back to article Planned European death ray may not need Brit boffinry brain-picking

The EU is planning to build a laser cannon with double the power of Britain's under-construction Dragonfire zapper, according to reports – but the general state of the tech doesn't automatically mean Europe will be trying to snaffle Brit raygun smarts. The Sun broke the news that the EU Commission wants to, er, commission a …

  1. TRT Silver badge

    Airborne visible light weaponry...

    We already have a defensive shield... it's called "The UK's weather".

    Although as I type this there isn't actually a cloud in the sky... but you get the idea.

    1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Coat

      Re: Airborne visible light weaponry...

      "We already have a defensive shield... it's called "The UK's weather".

      Although as I type this there isn't actually a cloud in the sky... but you get the idea."

      Easily solved. Just arrange for some sort interesting stellar display and you can guarantee an overcast sky.

      Yes, the one with the unused binoculars in the pocket.

  2. dnicholas Bronze badge

    All these laser weapons pointed to the sky to take out inanimate munitions... They'd be perfect for shedding mushy infantry at a considerable range of it weren't so unpopular/illegal*

    * I recall the use of lasers "to blind" people is on the naughty list. Burning holes through their faces might not be

    1. ArrZarr Silver badge
      Holmes

      Star wars always confused me why troops didn't go around in mirrored armor. Everybody is shooting everybody else with light so why wouldn't you just make everything that you needed to defend shiny?

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Lucasfilm defines the blaster as "ranged energized particle weaponry".

      2. maffski

        ...mirrored armor

        Mirrors ain't perfect.

        1. Paul J Turner

          Re: ...mirrored armor

          "Mirrors ain't perfect"

          They are good enough to create the beam though?

          Anyway, when you can see your own reflection in the guy's armour, are you really going to use a laser?

          1. eldakka Silver badge

            Re: ...mirrored armor

            > They are good enough to create the beam though?

            The amount of mirrors in the Dragonfly would probably cover a soldier's shin.

            There's a massive difference between spending $50k on a 6-inch precision polished mirror (or whatever the relatively small size of the laser's mirror is) that you might buy 50k units of and house inside weather-protected equipment, vs applying the same quality control to something that's more than an order of magnitude larger, and that you'd want an order of magnitude more units of, and that isn't protected from the weather, and has to to stand up to the rigours of a soldier's actions in combat and training - diving for cover, shrapnel, dust, etc. Any damage caused by normal day to day use of such equipment would render that incredibly expensive mirrored surface useless.

            Not to mention the soldiers would lose any ability to hide - camouflage - and be easy targets. Bit hard to sneak up on someone at night wearing something like mirrored armour. Would make low-powered searchlights or good old-fashioned illumination flares extremely effective at finding the soldiers.

            1. Hairy Spod

              Re: ...mirrored armor

              Would the simple solution to that would be to cover the mirror with some kind of cover?

              no shiny shiny from the outside until actually hit by a laser at which point the covering would initially be burned away and then reflected

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: ...mirrored armor

          'Mirrors ain't perfect.'

          True (hence the upvote), but in playing these games, assuming some sort of directed energy weapon is being pointed at me, I'd still rather have an imperfect mirrored surface on my armour to reflect 80-98% of the inbound 'death ray's' energy and then worry about the effect that the <20% or so of the inbound energy absorbed by the mirror substrate/material is then having on that material rather than worrying about the effect that 100% of the inbound energy of the 'death ray' falling directly on the underlying armour would be having.

          Mind you, after going to the bother of getting my armour "98% shiny shiny' over a wide range of wavelengths, the chances are that some bloody unsporting beardy old oik in funny robes would then come along and royally chib me with a frigging plasma torch with a 3ft long magnetically bottled jet...

        3. Tom 7 Silver badge

          Re: ...mirrored armor

          I would bet some total internal reflection device could give nearly as good as it got

      3. Flakk Silver badge

        Star wars always confused me why troops didn't go around in mirrored armor.

        Probably because in '70s George Lucas was smarter than Glen Larson, realizing that it would be an enormous pain to film guys in mirrored armor without the crew being visible in the reflection.

        1. Stuart Halliday

          If you use mirrors, the beam simply bounces off and goes into someone else?

