back to article Jumbo-jet ray cannon in missile-vape success

The US Missile Defence Agency's mighty, jumbo-jet-borne energy cannon, the Airborne Laser Testbed (ALTB), finally made good on decades of promises last week as it blasted a test missile out of existence above the Pacific. However the ALTB and its chemical laser technology have been relegated almost to the status of a curiosity …

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Test criteria fulfilled?

So the first test criteria were to destroy the target, but the second test was only to partially "lase" the target and then terminate prematurely? That doesn't sound likely. It sounds like a nice way to say the second test failed.

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The real test is the guidance system, not the laser.

This is a real success - at range, detecting, targetting and then holding the target long enough to complete its destruction - that can be applied to the new electronic lasers too Or, if you want to really make the tinfoil brigade quiver in their boots, the guidance system will be sold by Boeing to be used with nuke-powered electronic lasers on ships, planes and even trucks. Whilst the Standard anti-sat missile is a very good option, it still has the disadvantage that a slow (and some would say vulnerable) ship has to be in the right spot, presumably within range of enemy anti-shipping missiles and aircraft, to complete the same task.

Whilst Lewis is never likely to admit the vulnerability of even the USN to air attack, it's a lot cheaper to build a laser into an articulated lorry load and have them drive around the US borders (and those of frienldy nations) than it is to put a whole fleet out to guard one missle destroyer. And then you can camouflague the laser artics to look like commercial vehicles and have them drive around amongst ordinary traffice, making them much harder for an enemy to spot them and neutralise them before launching their missile attack. Of course, you can't sy the same of a missle destroyer and attendant escorts.

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Ducks?

These aircraft that are equipped with all that tech to produce big electronic farts -- how much protection do they need to stop them being brought down by missiles?

Or is that the real expense - the missile umbrella required to allow the laser-planes to operate.

"We just need a few more seconds to kill this one off, hold steady. Damn!"

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A *very* long time coming.

and just *how* big was that liquid fuelled ICBM stand-in?

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Alien

Yay for the big white elephant!

I'm actually quite chuffed it's managed to shoot something (or at least 1 of 2 somethings) down. This way when it finally gets cancelled and dumped in the dustbin of history at least we'll be able to resurrect something vaguely working when the alien invasion arrives and we REALLY need a giant airborne laser.

"What're we gonna do Chuck Killemall?! The alien mothership is veeerrry slowly making it's way to DC and we've already used 1 hour 40 on pointless back story!"

"Stay cool Bill. I've just had an idea that could wrap this implausible movie up in 10 minutes. Now grab my flying jacket, we've got a job to do." (Cue determined but thoughtful look. Fade to black.)

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Boffin

Laseing terminated due to..

Line of sight considerations. its only safe to engage the target when the line of sight to the background is safe. this is only a very small area of calif. once the line of sight to target was off the military range the laseing has to cease.

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Boffin

Frickin lasers

I believe it's considered far easier to destroy a liquid fuel missile than a solid fuel missile. There was never any chance, nor any intention, of taking out the second test target entirely.

Secondly, while there's no denying that electrical lasers are the way of the future, it's worth noting that they're still nowhere near as powerful as their chemical brethren, and it's going to be a good few years before they catch up.

Having said all that, I'm certainly no expert on these matters, so feel free to correct me about any of the above.

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solid fuel

"There was never any chance, nor any intention, of taking out the second test target entirely."

It most certainly could have.

It IS entirely possible to take out a solid fuel rocket. It already destroyed an identical solid fuel rocket in flight 8 days earlier.

http://www.mda.mil/news/10news0002.html

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Boffin

Electrical Lasers

All laser facilities such as NIF, Omega, Titan, Trident, Vulcan, HELEN, Orion and LMJ use little diode lasers or desktop laser basically to start it off and then use rods made of glass (eg Nd:YAG) to give you the pulse - chemical lasers aren't much more powerful, indeed all of the above mentioned lasers are way more powerful than the ABL with Omega, Vulcan and Orion, for example, being a billion times more powerful owing to the fact that they are petawatt systems.

Granted all of the above systems are pulsed, not CW like the ABL, but certainly 'electrical lasers' are there.

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Re: Electrical Lasers

Then what's the distinction between these petawatt lasers and the 100KW lasers reported on by El Reg as a breakthrough earlier this year?

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2009/03/18/100kw_raygun_barrier_falls/

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Paris Hilton

Cue the compulsory Austin Powers reference

Of course this tech will remain a useless curio... until it's shrunk to a size that allows it to be attached the head of a shark... or at least an angry mutated seabass.

Paris because her gaze can heat up any love missile from 100 miles.

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Coat

Dumbo's with laser bolted onto their head ?

i asked for sharks with friggin laserbeams attached to their head. Not flying elephants !

Que Frau ferbissna : it's jumbo's as in the plane , not Dumbo's.

riiiiiiight ...

coat : the grey one and grab the smaller one too.

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Boffin

Second Test

What was so special about the second missile that was launched that made it more valuable if left to fly, than as an accurate test of the killling power of the laser?

Clearly, if the laser takes so long to damage its target that it is actually possible to say "thats enough" then it would be nice to know _exactly_ how much energy it took. It would be quite nice to know what the time-frame for a kill is anyway, particularly in relation to the time it takes a missile to get out of range.

@Matt Bryant

Having these things running around your own borders is unlikely to help much - the very best you can hope for is that it would turn a full nuclear blast into a simple dirty bomb, but since an inbound warhead would be a far smaller target, with no fuel onboard, it would be a far harder target.

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Paris Hilton

Sumbuddy's reading my mind...

How hard was it to finally figure out that ya need to chase the thangs to shoot 'em down??

(I need a John Wayne icon, so until then, it's Pear-ee)

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