back to article Fridge-sized war raygun for US bombers gets $40m

A long-running US military project aimed at producing a "refrigerator sized" laser raygun capable of being mounted on US combat aircraft has received further funding of just under $40m. Concept graphic showings the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) in action. Credit: DARPA The raygun bomber force knew …


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  1. Monkey Bob

    Thanks for that...

    "Pew pew pew pew pew pew WARNING OVERHEAT WARNING Aw jeez"

    <--- See icon. I'm easily amused.

    Mmmm, nasally exhaled tea...

    1. hplasm Silver badge


      "Fatal failure in Palin module..."

  2. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Enemy pilots: please attack one at a time so my laser has time to cool

    "phase change heatsink technology" means that parts of the heatsink will melt or boil. A far more practical approach would be to aim a couple of watts at an enemy pilot. Normally, blinding enemy pilots is considered naughty, but if the defence contract gets big enough I am sure such niceties will be forgotten.

  3. Chemist

    "phase change heatsink"

    Er, ice, or bucket of water > steam ??

  4. Rogerborg


    Well, that'll cover lunches, plus the PowerPoint explaining why they need another $150 million or so to reach the next stage of development: a yacht for every executive.

    1. E 2
      Thumb Down

      Blinding pilots

      IIRC using blinding weapons contravenes the Geneva Protocols.

      1. This post has been deleted by its author

      2. Bango Skank
        Black Helicopters

        only if it stops the other guys

        Yes but, ... so are cluster bombs, landmines, and use of white phosphorous against people, but that hasn't stopped any of the major powers from using them when they felt it would be handy.

        In fact, take a gander at which countries steadfastly refuse to ratify bans on same, and you might have a hint as to who might find it rather jolly to employ it on occasion

        1. E 2

          Two wrongs

          not make a right.

    2. BenR


      Can they not do as they did with the SR-71, which dumped excess heat into the fuel to pre-heat it when it was travelling at Mach 3?

  5. The Jase

    Coolest Reg picture ever



    That is all

  6. MJI Silver badge


    Is it

    Pew-pew-pew, pew-pew-pew


    Pew-pew, pew-pew, pew-pew

    This questions need to be abswered.

  7. James Hughes 1

    Say what you like

    But General Atomics is a great name for a company.

  8. Pink Duck


    What happened to the $166,501 that would have otherwise meant a sum of $40 million USD? I suspect someone already has their yacht.

  9. Tony.

    Fridge Sized?

    When will they make them shark mountable size?

    We need "frickin' sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their frickin' heads!

  10. Alan 6


    Couldn't they have rounded that up to $40m?

    1. Mark 152

      @ Tony.

      Please keep up, boffins have already managed to create living cells able to produce laser light, its just a matter of time before we have sharks shooting laser beams out of their frikkin eyes! :-)

      (see Living, biological raygun produced in lab)

      1. BenR

        Wacky idea:

        Can they not just mount the bio-laser-beam-X-man-Cyclops-shark to the plane instead?

    2. Arkasha


      "Fridge sized" covers a wide range of sizes from the student kitchen big-enough-for-a-couple-of-cans to the humungus walk-in American jobbies.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


        ""Fridge sized" covers a wide range of sizes from the student kitchen big-enough-for-a-couple-of-cans to the humungus walk-in American jobbies."

        Built in a America, which size do you *think* they mean?

        It'll be the feeds a family of 15 Arkansas hog farmers for a week type.

    3. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      questions, questions

      That's another $20 to answer the question

    4. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @James Hughes 1

      "but General Atomics is a great name for a company."

      They've been around since the very nuclear friendly days of the 1950's

      They also make various US kill drones. I think they prefer to be called GA these days. It's more "corporate."

      1. hplasm Silver badge

        But like US Robotics-

        Sadly disappointing.

        Heinlein and Asimov rotate unhappily...

        1. Anonymous Coward

          A title is required and must contain atomic waste

          No GA isn't a cool name,

          NUKEM Limited

          that's a cool name, especially when you look at what they do....

