile Norks"

... usually hang around in pairs.

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Pint

I don't care...

...how useless, and expensive it is, that video was COOL!

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Troll

Real footage?

Could have been a screen capture from EVE Online for all we know

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Grenade

dwell on this

I dimly recall doing a back-of-fag-packet analysis of the spacebourne-laser idea a few years ago.

I goes like this: you have something like less than a minute to hit a missile in it's vulnerable launch/boost phase. It's 'cheap' to launch loads of dummy missiles, and also decorate the sky around the launch area with smoke, soot, and tinfoil confetti (eg with fireworks/artillery). All this factors into the "dwell time", the time a beam bust illuminate it's target before damage or destruction occurs. You can also reflective-coat and spin the missiles to increase the needed dwell time. With a high enough dwell time and/or enough decoys, any feasible space or air laser system can be easily overwhelmed.

Conversely, these ABM-beam weapons make a limited attack difficult; the attacker needs to go "all-in".

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