Feeds

Lightning-gun tech 'approaching weaponisation'

Settings: Gadget bricker, skeleton-strobe, smoking boots

Intelligent flash storage arrays

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. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
MARS NEEDS WOMEN, claims NASA pseudo 'naut: They eat less
'Some might find this idea offensive' boffin admits
LOHAN crash lands on CNN
Overflies Die Welt en route to lively US news vid
Comet Siding Spring revealed as flying molehill
Hiding from this space pimple isn't going to do humanity's reputation any good
Experts brand LOHAN's squeaky-clean box
Phytosanitary treatment renders Vulture 2 crate fit for export
No sail: NASA spikes Sunjammer
'Solar sail' demonstrator project binned
Carry On Cosmonaut: Willful Child is a poor taste Star Trek parody
Cringeworthy, crude and crass jokes abound in Steven Erikson’s sci-fi debut
Origins of SEXUAL INTERCOURSE fished out of SCOTTISH LAKE
Fossil find proves it first happened 385 million years ago
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.
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.
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?
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.