          1. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

            If you use mirrors, some of the beam simply bounces off

            There fixed that for you..

            (And the mirror finish will get degraded by the beam energy that gets through - either by localised heat effects or damage to the underlying layers)

        2. Hans 1 Silver badge
          Paris Hilton

          it would be an enormous pain to film guys in mirrored armor without the crew being visible in the reflection.

          That, and then weapons would have two types of ammo, lazer AND bullets ... nothing like a bullet to break a mirror. I hope you have a backup in case the last disk of your mirror goes titsup.

          A better question would have been: why did they not clone Yoda ?

    2. Lee D Silver badge

      I think that the next time you have an infantry-vs-infantry battle, it's probably already game over anyway.

      WW3 will be fought from a computer desk. Actual people on the ground is reserved for "peace-keeping" (i.e. making sure those people without the expensive weaponry don't get hold of it).

      The days of even things like tanks, etc. are numbered.

      To be honest, nobody is going to pitch professional-army against professional-army again without things getting very bad very quickly. Which is why it's a bit pointless and alarming to teach people that armed forces like that are good careers to go into. Anything serious happens, you're laser/chemical/nuke fodder. Anything non-serious and you're just going to be asked to fight against a bunch of people that last year you armed to help them fight against a different bunch of unarmed people.

      If a major first-world power ever declares war on another first-world country again (not just a concept or easy-pickings or the Middle East, etc.), then we have precisely zero chance of things like chemical usage restrictions actually being abided by. People can't even abide by them now - everything from Russian spies to chemical weapons in Syria.

      One of the reasons that we really should be just bringing the military home, using them for defence (lovely how they use that word but never "offence" when describing it officially), and absorbing their ENORMOUS cost into something a bit more useful.

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        WW3 will be fought from a computer desk.

        Not likely.

        Most of the "smart" and remote control weapons 1st wold countries use today against 3rd+ world countries will be unusable due to the ridiculous amount of countermeasures. The level of ECM which once upon a time required dedicated aircraft is now compressed into a pod which can go on a standard hard point is even stock equipment as on Rafale, newer Suchoy fighters, etc.

        Let's hope we never live to see it, but if, just in case, it is ever fought without nuclear weapons, it will be fought within visual range using "brute force and ignorance" weapons. All of the "smart" weapons are least likely to work and will be wasted money. Ditto for all stealth weapons. If nobody can use radar in the first place, stealth carries no tactical advantage. In fact, it is a handicap as you screw the aerodynamics and within vis-range capabilities of the aircraft to make it stealthy.

        1. Chris G Silver badge

          @ Voland.

          Yep! for the foreseeable future it is still down to 'The last 5 yards', well, actually a bit further than that in general but house clearing and hand to hand is still a possibility. The biggest problem for modern soldiers is the increasingly large battery carrying capability, pretty soon frontline personnel will have to carry a crap load of surveillance and telemetry for the General Staff back at base to mess with, leaving the front liners with enough capacity for a catapult/slingshot and picking up stones for ammo.

          Progress!

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          it will be fought within visual range using "brute force and ignorance" weapons

          Or, as the old mantra used to be (and still is despite Bomber Harris trying to disprove it), "air power alone can never win a war".

          Lack of it can lose you a war, but having grunts take and hold territory on the ground is (at the moment) the only guarenteed way to end a war.

          Of course, unless you have all the other bits needed to win the resource war, you are going to need a lot more grunts than the other side. Especially if the tech and training levels are even.

      2. MonkeyCee Silver badge

        Always the PBI

        "I think that the next time you have an infantry-vs-infantry battle, it's probably already game over anyway.

        WW3 will be fought from a computer desk. Actual people on the ground is reserved for "peace-keeping" (i.e. making sure those people without the expensive weaponry don't get hold of it).

        The days of even things like tanks, etc. are numbered."

        I'm sorry, but that's a load of rubbish. Unless by "peace keeping" you mean "fighting the bloody war", since a peacekeeper = warfighter = PBI.

        Wars are won by the infantry taking and holding ground. Everything else is force multiplier, so if you don't have bodies on the ground who are willing to fight then all the technology in the world isn't going to make a bit of difference.

