back to article US military's RAY-GUN truck BLASTS DRONES, mortars OUT OF THE SKY

The US military has successfully tested a truck armed with an auto-targeting laser that can shoot down mortars and flying drones in the air before they cause a kerfuffle for troops on the ground. Laser truck Battlefield lasers at last ... Uncle Sam's ray-gun truck In month-long tests at the White Sands missile range in new …

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I imagine they're taking it to Florida to zap those pesky seagulls out of the sky!

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I wish. Or alternatively if they'd fry the tourists who feed them because it only encourages the little bastards. Feeding wildlife in Florida is generally a bad idea just in general, the seagulls are probably the most harmless but most annoying.

Barring postings around the country when I was Active duty, and the first two years of my life spent in Georgia, I've lived in Florida my entire life, and I've lost count how many times those damned seagulls have stolen things from me on all three coasts.

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Ca dépend…

Depending on which wildlife you feed (gators?)...

...and who you feed to 'em...

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Not quite the first thing to take out...

A highly visible laser truck is going to be the first thing any enemy will want to take out.

Actually, it's the Signal Corp that is the first target. Shut down the enemy's communication, then lay into them.

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Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

True, but you have to admit that the enemy has a pretty poor record of taking out our commo nets since early WWII, it did happen a couple of times during Vietnam, like the Battle of Lima Site 85 for instance. A system like this thing is still a major target on a FOB, all ADA systems and their radars are. Appropriate force protection measures are a must for all of a locations essential functionality and your Air Defense is pretty damned essential if there's a threat. As is C4I.

Any new ADA system, laser or not, is just another complimentary target like how Patriot and THAAD batteries already are, and until they're proven and acquired, they're nothing worth getting excited over, at least not to me.

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Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

Combined arms is the only way this can work. Sitting by itself without air cover, or in an isolated location with the enemy not far away, like a firebase in Vietnam/Afghanistan, is probably not a good idea either. UNLESS, you can miniaturize the system so much that it is well hidden. That may be a long way off yet.

But, it's a great start. Every time I read one of these articles about new laser weaponry, I want to confront those democrats in the US Congress that lied repeatedly about Reagan's SDI, and mocked it by calling it "Star Wars"; and ask them, "Now what? Were you right or wrong about Reagan's SDI?"

They did everything in their power to stop SDI by lying about it, and saying that it was a waste of money, it wouldn't work, yakity yakity yak.

The evidence was obvious that with enough time and money, SDI was going to pay off in a huge way, for both civilian and military applications.

Thank you, President Reagan (posthumously), for standing up to the liberal idiots and continuing on doing what was right. The democrats (now mostly dead) who opposed SDI were wrong. I only wish their successors would come out and admit to the news media that they were wrong and give an accounting for all the lies they told.

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Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

Sorry but this Laser is light years away from what SDI lasers need to do:

Judging by the vehicle used the system is heavy, the HEMMT has a 10t capacity

It can only kill drohnes (frail and full of explosive fuel) and mortar shells (thin walled and full of explosive) not even the thicker walled artillery shells. And even then the shells only get rendered inert.

Being on the ground it can use air breathing engines and even an "external" fuel tank

Tracking distance is short and there is no such thing as a decoy

An SDI laser would rely on on-board fuel and being a mid-course system attack nuclear warheads capabel of surviving re-entry. And they had to destroy it because even as a pure kinetic penetrator the average warhead at 300-400kg will cause serious damage

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Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

How do you know they don't already have laser weaponry, or perhaps particle beam, that can do what you describe? Area 51 and similar secret military sites are doing things that we know little or nothing about, other than rumors on the web which are impossible to confirm or deny.

I believe that the US military, and probably Britain's too, are using technology which is so advanced that we would call it science fiction. The things that are shown for public consumption are trivial by comparison.

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Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

Yes of course, I wasn't saying that this particular laser system would take out an ICBM. I don't know how you got that out of my comment.

Do a little research on this topic, and you'll find that we already have lasers that can take out ICBM's. One was/is mounted inside a transport aircraft, and maybe we have others that are in orbit that we know nothing about. My other post says the rest.

