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back to article Army raygun to boost power with starlight de-twinkling tech

The US Army, in the process of building an enormous raygun on a lorry, has decided that it will enhance its laser cannon of the future by the use of adaptive optics - a crafty technology employed in telescopes by astronomers to eliminate the effects of the atmosphere on starlight. Under the High Energy Laser Technology …

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sci fi in my lifetime again!

first, battery powered motorcycles that (other than improper price/benefit balances) are useful, and now, mobile communication laser systems that are as good as fiber optics.

That's the killer app that will trickle down into the civilian world. Point to point laser datalinks that can adapt to weather and still maintain fiber speeds. It'll be like the old days of microwave all over again! :)

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Boffin

This very small, lightweight Adaptive Optic unit...

fits in your pocket, and weighs just 5 ounces.

The laser unit weighs twenty tons, and comes with a free carrying case. (See photo.)

Shiny coated incoming shells anybody?

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Is it just me...

or does that look like a prototype version of a S.H.A.D.O. mobile?

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It's still very much a LOS weapon

So what's the fricken point of putting it in a lorry?

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Er, maybe it's too heavy to put in an aircraft.

Besides which, if the intended target is enemy air power then *they've* done the job of bringing themselves into LOS.

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Boffin

LOS weapon

It seems to me, a non-boffin, that artillery shells, missiles, enemy aircraft and such share the trait of coming into one's line of sight as they pose a gradually greater threat.

In theory, one doesn't toast infantrymen with this particular device.

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Maybe...

they are the 'light' artillery?

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That's a very cool lorry

But you just know that if the British Army ever get their hands on one the first thing they'll do is try and drive it under a low bridge.

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Low bridge?

Not a problem if they do the proper thing and make the whole top surface rotate into the body of the truck. UFO, here we come...

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I'm sure I read about this adaptive mirror tech being used to reduce atmospheric distortion of a laser weapon in a Tom Clancy novel about twenty years ago...

Nice to see reality catching up.

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@Alister

Yep, The Cardinal of the Kremlin. (It was called Fan Dance, although probably not in reference to Sally Rand's classic act! ;-) )

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The "Nice" thing about artillary, mortars and the like is...

They can fire over things.

With this cumbersome device you have to drive into position in full view of your enemy/target.

Good luck with that.

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defense

As I underdstand it is not legal to use a laser as an offensive weapon. This device is probably for popping incomming projectiles.

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FAIL

umm..

Reader, meet article. It'll be aimed at incoming things, which are very much in the line of sight.

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Happy

Better still

It would appear from the article that BOFHs can start soon putting in purchase orders for seriously powerful laser kit to replace all that "vulnerable" fibre. If ISPs can serve via various radio technologies, lasers should be a logical progression. Then it will trickle down to the consumer market....

It could make spaces in and above urban canyons very interesting. It will solve the pigeon problem if nothing else.

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Active != Adaptive

"employs piezoelectric actuators to warp the shape of a telescope mirror"

Changing the telescope mirror is Active Optics, which works against wind, gravity (a 10m telescope bends a bit as you turn it around), etc.

Adaptive Optics works with an entirely different (much smaller) mirror. It's a bit hard kicking around a few tons of mirror accurately on millisecond timescales. You can even fit Adaptive Optics to refracting telescopes ("ones wot got lenses"), whereas it's a bit harder to fit actuators on a lens (tends to get in the way of the light, apparently).

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Anonymous Coward

cant wait to see them use this against protesting civilians

i wonder which country they will be testing it out in ?

the UK, Italy or Greece or maybe they will take it over to south korea or iraq ???

will the efects be the same as in Terminator movies ?

crewed no doubt by the 1% looking to protect their interests.

oh and yanks don't get taught about human rights and the articles of the geneva convention!

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Conventions

I remember reading that the Geneva Conventions only apply to warfare/hostilities between nations.

So the US could use this against the "Occupy ..." demonstrators. However, I expect they would use the microwave heat beam units first. Less chance of damaging any government or city property should a beam miss its target.

