Feeds

Boeing raygunship fires first blasts in ground testing

Laser-cannon plane set for inflight fryings 'this year'

The next step in data security

US airliners'n'armaments colossus Boeing announced today that one of its prototype aerial laser cannon planes has fired its first energy bolts in ground testing.

"First firing of the high-energy laser aboard the ATL aircraft shows that the program continues to make good progress," said Boeing blast-cannon biz boss Scott Fancher.

C-130 transport plane with laser belly turret fitted

The secret raygun project couldn't resist a hint as to where they got their new technology.

The so-called Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) programme is one of two flying raygun projects underway at Boeing. The other is the Airborne Laser, or ABL, a monstrous jumbo-jet mounted energy ray intended to disintegrate threatening nuclear missiles from hundreds of kilometres away. Both ATL and ABL use toxic chemical fuels to generate higher-intensity laser beams than can currently be produced by electric equipment.

The ATL, rather than frying hostile ICBMs from across a country, is seen more as a ray-cannon for everyday tasks. Relatively handy at 20 tons all up - the sealed chem-laser module itself weighs six tons, the rest being aiming gear, controls etc. - the ATL can be fitted into a normal C-130 military transport rather than needing a jumbo. Drawing a comparison with existing C-130-based "gunship" aircraft, which fire a broadside of ordinary projectile cannon against ground targets, Boeing have previously dubbed the ATL the "Laser Gunship".

The Laser Gunship, if it performs to spec, is expected to take out targets such as individual vehicles or cellphone towers, silently and from as far as 18-20km. People in the vicinity of an ATL strike might not realise what had happened until well after the event, if at all. This could be especially handy for Boeing's initial customer - the US military's secretive Special Operations Command.

Following last week's successful ground firings with the raygun now mounted in the plane, Boeing expect to go for a flight test in the coming months. At that point, the US military will decide whether the kit is good enough to take into service.

"Later this year, we will fire the laser in-flight at ground targets," confirms Fancher. ®

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
SCREW YOU, Russia! NASA lobs $6.8bn at Boeing AND SpaceX to run space station taxis
Musk charging nearly half as much as Boeing for crew trips
PORTAL TO ELSEWHERE scried in small galaxy far, far away
Supermassive black hole dominates titchy star formation
Boffins say they've got Lithium batteries the wrong way around
Surprises at the nano-scale mean our ideas about how they charge could be all wrong
Edge Research Lab to tackle chilly LOHAN's final test flight
Our US allies to probe potential Vulture 2 servo freeze
Europe prepares to INVADE comet: Rosetta landing site chosen
No word yet on whether backup site is labelled 'K'
Cracked it - Vulture 2 power podule fires servos for 4 HOURS
Pixhawk avionics juice issue sorted, onwards to Spaceport America
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
prev story

Whitepapers

Providing a secure and efficient Helpdesk
A single remote control platform for user support is be key to providing an efficient helpdesk. Retain full control over the way in which screen and keystroke data is transmitted.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
Security and trust: The backbone of doing business over the internet
Explores the current state of website security and the contributions Symantec is making to help organizations protect critical data and build trust with customers.