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Boffin

Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

THIS laser IS light-years away from SDI...but this is just a testbed. The object is to field a 50Kw and then a megawatt class laser, which will do all the things SDI required. Frankly, an inter-linked system of 1Mw lasers around a city or military base would be hard to overcome via anything being thrown/lobbed/fired/dropped at it. Taking out a speed of light weapon system will require other methods, such as attacking the power grid that supports them, or the cooling network, or spoofing the targeting system, etc.

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Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

Taking out a faster than light weapon just means throwing more conventional weapons at it than it can engage simultaneously, as is the case for any technology, or even just storming a machine gun post.

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Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

If wasn't (only) the viability of the technology that opponents of the "Star Wares project" objected to. It was to a greater extent about what it would do to the stability of the global political climate.

The Russians saw the project a a means whereby the USA could stage a first strike without having to worry about the retaliation and resulting "Mutual Assured Destruction" (Don't forget Regan had already called them an evil empire. If the "shield" even *looked* as if it was getting close to being viable it would have put the pressure on the Soviet hawks to lobby for their own first while that was still a possibility. It would have made the world a much less stable place, Perestroika would probably never got off the ground.

Of course in these days of asymmetric warfare you don't need ICBMs to totally change a countries culture.

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Re: Taking out a faster than light weapon

It's not a faster than light weapon, it is a lightspeed weapon.

Other than that, I agree with your post.

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Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

"True, but you have to admit that the enemy has a pretty poor record of taking out our commo nets since early WWII."

They weren't trying very hard, nor from a position of anything approaching equality or air superiority (or even hotly contested airspace!)

We used to happily park FFR Landys on hill-tops on FTX or when feeling safe, but had the Soviets rolled through West Germany, every Sigs unit would be cowering in valleys and every hill-top glassed by Soviet arty.

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Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

"Now what? Were you right or wrong about Reagan's SDI?"

They were right. What Reagan was talking about was stupidly expensive, stupidly ahead of it's time and...kinda stupid. Thirty years on and we couldn't even shoot down a missile from a nearby aeroplane.

What Reagan achieved by pulling the program was also an essential part in the negotiations and posturing which ended the Cold War.

Let me spell that out: Because SDI was never put in place, we no longer have a Cold War.

I am glad of that, and anyone who isn't glad to see the back of the Cold War probably works for Raython, is insane, or hasn't seen enough mangled corpses to have developed an aversion to killing yet (you'll find that quite a lot of people in the military are a lot more adverse to war than people who sit on their sofas and call anyone who doesn't look forward to killing burglars a soft liberal).

You also appear to have confused the word 'Liberal' with the term 'someone who does not agree with me'.

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Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

"I believe that the US military, and probably Britain's too, are using technology which is so advanced that we would call it science fiction. "

So you're saying that it's a great dream of yours that the military-industrial complex is twenty years ahead of civilian/medical/humanitarian applications and that they can keep such things successfully hidden from every taxpayer who foots the bill, even to the point where every sub-average IQ grunt who is trained to use it can be convinced to keep utterly quiet about it for a decade.

I'd call that a fucking crime.

"How do you know they don't already have laser weaponry"

They do, if you consider targeting applications. Field-portable anti-personnel lasers have also been around for over a decade, but are thankfully banned by Convention because it's frankly seen as too easy to permanently blind humans from 3km away.

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Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

"One was/is mounted inside a transport aircraft, and maybe we have others that are in orbit that we know nothing about. My other post says the rest."

If you mean the anti-missile laser, the project was cancelled last year, on the grounds that it didn't work, couldn't hit, cost too much, was toxic, couldn't blow a missile up and was 10 years too late. And the minute it did work it could be countered by slapping an asbestos coating under a missile's skin and by imparting a spin of it to de-localise the thermal spike.

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Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

I talked with old Martin from next door. He's not to impressed with US technology. If he hadn't been around with his Reichsflugscheibe to tow him to Mare Tranquilis this Armstrong guy woul have never made it. Shoddy work he said, really shoddy work. Looked like somet of the firework rockets that kiddo in Penemünde was playing with back in the 40s

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Re: Not quite the first thing to take out...