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Black Helicopters

I was actually expecting the plods to use the ADS "pain ray" at the OWS raid they did on Monday. They didn't... but probably because it's still expensive!

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Civilians?

Can't they test it on politicians?

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Nothing new here, then

I remember Tom Clancy mentioning adaptive optics in the context of astronomy and laserweapon research in his novel The Cardinal of the Kremlin from 1988. In that novel both the US and the Soviets attempt to build an anti-ICBM laser and the US side uses adaptive optics to solve the problem of dispersion. The book even mentions that this is the same solution used in astronomy to prevent twinkling.

I can't believe it took 23 years for this to trickle down into actual weapons research (especially not because Tom Clancy sometimes uses scientists and military sources for inspiration).

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Black Helicopters

Maybe not 23 years

Rumor has it, Tom Clancy has been brought in and questioned after the publishing of a number of his books. I don't recall if The Cardinal of the Kremlin was one of them.

Just because they are announcing it, doesn't mean it hasn't been available, and it's certainly taken time to develop.

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Zernike polynomials

I wonder if this stuff was worked out for optical spy sats pointing down at earth at first.

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Anonymous Coward

Ok this may seen obvious...

...but what happens if someone takes a sucessful shot at one of these with say an RPG. That will be one hell of a mess....

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Pirate

Im gonna need one hell of a shark to mount that on.....

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Ermmm

As a mere astronomer with a PhD working on AO and high resolution systems - I would hate to suggest that they are "aving a larf"

There is a very big difference between an atmosphere very close to you tilts the angle of parallel light arriving from a distant object - and the disturbance of light with an atmosphere all along it's path.

Without getting into lots of details of Cn2 profiles and near-field phase screens - it's the difference between pressing a body up against a bathroom window and looking at that from a distance, and pressing your eye up against a bathroom window and looking at a distant body

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Hell of an acronym!

When the demonstration programme is over and the star production, it should be named “High Energy Laser 2 Units”

(see title)

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Lapidation

So the Taliban need only to build a trebuchet and throw stones at the machine until the mirror breaks? They ARE used to stoning things after all.

But seriously, an inert projectile isn't going to care much how hot ite gets. In fact a molten projectile might be more effective than a cold one. Flechette artillery rounds would, I suspect, prove very hard to disrupt. Indirect heavy machine gun fire would keep the firer out of LOS of the laser while doing significant damage.

The usual issues over target detection, identification and damage assesment remain. Gonna be a lot of toasted avians in the vicinity of these devices. And if a bird filter is included, hows about some balsa wood explosive.gliders? Ground clutter and terrain masking will add to the problems of detecting and tracking a low level target.

Regardless of the laser wavelength, it is probable that a suiable obscurant can be found to significantly degrade the effectiveness of the beam. (Apart from natural problems of rain, fog, cloud or dust.)

Unless this has almost infinitely fast beam pointing, multiple units will be needed in any given location. One suspects that they aren't cheap. As the Strategic Defense Initiative has shown, the cost of defensive measures may exceed the cost of saturation attacks.

Taliban in tinfoil suits will. of course be able to attack with impunity. (And be immune to mind-control satellite feeds.)

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Exactly what i thought.

But the device might aim higher, possibly ennemy sattelites.

And what happens if the laser target is a very good reflective surface?

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Odd choice of camouflage

The natural enemy of ultra-flat, ultra-reflective, ultra-expensive dielectric laser mirrors is dust.

Judging from the colour they painted it - they don't seem to have realised this.

Can we think of any circumstance in which the American's might want their army to be used in a dusty sandy country ?

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Megaphone

fog

Fog will get in the way of mobile communication laser systems. It's a real problem where I live for about three months of the year. So, for civilian communications, this is not the killer app.

^ ^ ^ we may as well shout

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Battlefield smoke-grenade launcher & that trick that Challenger 2 (?) can do with its exhaust. But is there another frequency that can be used? IR or something?

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Let me get this straight

So apparently they could load this system onto a predator drone and fly it over a battle zone and pick out the bullets from the air that are headed towards us? Awesome, would put enemy snipers out of business. It would be interesting to see them develop a system with that kind of resolution.

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