back to article Boeing starts leak tests on nuke-nobbler raygun jumbo

US aerospace megacorp Boeing has announced that ground tests of its nuke-roasting aerial blaster cannon are imminent. "Activation Tests" of the newly installed Airborne Laser (ABL) ray weapon - the final stage before ground firings - have now begun, according to the company. The ABL's mighty chemical laser, designed to heat up …


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  1. SpitefulGOD
    Gates Halo


    So what's the price of putting a few mirrors on a rocket?

  2. Rupert Fiennes Bronze badge

    Of limited utility? This is a proof of concept

    Lets face it, a 747 loitering near even a nation with limited air defense capability very vulnerable. However, given the fact that they are only planning 7 of them says this program is a proof of concept. Once it's proved that this stuff works, then your justification for a longer ranged system has written itself...

  3. Andy Kay

    protect your ICBM with...

    the same stuff on the space shuttle - all the laser does is heat the skin of the missile - so if this is highly insulated, then the ABL is a bit useless! ;)

  4. Luther Blissett

    Look at those cavemen go - it's the freakiest show

    Reports a Russian "expert" as commenting > "We tested a similar system back in 1972. Even then our ‘laser cannon was capable of hitting targets with high precision." "We have moved far ahead since then, and the U.S. has to keep pace with our research and development," he added.

    A comment which must be considered as entertainment, since it succeeded in short order in summoning the neanderthals from out of the woodwork. Here is one working the hamster wheel:

    > 19. To: Russki (#16)

    "It also gives us sense that your country has our eventual destruction on it's agenda."

    We're comin' for you right after the moslem "problem" is fixed:)

    We want your fine tall womenfolk. <

    Probably the true Neanderthals also appreciated conventional military logic, that to stand a reasonable chance of prevailing in a scrummage against the cavemen from the other valley you need a numerical superiority of about 3 or 4 to 1, whether in numbskulls, nukes, or postings of nonsense on the intertubes. It was a homo sapiens called Archimedes who conclusively articulated the value of asymmetry when he said, Give me a lever and I will move the Earth. And he wasn't thinking of Mrs Archimedes.

    Is there life on Mars? (Yes, but don't tell the cavemen).

  5. Rob Briggs

    Oh dear, why can't people think a little?

    Two things have me groaning:

    a) The 'put mirrors on it' brigade

    b) The 'put a heatshield on it' brigade

    To answer:

    A) No mirror is 100% reflective, not even close. Mirrors used in astromony only achieve slightly better than 99% reflectivity. Given the beam power of the ABL, the power density delivered to the appropriate area of a missile would be sufficiently high to give at serious case of sun-burn

    B) Don't confuse high temperature with high power. Think of a spark from a fire landing on your hand - it doesn't burn a hole in it. The high temperatures achieved during re-entry do not reach the sort of power densities that can be delivered by ABL

    A final point; why does everyone assume that the ABL will be restricted to anti-missile duties? Seems to me to be an ideal wide-area anti-aircraft or anti-ship device able to take out large quantities of enemy assets.

  6. E


    Once this is a viable production ready system, you can expect it to be deployed in orbit. The USA might not admit doing so. Considering the flight path of an ICBM, orbit is probably the most useful place for the laser.

    Of course, stealthy cruise missiles - which everyone who is anyone in the WMD delivery game is working on - are probably hard to hit from orbit.

    Also, Rob Briggs has a good point. This thing ought to be useful for a wide range of purposes other than anti-missile.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Rob Briggs

    What about a shiny heatshield?

  8. Bad Beaver
    Thumb Up

    multimedia, man!

    I love that video. "The ABL is on constant alert" — what is this, the 50s?! But later, when the ABL fired up the multi-megawatt chemical laser and it featured this neat droning sound — I was sold.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Not just ICBM's

    But I'm thinking this could possibly burn a hole in an enemy warship's exterior, just below the water line causing it to sink, from 400Km away, and no-one would know cos real lasers (as opposed to Star Treks phasers) can't be seen unless passing through a dusty or gassy atmosphere.

  10. ratfox Silver badge


    I note that the pretty video assumes for some reason that ICBM are launched from Iran...

  11. Fred
    Thumb Up


    Yip, iran is next.. what a shame. mabey they will invade lybster (up in caithness) cos they are gonna be drilling for oil there... well have yanks here yet lol...

  12. Aubry Thonon


    "Now watch my left hand..."

    "Boeing-mounted" my shiny metal butt. Am I the only one who sees this eventually mounted on LEO platforms? (with a couple of converted Bombers for show)

  13. Schultz

    lasers, cool,

    but to burn through a suitably shielded surface, maybe with some ablation layers and / or some other heat dissipation tricks will be tricky. They will need a shitload of energy and some very steady aim. Maybe high up in very thin atmosphere they'll get a chance: less heat dissipation and less turbulent air to mess up their aim. But it may still take a nice and clear day to get that demonstration off the ground.

    My bet is on the rocket for anything above ~50 km.

  14. Adrian Esdaile

    This week I have been watching Blake's 7...

    and then I saw the reference to 'battle computers' in the 747-"Lazorbeem"...

    "Zen, put the battle computers online and clear the neutron blasters for firing"


    I just hope they have a pilot called Avon and kit him out in black motorcycle leathers.

    Mine's the teleport bracelet, thanks.

  15. Remy Redert


    While you are correct to state that mirrors are not an effective defense against very high powered lasers at their optimal range, this laser will likely be losing a lot of energy to the atmosphere. This in turn means that it may be possible for a mirror to reflect enough energy to save the missile, the same goes for a heatshield which works by the miracle of thermal conductivity (Or more correctly, lack thereof).

    If you can't get the missile to reach that critical temperature in short order, chances are you've missed your shot and will now have to intercept the missile in other ways.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    Re Remy Redert

    "If you can't get the missile to reach that critical temperature in short order, chances are you've missed your shot and will now have to intercept the missile in other ways."

    I'm gonna haveta inneract wid da missul anudder wa..." BOOOOOOOM

  17. Anonymous Coward


    If the missile has heatproof mirrors (glass from my mum's cooker would do) and rotates fast along it's axis then the laser will only be heating up a small section for a small amount of time.By the time that spot has rotated back into the laser beam, it would have cooled down.

    So lets not have any disparaging comments about dissing the mirror and heat shield brigade - it only makes you sound like a Boeing employee trying to make this Boeing sound like it will work (eventually).

    Also, if Iran,er the enemy gets one, can they shoot out the USA laser (light diffraction and all that) ?

    Exclaiming that you need a proper sci-fi icon

  18. Steve

    full power photon arse-kicker

    Photons have arses? Fascinating.

    See him? He's as tight as photon's arse...

  19. Vladimir Plouzhnikov


    Surely one can make a mirror to reflect a laser beam, even as powerful as that of the ABL. Even more surely, an ICBM with such mirror will have the range barely longer than V2 or payload no heavier than a handgrenade.

  20. Anonymous Coward

    War movies

    With the prospect of an invisible laser blowing things up silently from 400km away...war movies are going to be pretty dull.

    ooh look, a tank (nice big thermal target - don't move too quick either) - poof, toast.

    In addition to ICBMs I'm sure we can all come up with easier targets....with existing GPS co-ordinates, heck even a quick look on google earth, there is an endless list of things to blow up.

    Alien, because maybe this is what the laser thing is defending against.

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