    5. Peter Murphy

      From the article, it's more like:


      (Cool down! Cool the fuck down!)


      (Aw shit! It's overheating again. Wait for it, waitforit...)


      (Anyone got some ice cubes? Liquid nitrogen? Anything?)

    6. hplasm Silver badge


      We need bigger sharks.

    7. Joe Cooper
      Paris Hilton


      Things sell more when you put a 99 at the end. Duh!

    8. Bobster

      Re: Pew

      It should be "Pew-pew, pew-pew, pew-pew..."

      Remember: always double-tap ;)

      1. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart


        the RAFs laser goes "Pew, Pew, Barney Mc Grew, Cuthbert, Dibble, Grubb"

        Mines the one with the sond effects from the 1951 film "The Man in the White Suit" in the pocket

    9. TeeCee Gold badge

      Re: Fridge Sized?

      Depends on the shark. Genetically reengineering Megalodon should do the trick and I suspect DARPA are just the lads to do it.

      1. annodomini2


        With adamantium teeth to cut through the hulls of the enemies vessels.

  11. Inventor of the Marmite Laser Silver badge

    Frikkin' Lasers


  12. Dale 3

    Fridge sized

    Shirley all they need is to add a fridge-sized fridge to solve the cooling problem?

  13. Camilla Smythe Silver badge

    Switches on Techno-Translator

    "High Energy *LIQUID* Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS)"

    Gert fuck off and die Squirt/Water pistol then.

    Presumably Textron were offering a spudgun.

  14. Alister Silver badge

    @Inventor of the Marmite Laser

    you either love it...

  15. Steve May 1


    Is that a US refridgerator or a UK one?? Those walk-in american ones won't fit in a fighter, methinks.

    Gotta use defined units in these stories.

  16. Christoph Silver badge

    I see a market ...

    ... for a dummy tank that burns away in the laser beam to reveal a cube-corner mirror that bounces the beam back the way it came.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "for a dummy tank that burns away in the laser beam to reveal a cube-corner mirror that bounces the beam back the way it came."

      This has a certain anarchic charm. Sadly I think it's for air to air use, not ground attack.

  17. Anonymous Coward

    Mods: Can we nuke the mirror idiots?

    Moderators, can we nuke all the idiots who always respond to any story about laser weapons with "Hurr-durr, I'll puts me a mirror on my stuffs, hurr-durr-derp!"

    Mirrors are NOT 100% reflective. Wide-frequency mirrors are usually doing good to be 90% reflective, and that 10% that they absorb will cause them to become a whole lot less reflective than 90% in a real hurry (as in milliseconds!). The high reflectivity mirrors used in the lasers themselves are specialized dichrotic mirrors that are quite mechanically fragile - they wouldn't last 5 minutes on the outside of ANYTHING. And putting them in a "fake tank" won't work, as the products of melting the "fake tank" will prevent the mirrors from working.

    So again, mods: Can we just nuke these silly posters?

    (what am I saying: they've not nuked AnIdiotFromMars[0-n] so why should I expect them to bother.)

    1. Christoph Silver badge

      Milliseconds should be enough

      If it bounces back 90% and is rapidly wrecked by the remainder, the amount returned to the source should be adequate to wreck that. The gadget on the ground can be much more robust, have more thermal mass, etc. It's also very much simpler. If it can be wrecked in milliseconds, so can the source, which has lots of complex bits in it.

      Obviously the camouflage will be designed to not interfere with the beam too much as it gets blasted - it might take a bit of testing to find the right material, but it's hardly impossible.

      1. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge

        You do wonder

        whether really thick blocks of cooled, highly polished, solid aluminium would do (can reach 95% reflectivity, going up to 99% in infrared). They might last long enough to do serious damage.

        Now that would be a cool set-up.

        Having said that, scattering by dust and vapour droplets (clouds, steam) hinder lasers, though infrared is much less affected.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          In all these cases .

          .the relatively narrow beam would have to hit the mirror (which may or may not be capable of surviving). But the bulk of the target's area can't really be covered with this sort of mirror esp. if heatsinks or solid aluminium mirrors.

