Feeds

Raygun 747 to fight 'one-off' tag with twin '09 missile fryings

Energy cannon reload fills two cargo planes

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

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".

The Airborne Laser nose turret

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. ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Bond villains lament as Wicked Lasers withdraw death ray
Want to arm that shark? Better get in there quick
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
SEX BEAST SEALS may be egging each other on to ATTACK PENGUINS
Boffin: 'I think the behaviour is increasing in frequency'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
The next big thing in medical science: POO TRANSPLANTS
Your brother's gonna die, kid, unless we can give him your, well ...
NASA launches new climate model at SC14
75 days of supercomputing later ...
Renewable energy 'simply WON'T WORK': Top Google engineers
Windmills, solar, tidal - all a 'false hope', say Stanford PhDs
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
prev story

Whitepapers

Choosing cloud Backup services
Demystify how you can address your data protection needs in your small- to medium-sized business and select the best online backup service to meet your needs.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
Driving business with continuous operational intelligence
Introducing an innovative approach offered by ExtraHop for producing continuous operational intelligence.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?