If with the airborne laser you refer to ole YAL - sorry that is a BOOST phase interceptor. Aiming at the rocket, a thin-walled cylinder filled with highly reactive chemicals. And "ballistics" != ICBM, even brown Wernhers firecracker was a ballistic missile.

SDI had lasers for the free flight part of the intercept when the "bus" or, even worse the single warhead (some Sovjet ICBM "NORAD busters" used a single head) and it's fleet of decoys had separated from the explosive part of the system. Totally different scenario.

Not to mention that it fills up a 747-200 so it will weight up to 100to - almost the LEO capacity of a Saturn V.

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Ask The Physicist

I recently "asked the physicist" (a very interesting website) what the best colour of laser was to shoot stuff down with.

The answer:

"What really matters is the intensity of the beam (energy carried by the beam), not its colour."

But is this the whole answer? What about infra-red radiation? Does this not transfer more heat to an object?

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Boffin

Re: Ask The Physicist

When molecules achieve higher energy states they begin to emit EM radiation, the earlier frequencies being in the IR range, as they get hotter they will move to visible red and ultimately white heat ( all frequencies),

as the physicist said it is the intensity of the beam that does the damage.

However, matching your laser beam to the frequencies that your target absorbs best would make it more efficient, as different materials absorb some frequencies more than others.

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Re: Ask The Physicist

It's actually an interesting problem since many types of glass are fairly opaque to IR but some types of spinel such as ALON are largely transparent. On the other side there are many materials that are visibly opaque but transparent to IR. Reflectivity represents a another set of issues so I imagine they choose their laser wavelength quite carefully.

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Re: Ask The Physicist

"What really matters is the intensity of the beam (energy carried by the beam), not its colour."

When polished metals reflect more than 95% of visible and longer wavelength light the only colour which can avoid almost trivial countermeasures is ultra violet.

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Terminator

Re: Ask The Physicist

When in doubt, choose X-Ray.

It handily beats phased plasma rifles in the 40 watt range.

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Re: Ask The Physicist

Of course you also need to consider the nitrogen, oxygen, co2, water, and other miscellaneous shite that's inbetween you and the target. Not a lot of point in having a big assed laser if all it's going to do is heat up the water vapor twixt you and the bad guy. Also efficiency, many years ago when i was a lad industrial lasers were outrageously inefficient (10-20%), no big deal if you are in a huge factory with an HV 3 phase supply, but a bit of a challenge if you are in the back of beyond, in a truck.

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Re: Ask The Physicist

interesting replies, cheers!

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Re: Ask The Physicist

"When polished metals reflect more than 95% of visible and longer wavelength light the only colour which can avoid almost trivial countermeasures is ultra violet."

I think the need to get it to at least 99%. Otherwise, the 5% that DOES get absorbed would deform and defeat the polish, allowing the other 95% back in again to finish it off.

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Re: Ask The Physicist

Efficiency was always a function of the laser type. As I recall way back when I was a lad the rates varied from 1% for your standard ruby laser through 50% for certain types of diodes. At the time you tended to get more raw power from gas because you could pump more power into it. Promising work at that point was on liquids. I would imagine quite a bit has changed since then. And a quick Google search leads to this article for a 74% solid-state device being worked on by the military:

http://phys.org/news/2011-05-scientists-high-efficiency-ceramic-laser.html

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Has this been tested on chrome-plated targets?

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"Pimp My Missile"; the new reality show starting in spring 2014

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kit

A chrome plated object is sensitive both to radar and naked eyes. I doubt if any weapon designer would do.

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Indeed Navigator

Complying!

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FAIL

Reflective Shell ?

If the mortar rounds are covered in a nice mirror finish then the reflected laser beams may blind US soldiers on the ground and the shell would probably still survive to explode at the target.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reflective Shell ?

