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back to article Secret US spontaneous human combustion beam tested

American death-tech goliath Boeing has announced a long-delayed in-flight firing for the smaller of its two aeroplane raygun-cannon prototypes, the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL). The ATL blaster, mounted in a Hercules transport aircraft, apparently "defeated" an unoccupied stationary vehicle. C-130 transport plane with laser …

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I wonder if Nigel Tuffnel is the lead research scientist.

FWIW, the US never did regard the IRA as freedom fighters; the Kennedy family did. (Old Joe, mob boss that he was, knew how to get them money and weapons.)

This weapon may seem impractical today, but in the sense that arquebusiers would have seemed to Napoleon. They're developing a new weapon system; you have to work your way up to the battlefield-ready ones.

And negotiating with/ignoring/appeasing terrorists worked so well during the previous two Democrat administrations that it surely is a wonderful idea now. (I had three friends die in the World Trade Center attack. I don't have a lot of inclination to be appeasing terrorists.)

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FAIL

around corners?

My question is can it go around corners. To me it's useless if it can't go around corners. Why don't they develop smart bullets and smart missiles kind of like in Babylon A.D. that will follow you wherever you go.

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Grenade

Defence against directed energy weapons

Assuming that the energy is transmitted in the form of electromagnetic radiation of a reflectable wavelength, simply arrange for the the beam to his a bank of autocollimators. (Think: bicycle rear reflector.) Work it out.

BTW, while at university in the 1960's, I went with the maths society to visit the MoD secret research establishment in Baldock, Herts. (It's not there any more.) We were proudly shown a solid wooden door damaged accidentally by the discharge of a laser. There was a circular hole 3 inches across, right through the door, with smoke blackening on the paint above it. The guys might have been taking the p**s out of a load of gormless undergrads, but it looked impressive.

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Terminator

Re:The Alan Parsons Project

Surely you mean Project Wu-Tang Clan or Project Bananarama...?

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Welcome

alien lizard-people/rulers/overlords

I for one, welcome our new alien lizard people. If they bring me a frikkin' laser, i'll welcome them with open ...

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Bronze badge

Re: @Kurt 5

Sorry, there will be no popcorn. - Mythbusters

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Black Helicopters

This ain't about fightin' wars...

or savin' lives.

It's about profits for the military industrial complex, but I'll bet that's already been stated.

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Bug
Boffin

"Defeat?"

The original article says that:

The laser beam's energy defeated the vehicle.

"Defeated?" That could mean any of a wide range of things, but the vagueness strongly suggests that, just as the smart money predicted, it wasn't particularly impressive. Why did we expect that?

Well, back in November last year, this program was investigated by the AFSAB and determined to be a complete waste of money. Since then, Boeing has had the spin machine on full bore to avoid getting cancelled. One of the publicity efforts they made showed artists' impressions of applications for the thing. And one of those pictures showed it "defeating" a vehicle ... by flattening a tire. (Perhaps due to excessive honesty, that picture now seems to have disappeared.)

Yes folks, if you stand in this beam unprotected, you will be badly hurt, maybe even killed. But to block it you don't need super-reflective mirrors or advanced aerosols, a simple plank of wood will do the job. Going to destroy ammo dumps with this thing? Not if they are covered over!

It was in the same spin campaign that they came up with the ludicrous "stealth death ray" application. Quite simply, the reason we have no death rays half a century after lasers were invented is that they are very poor weapons with almost every operational parameter far, far inferior to conventional firearms.

The one feature of lasers that is actually a positive is the light speed energy delivery, which makes them much easier to aim at ultra-high speed targets. That is the reason they are being actively investigated for missile defence. But here Boeing has been poodling around with a "miniaturised" (well, slightly smaller) version that is clearly unsuitable for missile defence, and someone has called them out on the whole "applications" issue. They seem to have had a bit of brain-storming session and tried to come up with things that sounded more useful than flattening tires, and one of the things they came up with is the "stealth death ray".

As publicity, the "stealth death ray" has worked great. Heck, it got them into El Reg!

But as numerous other bloggers have noted, it doesn't make a blind bit of sense. The USA is the only country that has a flying stealth death ray (or rather, the USA is the only country silly enough to be funneling cash to a company that is promising to build one.) Contrary to what some people have claimed, due to industrial accidents the diagnosis of laser burns is well understood. It is obvious that this system will have no "deniability" whatsoever.

What is even sillier is that the chosen platform, the C-130 Hercules, is a cargo plane that is about the most unstealthy aircraft in existence. It cannot fly at extreme altitudes, it has only intermediate range, and it has the radar signature of a large barn fitted with a pair of high speed windmills.

In contrast, in the places where you might want to use a stealth death ray (e.g. Waziristan), it is remarkably inexpensive to just pay someone to go and shoot the guy you're after. If you want it to be deniable, we recommend paying in used bills.

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FAIL

pahh, this is OLD tech

I was frying ants with a magnifying glass in the mid 1970's

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