Feeds

'Ruggedised, weaponised' raygun modules now on sale

FIRESTRIKE™: still too heavy for the average shark

Remote control for virtualized desktops

US killtech behemoth Northrop Grumman has has said that it is ready to take orders for the "world's first ruggedised, weaponised high energy solid state laser designed for battlefield applications". The raygun module is dubbed FIRESTRIKE™.

Northrop cutaway of the Firestrike™ laser chain module

Overkill, you might say, just for lighting campfires.

"This is a rugged electric laser with power levels, beam quality and runtime suitable for offensive and defensive military utility," said Northrop beam-cannon chief Dan Wildt.

"Combined with advanced electro optical and/or infrared sensors, the FIRESTRIKE™ laser can provide self-defense [or] precision strike capabilities."

Northrop has long been working to produce weapons-grade solid state lasers with US military funding. To date, the only way to make a laser useful as a weapon in its own right - rather than a pointer for other systems, or a dazzler - has been to use chemically fuelled systems.

There are two combat lasers under development right now using chemical fuels. The biggest is the jumbo-jet mounted Airborne Laser (ABL), intended to blast enemy ICBMs above their launch bases. Then there's the Hercules transport-plane Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) gunship model, intended perhaps as a silent, undetectable sky-sniper for the US special-ops community.

But chem lasers need big tanks of dangerous toxic fuel, and produce equally hazardous and corrosive exhaust products. Their logistics requirements are nightmarish, and realistically they are only for static use or mounting in large aircraft or ships.

Solid state lasers, powered by electricity, are much easier to deal with. Until now, however, they have had rather low power levels. As an example, Boeing's Humvee-mounted "Laser Avenger" has to be shone on an enemy munition for quite some time before it will explode.

Northrop reckon they've changed all that. A single FIRESTRIKE™ module weighs 400lb and delivers 15 kilowatts. FIRESTRIKE™s can be linked together to get a more powerful beam, apparently.

It would seem, then, that FIRESTRIKE™ is simply one of Northrop's previously-announced solid state laser "chain" units, ready for sale. The firm has said that at least eight of these can be linked up to get a proper 100 kilowatt beam, generally seen as the threshold for a true battlefield weapon. Beam quality, for the laser aficionados among those reading, is listed at "nominally 1.5 times the diffraction limit". Others may be pleased to note that FIRESTRIKE™s come with Ethernet interface as standard.

Energy efficiency for Northrop's chains is supposedly in the 20 per cent region. This suggests that a full-bore 100kW battle ray will weigh about 1.5 tonnes and require half a megawatt of power. That's pretty hefty, but it's within the ballpark for modern combat vehicles.

Portable blaster rifles or carbines aren't really on the cards yet, then. But a reasonably useful laser tank could well be a goer if Northrop can do what they say.

There was no word on possible waterproof versions, with handy attachments for mounting on the head of one's hollowed out volcano lair swimming-pool menagerie. ®

Beginner's guide to SSL certificates

More from The Register

next story
MEN: For pity's sake SLEEP with LOTS of WOMEN - and avoid Prostate Cancer
And, um, don't sleep with other men. If that's what worries you
Voyager 1 now EIGHTEEN LIGHT HOURS from home
Almost 20 BEEELION kilometres from Sol
HUGE SHARK as big as a WWII SUBMARINE died out, allowing whales to exist
Who'd win a fight: Megalodon or a German battleship?
Jim Beam me up, Scotty! WHISKY from SPAAACE returns to Earth
They're insured for $1m, before you thirsty folks make plans
ROGUE SAIL BOAT blocks SPACE STATION PODULE blastoff
Er, we think our ISS launch beats your fishing expedition
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
BAE points electromagnetic projectile at US Army
Railguns for 'Future fighting vehicle'
LONG ARM of the SAUR: Brachially gifted dino bone conundrum solved
Deinocheirus mirificus was a bit of a knuckle dragger
prev story

Whitepapers

Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Getting started with customer-focused identity management
Learn why identity is a fundamental requirement to digital growth, and how without it there is no way to identify and engage customers in a meaningful way.
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.
Intelligent flash storage arrays
Tegile Intelligent Storage Arrays with IntelliFlash helps IT boost storage utilization and effciency while delivering unmatched storage savings and performance.
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.