Feeds

DARPA orders 'fridge-sized' laser energy cannon

Giant GM sharks with strengthened necks expected

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

American weaponry researchers have awarded a $21m contract for the design and development of a 150-kilowatt energy weapon, high-powered enough to blast missiles out of the sky yet light enough to be carried by a jet fighter.

The cash-in the newly-inked deal goes to Textron Defence Systems, who will in return "fabricate and test a Unit Cell Module for a 150 kilowatt Laser Weapon System (LWS) and develop a critical design for the 150kW LWS".

One need hardly add that the greenbacks come not from any normal US government weapons lab but rather from DARPA, the Pentagon's very own inflight pieshop.

In this case, however, the agency isn't seeking pie in the sky so much as rayguns in the sky. The idea of the agency's High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defence system is to make combat-power lasers light enough to put on "tactical aircraft" - that is, fighters rather than great big transports. Present-day rayguns are so heavy that they can only be lifted by C-130 haulers or jumbo jets.

It's nice to put energy cannons in the sky, according to DARPA, because they shoot in straight lines. Anything beyond the horizon can't be blasted, meaning that a laser on the ground can't engage low-flying or surface targets unless they come close.

A patrolling raygun fighter, in DARPA's thinking, would be able to blast bombardment rockets, artillery shells and suchlike in mid-flight across a large region - hence the "area defence" tag. If anyone sought to meddle with the aerial raygun umbrella, perhaps using a pesky anti-aircraft missile, that too could easily be beamed out of existence.

"The capability to shoot down tactical targets such as surface-to-air missiles and rockets will be demonstrated," according to DARPA's programme chief, Don Woodbury.

Textron Systems’ Dr John Boness believes that the DARPA cash will “accelerate the deployment of practical Directed Energy Weapons to the warfighter".

Originally the HELLADS system was to use a liquid laser medium pumped by light-emitting diodes - hence the name - but Textron now say they will be using "proprietary ThinZag® Ceramic solid-state" tech. DARPA have previously said the final 150kW demo module should "weigh just 750 kilograms and fit into a space about the size of a large refrigerator".

This isn't exactly pocket-size, but compared to solid state laser weapons already on sale HELLADS would be about a third the weight for a given level of output power. That could be enough, as DARPA suggest, to enable the long-desired shift from boring old laser tanks to raygun fighters.

One need hardly add that the bonkers-boffinry outfit has plans to fit its new fridge-sized beam cannons to flying robots too. We also confidently anticipate the announcement of plans to tinker with sharks' DNA so as to produce larger and more powerful specimens with especially strong necks. ®

Next gen security for virtualised datacentres

More from The Register

next story
Gigantic toothless 'DRAGONS' dominated Earth's early skies
Gummy pterosaurs outlived toothy competitors
Vulture 2 takes a battering in 100km/h test run
Still in one piece, but we're going to need MORE POWER
TRIANGULAR orbits will help Rosetta to get up close with Comet 67P
Probe will be just 10km from Space Duck in October
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
CRR-CRRRK, beep, beep: Mars space truck backs out of slippery sand trap
Curiosity finds new drilling target after course correction
'Leccy racer whacks petrols in Oz race
ELMOFO rakes in two wins in sanctioned race
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
prev story

Whitepapers

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup
IT departments are embracing cloud backup, but there’s a lot you need to know before choosing a service provider. Learn all the critical things you need to know.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.
Rethinking backup and recovery in the modern data center
Combining intelligence, operational analytics, and automation to enable efficient, data-driven IT organizations using the HP ABR approach.
Next gen security for virtualised datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.