I really hope that this is sarcasm, otherwise I find your lack of common sense disturbing. On a hot day, find a car with a chrome bumper that has been sitting outside and touch it, you'll find it quite hot. The question is: why is the mirrored bumper still hot despite being a highly reflective surface? Now off to Wikipedia to review basic physics and while you're at it please see the common misconceptions page as well and with any luck you can spend the rest of your life being a little less wrong.

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Paris Hilton

Re: Reflective Shell ?

So why is the mirrored bumper still hot despite being a highly reflective surface?

Apart from bog-standard heat transfer from the rest of the vehicle.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reflective Shell ?

1. Paint your car and house chrome.

2. Your car and house now reflect all incoming energy at all wavelengths.

3.You no longer need AC during the summer, brag to your neighbors about your new low electric bill and awesome chrome house.

4. PROFIT!!!

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Mushroom

Re: Reflective Shell ?

A decent reflective surface will reflect over 95% of the incident energy - couple this with the fact that most mortar and artillery shells are spin stabilized and the chance of the laser getting enough energy through to cook off the explosive in the shell is small. Remember the laser is unlikely to have more than 1 second on any individual shell in a battle situation (as against a contrived test). With a 10KW laser this is 10KJ before reflection effects - with a decent mirrored surface this drops to 500J - which is far less than the energy to heat up 1 cup of tea. I STRONGLY SUGGEST that it is YOU who needs to learn about basic physics.

(A 120mm mortar round weighs about 30 pounds - even a 100KW laser is unlikely to be able to damage such a projectile in a 1 second engagement if the projectile has a mirrored surface.)

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Re: Reflective Shell ?

"So why is the mirrored bumper still hot despite being a highly reflective surface?"

Because the chrome only reflects about 80% of the light. That still leaves about 20 percent to be converted to thermal energy.

It actually compares well with most solar panels efficiency in converting light to electricity.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reflective Shell ?

Try that chromed metal surface in a microwave, this is just a small range of wavelengths that chromed metal doesn't reflect, and rather absorbs quite handily. Given that there are plenty of wavelengths in the em spectrum that the chromed surface will be less than effective against, the fact that the surface is reflective of visible light is moot. Now off to Wikipedia with you.

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Re: Reflective Shell ?

@Duncan Macdonald

It doesn't have to damage it; it's full of explosives. If they can be heated well enough than they do the work.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reflective Shell ?

@Duncan McDonald - why don't you try this experiment. Fire a water cannon at someone standing still on ice. Then repeat with a figure skater in a tight spin.

Hint. The results will be the same. There was a dude called Newton who did some work a while back on action and reaction. You should check it out.

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Go

Re: Reflective Shell ?

The effect of the spin is to distribute the incoming energy over a larger portion of the shell thereby reducing the peak heating at any one spot. Between the spin and the reflective coating, the effect of the laser is reduced to a general heating of the shell.

Do the maths

10kW for 1 second is 10kJ

95% reflection reduces this to 500J

For a 30 pound shell this works out to 500/30 joules/pound (16.67 J/pound)

Assuming a specific heat capacity of 0.1 (probably higher but this figure will do for illustration)

Each pound of shell will have the same heat capacity as one tenth of a pound of water i.e. about 105 joules per degree Fahrenheit.

The temperature of the shell would be raised by 16.67/105 degrees Fahrenheit i.e. just under 0.16 degrees Fahrenheit.

For the demonstration they probably used a single non rotating shell at a time painted in the usual dark colour that absorbs laser light efficiently.

For the demonstration 20 seconds at 25% reflection gives 15kJ and for a non rotating shell this energy would be concentrated onto a smaller part of the shell which gives the laser a chance to penetrate the casing and set off the explosive inside.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reflective Shell ?

This should help, its a PBS kids program on mirrors:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iE6I52Th9DE

CRITICAL THINKING:

After watching the video ask yourself can a mirror "reflect" an infinite amount of energy? At what point does the incoming energy damage the mirror? Is there a "threshold" at which the mirror fails, more specifically at what levels of energy per area are sufficient to do so? Do mirrors "reflect" the entire EM spectrum with equal intensity, or different intensities at different wavelengths? What happens to the lost intensity?