        Force multipliers do make all the difference, but they rely on the PBI doing their job in the first place. So for a first world army with high morale, you can focus on the shiny toys, since the training, logistics and espirit de corps are taken for granted. But those (plus comms) are what will win a battle.

        The focus on shiny toys is about making money. The actual fighting of wars is still done by the people on the ground, our beloved PBI. That their job is made much easier when you can call in air or artillery support, and have eyes in the sky, but those planes and drones aren't going to hold any territory.

        Consider the difference between Mosul and Syria. In Mosul the Iraqi military is doing the hard yards on the ground* while the US provides a small amount of elite infantry (spec forces) , observations and air strikes. The US military power is quite effective and allows the Iraqis to win the battle with less friendly casualties etc. The strikes are targeted at people directly involved in the combat, and are thus quite effective. In Syria there are no friendly spotters, and the majority of airstrikes appear marginally effective at best**. Even blowing up convoys of Russian "mercenaries" seems political rather than tactical.

        The Russians are not really concerned about our laser weapons or the F-35. Our high quality infantry and logistics are what bothers them, since those are difficult to counter.

        * using infantry and armored vehicles, not lasers and chemical weapons.

        ** militarily anyway. Most of the "bomb Syria" stuff seems to be more about political shows than actuall results

  3. macjules Silver badge

    It's The Sun wot won it

    The Sun broke the news that the EU Commission wants to, er, commission a 100kW laser cannon similar to the British Dragonfire project, the ultimate goal of which is the production of a 50kW laser turret.

    It must be true then.

    1. Elmer Phud Silver badge

      Re: It's The Sun wot won it

      Damned Germans will be pointing it across the channel and destroying the bluebird nests at Dover!

      1. Paul Hovnanian Silver badge

        Re: It's The Sun wot won it

        "Damned Germans"

        Only if they re-occupy France.

      2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: It's The Sun wot won it

        What about a giant magnifying glass mounted on the White cliffs of Dover pointed at the continental hoards?

        Then the Sun can (if it ever came out) win it

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: It's The Sun wot won it

        "the Germans?"

        "Forget it... he's rolling"

  4. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

    Coherent beam combining

    Say, 8 beams located around the edge of a recessed dish?

    1. Lee D Silver badge

      Re: Coherent beam combining

      Hard to do.

      Certainly difficult to make battlefield-resilient.

      Throw a stone at it, make a small dent and the beams would no longer be coherent.

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: Coherent beam combining

        I'm more worried about a small thermal exhaust port, right below the main port.

    2. John Smith 19 Gold badge
      Coat

      "Say, 8 beams located around the edge of a recessed dish?"

      Ah.

      A flash bratwurst fryer.

      Excellent idea.

    3. the spectacularly refined chap

      Re: Coherent beam combining

      Say, 8 beams located around the edge of a recessed dish?

      Which would only serve to lose that nicely collimated light lasers give you. It's easy enough to ray trace this: have a number of lasers pass through the focal point of a parabolic mirror and they all head off in the same direction in a reasonably confined area.

      However that assumes the laser beam has infinitely small width. In practice laser beams have very definite width. Last time I looked into this the best possible was military secret but the educated references I consulted suggested that in the 10-20KW range a one inch beam may be possible. Even if the centreline of such a beam passed exactly through the focal point the edges of the beam are not. As a result they are reflected off axis and the beam diverges.

      In any event, this is purely going to collimate the light (i.e. direct it into a beam) rather that make it coherent. That is another kettle of fish entirely. Even getting a number of lasers working at exactly the same frequency (not almost the same or even almost exactly the same) would seem challenging enough to me. Aligning the peaks and troughs of the beams with all the practical difficulties that entails (convection currents etc) and you are looking at some pretty sophisticated adaptive optics.

      So once again the people actually working a multimillion pound project know better than an El Reg commentard without even a back-of-an-envelope idea. Who knew that could happen?

      1. Aladdin Sane Silver badge

        Re: Coherent beam combining

        It does work, I have proof.

  5. ZanzibarRastapopulous

    "...clear European leader in laser weapon technologies."

    As is traditional with clear European leads in weaponry, there isn't an actual weapon.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: "...clear European leader in laser weapon technologies."

