Tuesday, 16 November 2004

Next, We have to develop Tripods

From Space Daily :
The U.S. Missile Defense Agency has successfully test-fired the megawatt-class laser built by Northrop Grumman for the Airborne Laser (ABL) system, marking the first time such a powerful directed energy weapon suitable for use in an airborne environment has been demonstrated.

The ground-based test, referred to as "First Light," took place Nov. 10 on ABL's laser testbed at the Systems Integration Laboratory, a special building at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif., which houses a modified Boeing 747 freighter fuselage where all elements of the laser system are being assembled and tested.

747 Heat rayThe test involved the simultaneous firing of all six laser modules and the associated optics that comprise the Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL). The laser systems produced an amount of infrared laser energy that was within pre-test expectations.
It's a genuine honest-to-God Martian-War-Machine-type Heat Ray. But to be mounted on a 747. Object? To shoot down things like ballistic missiles, other aircraft etc. At a 747's cruising altitude there's no effective cloud - but of course an aircraft flying entirely below any cloudbase would be relatively safe. I say "relatively" because even at low efficiencies, a Megawatt is a lot of power to be pumping out, even in fractional-second bursts.

2 comments:

Ancient_Hacker said...

I wouldnt hold your breath waiting for death-lasers to become commonplace.

The USAF spent many millions in the 1960-70 timeframe working on a combination jet engine and laser. A few hundred million dolalrs later, no soap, or rather, just a few kilowatts of infrared, not enough to toast a bagel at more than a km or so.

Now these newfangled iodine-peroxide lasers seem to be in the same power range, just a few kw. And how much of that can you get to impinge on a ICBM warhead that's already set up to handle many KW of reentry heat?

mamapajamas said...

I've been watching the development of ABL since it was ALL (Airborne Laser Lab) back in the '70s, but watching as a layman, not an engineer. It seems to me that the laser itself was always the hang-up on the system... that the targeting system has worked very well since the '70s. ALL's targeting system is, after all, the mother of the targeting system used by current "smart" bombs. Just goes to show that all that money did not go to waste. Much as people complain that "smart" bombs don't work well, they work a hell of a lot better than the carpet bombing we did in WWII, saving probably hundreds of thousands of lives in civilian areas that have been under attack. Check out Dresden, WWII, for a comparison.