COMMON PITFALLS:

Nothing is ideal everything has it's limits. Math is not what is in question here, it is the base assumptions you have made about the system that are fundamentally flawed. Assumptions are the initial input for any engineering problem, and garbage in is garbage out, no matter the quality of the "maths". While assuming ideal materials and properties is most convenient, it can often result in significant errors in the final solution. Choose your assumptions with great care.

-------

Now, while I realize that this statement and my previous statements are harsh and quite flippant, You really should take the time to review Wikipedia or watch MIT opencourseware (and just ignore me being cranky for lack of coffee). These are fantastic resources that can clear up common misconceptions and broaden your horizons, you should never let pride get in the way of acquiring knowledge and bettering yourself. I would also like to take this moment to remind you that you still can withdraw your comment and politely act as though it never happened, and use the time saved from pointless argument to enrich yourself and end your own frustration in one fell swoop.

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Re: Reflective Shell ?

agree totally, just commenting on units - Pounds and Fahrenheit, quaint

thasall

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Happy

@Nicho - Re: Reflective Shell ?

"There was a dude called Newton who did some work a while back on action and reaction. You should check it out."

Yup.

To every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This can be proved by punching a Millwall supporter...

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Reflective Shell ?

Let's break this down:

"10kW for 1 second is 10kJ"

I understand that it has been a while, but come on projectile motion isn't that hard! A quick sanity check on your maths would have revealed that the projectile has to be hypersonic (the kind of hypersonic beyond the realm of light gas guns and rail guns) for the above statement to be true. (Mortar muzzle velocities are relatively low) Even if the mortar were to be seen only at around the apex of its flight, the time is much longer than you think.

"95% reflection reduces this to 500J"

Mirrors are just highly polished metal (silver, aluminum, etc). Mirrors don't actually reflect light, they absorb and re-emit a photon. The key here is absorb. All mirrors have a maximum power density (power per unit area) that they are able to reflect before catastrophic failure occurs. The fact that the mirror is only a surface treatment means that once the (very thin) surface is corrupted, the ability of the mirror to reflect that energy away is reduced to the same as the component material. Now, what happens to power density as power remains the same and the area shrinks? A mirror with a high power beam concentrated on its surface doesn't last much longer (probably infinitesimally longer) than the unmirrored surface. Given the violence of the ejection out of the barrel, imperfections would exist on the surface anyway. You could make a sabot type round to combat this, but then the manufacturing cost, complication went up and size of the actual shell just went down for very little benefit. As a side note: mirrors don't reflect the entire EM spectrum equally this makes the visible spectrum reflective properties doubly moot. TL;DR: No dice on reflecting any significant power for an appreciable amount of time.

"For a 30 pound shell this works out to 500/30 joules/pound (16.67 J/pound)"

Whoa there! We're not talking about heating the whole shell, metal does not conduct heat instantly to other parts of the mortar (that would be a pretty neat trick that we could use to violate Einstein's tyranny though). We only need to heat the cross section of metal that touches the beam and to the depth of the charge. This works out to a more manageable mass when the beam is focused on a portion of the shell.

"For the demonstration they probably used a single non rotating shell at a time painted in the usual dark colour that absorbs laser light efficiently."

Well I'm willing to bet they didn't paint it chrome because they do science everyday, it's their job to do science and math with proficiency, and realized it doesn't actually matter. The spinning will buy you some time (not enough, but some), but honestly it still wouldn't do much for you when facing down those 50 and 100kW production baddies.

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Re: Reflective Shell ?

At least they did test it. I understand the goal is to combine modules to get 100 kW -- and that the program managers were surprised how well 10 kW does.

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Re: Reflective Shell ?

Paint your house white. Chrome can be about 95% reflective but while paints can achieve 99% in the optical range.

Of course the simple application of an insulating shell on the weapon would help too as it seems that the defence system requires heat transfer to the explosive to achieve its aims.

Or an ablating coating - now what was that secret fireproof stuff called again?

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