      Double it up as, say, a femto-pulse x-ray laser crystallography array... 33 beam lines for science, or one f***-off great, big, massive one for shooting down the neighbour's fireworks.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Useless

    On a cloudy/hazy day, these are useless. Smoke shields absolutely effective. Just bomb a volcano and let the cloud ash from the explosion do half the damage, missiles and shells will just slip through.

    If you want to stop war, stop the "few" politicians/criminals that use it as a means.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Useless

      If you want to stop war, stop the "few" politicians/criminals that use it as a means.

      Or divert all military funds into either impossible imaginary weapon systems or platforms so expensive you can never afford to let come near harms way

      1. Chris G Silver badge

        Re: Useless

        "Or divert all military funds into either impossible imaginary weapon systems or platforms so expensive you can never afford to let come near harms way"

        Would a multi role combat aircraft that needs a regular 'patch Tuesday and being maintained in a country run by a loony, qualify?

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Useless

          I think it is currently a zero-role non-combat aircraft until some future upgrade

          1. TRT Silver badge

            Re: Useless

            Pay to win. Warfare as a service,

            1. eldakka Silver badge

              Re: Useless

              > Pay to win. Warfare as a service,

              Now all we need is loot boxes.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Useless

      "On a cloudy/hazy day, these are useless. Smoke..."

      Much less of a problem for infra red or microwaves.

      "Just bomb a volcano..."

      This would have no effect unless the volcano was about to erupt anyway, and you'd probably need a largish thermonuke to do it, at which point you'd have far more to worry about than a few lasers.

  7. Christoph Silver badge

    may not need Brit boffinry brain-picking

    Just as long as they don't recruit James Nicoll (he of the Nicoll Dyson Laser)

  8. Chris G Silver badge

    Lasers! We don' need no stinkin' lasers

    See title; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jBRUonZ_YI0

  9. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
    Windows

    Sir Bedivere can explain...

    ... why this Electromagnetic Death Ray Lust is totally compatible with the headline "Creaky NHS digital infrastructure risks holding back gene boffinry, say MPs" or for unloading a few somewhat less than fully reliable Storm Shadow (something out of Marvel Comics, shurely?) at Syria as a followup to a White-Helmet organized media freakshow.

    Hey bartender over here

    Two more shots

    And two more beers

    Sir turn up the TV sound

    The war has started on the ground

    Just love those laser guided bombs

    They're really great

    For righting wrongs

    You hit the target

    And win the game

    From bars 3,000 miles away

    3,000 miles away

    Roger Waters - "Amused to Death / The Bravery of Being out of Range"

  10. Sgt_Oddball Silver badge
    Terminator

    when are we...

    Going to see more development in the way of phased plasma instead of just laser weapons?

    Say something in the 40watt range?

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: when are we...

      Only what you see, pal.

      1. Rattus Rattus

        Re: when are we...

        Don't know where he expected to carry that in a Hornet cockpit, anyway.

    2. Symon Silver badge
      Terminator

      Re: when are we...

      Sounds ideal for home defense.

  11. Chairman of the Bored Silver badge
    FAIL

    Ironic...

    ...when I worked for a certain large organization with it's headquarters located along the Potomac River, I noticed something odd; every single time a beltway bandit was having a big sales (snow) job on laser weapons ... It would rain, or snow, or the fog would roll in... Or all the above. Without fail. God hates laser weapons!

    1. I3N

      Re: Ironic...

      Yes, the perennial con.

      Blue-green anyone?

  12. I3N

    Laser fluff ...

    Wired has that market cornered.

    But see that style has a home over at the BBC

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/amp/blogs-china-blog-43792655

  13. Chozo
    Devil

    Brotron Labs

    Made over ten years ago the Electrolux Death Ray will take some beating

    http://www.brotron.com/Movies/DeathRay.mov

  14. DrD'eath

    Aircraft carrier

    One of you clever types will know. How long would the new EU laser take to put a hole in the side of, for example, an aircraft carrier.

    1. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Aircraft carrier

      "How long would the new EU laser take to put a hole in the side of, for example, an aircraft carrier."

      Too long.

      A hole in the side of the bridge (or the people inside it) on the other hand....

  15. Andy 97

    The S*n does an anti-European story shocker!

    What we really need to know is can they be attached to a shark head?

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