Feeds

Lightning-gun tech 'approaching weaponisation'

Settings: Gadget bricker, skeleton-strobe, smoking boots

Build a business case: developing custom apps

The Pentagon continues to pour funding into Arizona-based laser plasma lightning blaster-gun firm Applied Energetics, formerly known as Ionatron. The US Army says that the firm's lightning guns are "approaching the level of maturity needed to begin weaponization".

The military assessment came as the US Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (ARDEC) inked a new $3.1m deal with Applied last week.

"Now that the technology is approaching the level of maturity needed to begin weaponization we will be more closely coordinated with Applied Energetics through this contract to fulfil Army mission needs," said Ben Lagasca, chief of "Advanced Energy Armaments" at ARDEC.

The technology in question is a fairly old idea: that of using a laser beam to create a plasma "tunnel" or "channel" through the atmosphere which would be more conductive than ordinary air. This would allow a powerful electric spark discharge - an artificial lightning bolt - to be directed onto a target with some precision.

Arizona firm Ionatron began work on this plan in 2002. Originally the company thought that it would soon develop lightning blasters so portable and powerful that they would supersede conventional small arms. Any desired electric intensity from lethal force down to circuitry-disabling-but-harmless-to-people could be selected on one's battery-powered electric blaster pistol. There would also be a wireless-Taser stun option in between.

Initially, however, the firm attempted to deploy its zappers as a bomb-disposal tool on robotic vehicles for use in Iraq. This ended in ignominious failure during 2006, and Ionatron stock fell off a cliff. The firm renamed itself, but nonetheless faced huge shareholder anger and earlier this month was forced to cough up $6.5m to settle a class-action lawsuit.

Still, normally the firm's continued military research contracts would offer some confidence that at least some kind of electric bomb-zapper is in fact on the horizon - if not a proper sci-fi raygun.

But colossal amounts of cash have been targeted by the US forces at finding a technical fix for the insurgent bombs which have been such a deadly scourge overseas. That money has to be spent - perhaps regardless of how promising any given project may genuinely appear to be. ®

Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable

More from The Register

next story
Asteroid's DINO KILLING SPREE just bad luck – boffins
Sauricide WASN'T inevitable, reckon scientists
BEST BATTERY EVER: All lithium, all the time, plus a dash of carbon nano-stuff
We have found the Holy Grail (of batteries) - boffins
The Sun took a day off last week and made NO sunspots
Someone needs to get that lazy star cooking again before things get cold around here
Boffins discuss AI space program at hush-hush IARPA confab
IBM, MIT, plenty of others invited to fill Uncle Sam's spy toolchest, but where's Google?
Famous 'Dish' radio telescope to be emptied in budget crisis: CSIRO
Radio astronomy suffering to protect Square Kilometre Array
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
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.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Seven Steps to Software Security
Seven practical steps you can begin to take today to secure your applications and prevent the damages a successful cyber-attack can cause.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.