          1. annodomini2

            /\ oops!

            I think I meant tank rather than laser at the end

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge

      @David D. Hagood

      Mirrors are NOT 100% reflective.

      Quite true.

      "specialized dichrotic mirrors"

      If you mean dichromic that's the kind of mirror that splits the IR generated in a cinema projector away from the visible light used to illuminate the film. The "di" means 2 in Latin, not in dye. They are quite robust.

      The mirrors in lasers reflect from roughly 97% to above 99%. precise thicknesses of conductors and non conductors. Usually vacuum deposited.

      "Anti-reflective" coatings are also interference based and rely on the same technology. Since they are incorporated in camera lenses and sun glasses I'd say they are fairly rugged.

    3. annodomini2


      Smoke generators???

      Most tanks can use the engine to generate smoke, could this be used to reflect/refract the laser beam?

      If so the smoke material would also be absorbing the energy rather than the laser.

      Will have to be giving the troops pack of cigs again!

  18. a_mu
    Thumb Up



    if way gun makes plane 'almost' 100 percent defendable,

    why not a blimp.

    could carry a large ray gun aloft for a long time,

    does not need crew,

    and could just hover over battle field ,

    just pray not heavy smoke or cloud,

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    Fridge sized

    To the various posters commenting upon "fridge sized":

    I'd suggest you look up the sizes of the M61A1 Vulcan 20mm pod and the GAU-8A Avenger (used in the A10-A Thunderbolt 2, a.k.a. Warthog).

  20. Anonymous Coward

    Mechwarrior comes to mind...

    Warning, heat levels critical... Shutdown imminent... shutting down.... (pilot screams as his plane goes into an uncontrolled dive)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Thunbs up

      For reminding me of those brilliant brilliant games (Well, up until the Microsoft produced ones anyway)

  21. John Savard Silver badge

    Refrigerated Mirrors, Then

    Hey, if the laser dissipates more heat internally than it sends into its beam - and it can be refrigerated to take care of that... then, a mirror that reflects 90% of what got into the beam can certainly be refrigerated to take care of the 10% that didn't get reflected.

    1. Joe Cooper


      They did this in a Stargate SG-1 episode.

      Anubis was firing a laser beam through the gate to destroy Stargate Command. The USAF had a metal plate covering the gate that was supposed to protect against gunfire and light weapons, but the beam was melting it. They spent a good part of the episode hosing it down with liquid nitrogen, but the alien's technology was well enough to sustain the beam indefinitely. In the end they had to have the gate lifted out of the base and flung into space.

  22. John Edwards
    Paris Hilton


    The trouble with super duper weapons is that they are seldom able to resist the soldier armed with a pointed stick. Our lack of success in the two and a half kinetic police actions we are presently conducting demonstrates this. So just scatter the home runway with caltrops, blow the aircraft's tyres, and watch it self destruct as it goes off the end of the runway. The only good thing about the airborne laser is the cooling system. With careful design this could echo the Vickers medium machine gun which was water cooled. In the stress of acton the water would boil and the crew could enjoy a refreshing cup of tea.

    Paris because...just because.

  23. Anonymous Coward

    But what about the beer?

    The laser fridge may only weigh 750kg when empty but how much is it going to weigh once the pilots have filled it with beer? They will you know.

    Of course I suppose that amount of cold beer could help with the cooling problems when they fire the thing.

    I'll get my (beer filled) coat now

  24. ukgnome Silver badge

    Fridge Size

    That well known measurement.

    Now I wonder how many olympic sized swimming pools are required to cool it down.

    And if its range is measured in double decker busses

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Pew Pew!

    Everyone knows laser cannons go FREEM!

  26. xznofile

    ideal platform

    cool! the ideal platform for this will be DARPAs new blimp that stays aloft for weeks, then automate refueling with hi altitude helicopters or mars lander type cargo pods and run the whole thing from Nevada for months or years or centuries or until someone else makes a laser that can shoot it down.

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