Feeds

Northrop in electric blaster cannon milestone

Weapons grade fry-ray to debut 'this year'

New hybrid storage solutions

US war-tech behemoth Northrop Grumman announced yesterday that it had achieved another milestone in its battlefield raygun programme - ahead of schedule. Company blaster cannon execs believe that the first tests at combat power - 100 kilowatts - will take place as planned by the end of this year.

A 15-kilowatt JHPSSL laser "chain"

Eight of these, and it's time to fry

Northrop's Joint High Power Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) programme for the US forces is different from existing rayguns, as it uses electrically powered solid state equipment. Older efforts such as the famous nuke-nobbling jumbo jet for the Missile Defence people and the silent, deniable flying sniper gunship for the US special forces use chemical lasers instead.

Chemical lasers are troublesome, as they require large amounts of dangerous fuel and produce equally copious, deadly and corrosive waste products. Thus they can only be viably deployed aboard large transport aircraft, and even then their logistic requirements could prove crippling.

Until lately, however, chem-lasers were seen as the only option, since electric solid-state jobs could muster only a puny beam. Northrop's laser brains think they have this cracked; the company will hook up eight 15-kilowatt "chain" units to produce a mighty 100kW ray. This power level is generally seen as the point at which an energy weapon becomes combat-worthy.

Yesterday's milestone, following the first successful test of a "chain" in March, was the combination of two chains to produce a single beam of 30kW. Northrop blaster chiefs believe it will now be a doddle to hook up a further six and put out a proper arse-kicking beam using electrical power.

"Our march towards providing compact, electrically powered, operationally scalable and affordable laser weapons for U.S. military services continues to produce world-leading results," said Dan Wildt, Northrop directed energy veep.

"We've achieved all of our major milestones ahead of schedule," added JHPSSL boss Jay Marmo. "We have proven all aspects of our scalable design for 100kW."

The first application for battle lasers will probably be that of burning down incoming bombardment rockets, mortar bombs and the like. Military bases and perimeters in warzones (and some Israeli towns) are typically subject to constant harassing fire of this type, and a proper working defence would be very useful.

Static or semi-static use of this sort could be a good fit for the JHPSSL. Though the company describes the laser weapon itself as "compact" and "portable", it admits that electro-optical efficiency will be in the 20 per cent area - it was "greater than 19 percent" in this most recent test.

That means that a weapons-grade beam will require electrical power input of half a gimegawatt, which is not small in the context of battlefield systems - it's more than half the engine power of a 60-ton Challenger II main battle tank, for instance. The raygun itself may be compact and portable, but the prime mover to light it up won't be. So it could lend itself more to fixed fortifications or warships than to combat vehicles. ®

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Thought that last dinosaur was BIG? This one's bloody ENORMOUS
Weighed several adult elephants, contend boffins
Chelyabinsk-sized SURPRISE asteroid to skim Earth, satnav birds
Space rock appears out of nowhere, buzzes planet on Sunday
City hidden beneath England's Stonehenge had HUMAN ABATTOIR. And a pub
Boozed-up ancients drank beer before tearing corpses apart
'Duck face' selfie in SPAAAACE: Rosetta's snap with bird comet
Probe prepares to make first landing on fast-moving rock
Square Kilometre Array reveals its 1.6TB-a-day storage and network rigs
Boolardy Engineering Test Array - aka BETA - is about to come out of Beta
LOHAN invites ENTIRE REG READERSHIP to New Mexico shindig
Well, those of you who back our Kickstarter tin-rattling...
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.
Top 5 reasons to deploy VMware with Tegile
Data demand and the rise of virtualization is challenging IT teams to deliver storage performance, scalability and capacity that can keep up, while maximizing efficiency.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.
Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.