Boeing gets new raygun-on-a-lorry contract
Fry the unfriendly skies
US arms'n'aerospace titan Boeing is pleased to announce that it has won a further US Army contract to work on its monster truck with a frikkin lazor beam on it project.
The Army plan is called High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD), and is intended to produce a functioning ray cannon mounted on a massive 20-tonne heavy offroad supply lorry. Boeing won a beam-control contract for HEL TD last year, and has now been awarded a further $36m to embark on the next phase of this and act as systems engineer for the entire weapon.
"This contract award is an important win for Boeing because it supports a cornerstone of the Army's high-energy laser program," said Scott Fancher, Boeing veep in charge of the raygun department.
"HEL TD will ... counter the difficult threats posed by rockets, artillery shells and mortar projectiles."
The idea is that a HEL TD truck could be parked inside a military base in a dangerous warzone. Whenever local miscreants started firing mortars or rockets into the base, those inside wouldn't care as the raygun would zap the incoming rounds out of the sky. There have already been efforts to do this using rapid-firing automatic cannon systems, but these have the inevitable downside of spraying thousands of cannon shells all over the surrounding area as they do their work - which is unlikely to win over hearts and minds among the neighbours.
Boeing believe that HEL TD can be implemented using solid-state electrically powered lasers, rather than the chemically-fuelled jobs employed in the company's flying raygunship and nuke-nobbling laser jumbo programmes. That would remove the need for frequent top-ups of deadly, corrosive fuel - and the requirement to get rid of the equally nasty wastes afterwards, not to mention the risk of catastrophic leaks, explosions, inadvertent meltings of nearby troops etc.
Thus far, solid-state lasers have lacked the power that chemical jobs can achieve. However, there are projects under way here and there in the US defence establishment which seem to offer change. For now, Boeing is focusing on the beam-control system, which will need to be pretty nifty itself to keep a tightly-focused photon lance locked onto a flying shell or rocket. ®
a frickin' laser on a truck...
I want it on a shark ;)
Mines the one with a gold member sticking out of the pocket
@ Adam Foxton
>>>...These fibres would then be aimed so that the emergent laser light was concentrated on a single spot...
"That blast came from the Death Star! That thing's operational!"
"even optical glass is pretty much opaque to it." Which would make it a bloody awful defence- it'd be absorbing all that UV light, heat up and crack.
The problem here is they're thinking about it as a single beam. They'd be better off with a number of slightly less impressively-sized lasers. Like a truck-back-full of 10W diodes, all firing up fibres. These fibres would then be aimed so that the emergent laser light was concentrated on a single spot (i.e. on the shell, which the on-board sensors would track in all 3 dimensions) using a bucketload of servos or some other type of actuator.
This would have the benefit of saving anyone stood in front of them (troops fixing it in the event of firing) or behind them (big buildings, planes). Also means you'd need a bloody huge projectile to make a significant dent in the power of it as so many elements were actually doing the firing. A 10W laser is only a couple of cm x a couple of cm x a couple of cm, and a truck is a couple of meters each direction. So 1000 elements wouldn't be horrendously hard, and 10000 wouldn't seem impossible. Even with the other equipment (radar, cooling, etc).
Assume that Boeing have access to more powerful semiconductor lasers than you or I, and suddenly it all becomes very possible. And the lack of any high-power light anywhere except the focus point means you've not got any problems of melting mirrors or lenses.
Another advantage would be that due to the low mass actually being shifted per fibre-end, you'd be able to target it far more quickly and efficiently than you could with a massive monolithic laser. You could concievably even scan CRT-style over the area the enemy shells are passing through, illuminating them and focussing for a few seconds on anything that's reflective.
Plus with power and targetting like that you could probably create 3D holograms like this (http://blog.intuitymedialab.eu/2008/04/30/three-dimensional-images-in-the-air/) with a decent resolution. Just imagine being some random islamic terrorist in Iraq seeing some ethereal image of Allah, God or an Angel appearing in the sky. Or seeing "good guy"/"western" troops being preceeded by glowing galloping horses who tear through the terrorists' friends. You'd probably need more elements to manage a decent resolution, refresh rate and power rating, but this is Boeing working for the US military- it's not like they'll have a lack of trucks or funds!
That, and you could put on a helluva light show at the end of the night...