Raygun 747 to fight 'one-off' tag with twin '09 missile fryings
Energy cannon reload fills two cargo planes
Embattled raygun executives, in charge of America's jumbo jet mounted nuclear-missile-nobbling laser cannon, are fighting back against cuts which have largely sidelined the project.
It has been announced that not only will the energy-weapon 747 shoot down a test missile imminently, but a second test will follow the first as quickly as possible so as to avoid the label "one-shot wonder".
No sky too fry.
Other interesting revelations have been made by programme execs to reporters recently, following the decision by US Defense Secretary Robert Gates to downgrade the Airborne Laser (ABL) from an operational fleet of planes to a single R&D prototype.
Boeing big cheese Michael Rinn told news organisations including Flight International that both the initial and follow-on tests will be conducted against short-range ballistic missile (SRBM) targets.
"We have chosen one of the most difficult targets," said Rinn. "We have chosen something with a quick burn, very short timelines and atmosphere that we have to correct [the beam] to shoot through."
SRBMs are far more commonly found than full-on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), the kind of weapon which could strike the USA from as far off as North Korea. It could be that Boeing are seeking to cast the raygun jumbo as a weapon which is relevant to situations which exist now around the globe, rather than a possibly unlikely or far-off future where North Korea and/or Iran have working nuclear-tipped ICBMs able to menace the States. This view seems to fit with other comments made by Boeing to Aviation Week, suggesting that the ABL would soon be tested against other real-world targets such as surface-to-air missiles and aircraft.
Alternatively, one might note that an SRBM target is much cheaper than an ICBM one and speculate that the decision has been forced by programme funding issues.
Meanwhile, an interesting insight into the reality of ABL operations is offered by the Av Week writeup. One of the known downsides of the raygun jumbo is its use of a chemical oxygen-iodine laser (COIL), requiring large amounts of hazardous, corrosive fuel. Critics have long suggested that the provision of these fuels would be a major logistic problem in the event of the US ever deploying a substantial ABL fleet able to mount standing patrols off an enemy coast or border.
Apparently one of the ongoing project efforts will be the development of "lightweight" air-transportable carts allowing the US forces to ship an ABL chemical reload to a forward operating base overseas. It seems that such a cart-packaged reload - offering an unknown amount of beaming from an ABL - will completely fill a pair of monster C-17 Globemaster transport planes, each one able to lift 76 tonnes of cargo.
The inaugural SRBM missile-meltings are set to take place between "August and October" this year, according to Boeing. ®
What happens if they miss? does the "laser" beam keep on going?? how long for??? what if it hits a planet????
...where aliens live?????
Lordy, it's a bit of a beast.
Just looked over the patent. Although its described as an Oxygen Iodine laser that's a bit misleading.
From my (very rough) reading your going to need a supply of aqueous Sodium, Potassium and Lithium Hydroxides, liquid Oxygen and Iodine (powdered or in solution?) and a fairly large supply of Hydrogen Peroxide. Oh, and a Chlorine supply. So 7 consumables in all. None of them is exactly harmless. Most (5) seem to deal with producing "Delta Singlet Oxygen" which is what combines with the Iodine to lase. However the Hydrogen Peroxide also mixes with JP8 (I thought jet engine fuel was JP4?) to drives some turbo-pumps, so probably needs a few drums at least. The collection of carbon-carbon nozzles sounds a bit extravagant given that I always through Peroxide burns at a fairly low temperature (relative to say O2/H2).
I hope all of this gear is *very* carefully leak checked before flight. A bit much for the back pages of Scientific Merkin. No one's going to be cooking one of these up in their basement any time soon. It's not clear to me if O2 and I2 are the bulk chemicals and most of the rest are in litre quantities, but doing turbo pump drive with Peroxide suggest substantial quantities. In flight refuelling from a 3 way hose (including LOX) would be "challenging."
@John Smith - I think not
'I think not. My memory on H2O2 mfg is hazy"
The solution isn't for the manufacture of - but rather there is a solution fo H2O2 in the Sodium, Lithium, and Potasoum Hydroxides. It seems that for various second order reasons this works well in the COIL. It is in the patent. They term it BHP (basic hydrogen peroxide solution).
" In any case Hydrogen Peroxide is storable on time scales of months (at the *very* least) in properly cleaned compatible containers up to at least 90% purity."
Very true. So long as you keep chlorides away it is very stable. That is part of the point, that it isn't all that horrid a material.
"That US patent # belongs to a bubble memory based computer device."
Darn. Finger fumble. Core patent is : 5,974,072 - "High energy airborne coil laser"
For useful background info on COIL lasers try: 7,397,836. It covers it all quite well. Also 7,116,696.