Secret US spontaneous human combustion beam tested
Silent deathray in first blast from the skies
American death-tech goliath Boeing has announced a long-delayed in-flight firing for the smaller of its two aeroplane raygun-cannon prototypes, the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL). The ATL blaster, mounted in a Hercules transport aircraft, apparently "defeated" an unoccupied stationary vehicle.
'ET'- ha! And they keep denying they have alien assistance!
"This milestone demonstrates that directed energy weapon systems will transform the battlespace and save lives," said Boeing exec Greg Hyslop. "The ATL team has earned a distinguished place in the history of weapon system development."
"The bottom line is that ATL works, and works very well," added corporate raygun honcho Gary Fitzmire.
The ATL is much smaller than Boeing's headlining laser weapon, the jumbo-jet-mounted Airborne Laser (ABL), intended to blast enemy ICBMs as they soar upward from pad or silo. Rather the ATL is intended to pick off individual ground targets, somewhat in the fashion of existing Hercules-based side-firing AC-130 gunships. Indeed Boeing has referred to the ATL in the past as its "Laser Gunship".
ATL does resemble the ABL in some important respects, however. Like the bigger weapon, it is a chemically-fuelled laser rather than a solid-state electrically powered one, meaning that it can fire only a limited number of blasts before its sealed, six-ton laser module must be maintained and refuelled with hazardous toxic chemicals.
Just how many shots the ATL can fire before being rearmed is unclear, but hints dropped by Pentagon sources suggest it could be as few as six. This compares poorly with the firepower available aboard a normal AC-130, leading some analysts to wonder what the point of the ATL really is.
Boeing say that it will offer "ultra-precision" and "dramatically reduce collateral damage", though so far nothing of this sort has really been shown. A 40mm cannon aboard a normal AC-130 could "defeat" a stationary ground vehicle without damaging its surroundings: a .50-cal sniper rifle fired from a helicopter could do the same to a moving one.
It hasn't escaped notice, however, that neither of those things could strike silently - perhaps from so far off that the carrying aircraft wouldn't be noticed either - and without leaving any solid evidence of US military presence. Nor have observers failed to note that the US military agency in charge of ATL is the secretive Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
Boeing have evidently had some problems with the ATL - airborne test firings were expected last year, but this success didn't happen until last Sunday. However it would seem that the system may soon be as ready for frontline use as it will ever be, at least until electric lasers without fuel limitations are weaponised.
In years to come, the secret supertroopers of SOCOM may be able to cause a cell tower to stop working, a vehicle's fuel tank to suddenly explode, or a single person to inexplicably be incinerated - all completely silently and tracelessly, without anyone knowing they were ever there and not so much as a spent bullet left behind. ®
pahh, this is OLD tech
I was frying ants with a magnifying glass in the mid 1970's
The original article says that:
The laser beam's energy defeated the vehicle.
"Defeated?" That could mean any of a wide range of things, but the vagueness strongly suggests that, just as the smart money predicted, it wasn't particularly impressive. Why did we expect that?
Well, back in November last year, this program was investigated by the AFSAB and determined to be a complete waste of money. Since then, Boeing has had the spin machine on full bore to avoid getting cancelled. One of the publicity efforts they made showed artists' impressions of applications for the thing. And one of those pictures showed it "defeating" a vehicle ... by flattening a tire. (Perhaps due to excessive honesty, that picture now seems to have disappeared.)
Yes folks, if you stand in this beam unprotected, you will be badly hurt, maybe even killed. But to block it you don't need super-reflective mirrors or advanced aerosols, a simple plank of wood will do the job. Going to destroy ammo dumps with this thing? Not if they are covered over!
It was in the same spin campaign that they came up with the ludicrous "stealth death ray" application. Quite simply, the reason we have no death rays half a century after lasers were invented is that they are very poor weapons with almost every operational parameter far, far inferior to conventional firearms.
The one feature of lasers that is actually a positive is the light speed energy delivery, which makes them much easier to aim at ultra-high speed targets. That is the reason they are being actively investigated for missile defence. But here Boeing has been poodling around with a "miniaturised" (well, slightly smaller) version that is clearly unsuitable for missile defence, and someone has called them out on the whole "applications" issue. They seem to have had a bit of brain-storming session and tried to come up with things that sounded more useful than flattening tires, and one of the things they came up with is the "stealth death ray".
As publicity, the "stealth death ray" has worked great. Heck, it got them into El Reg!
But as numerous other bloggers have noted, it doesn't make a blind bit of sense. The USA is the only country that has a flying stealth death ray (or rather, the USA is the only country silly enough to be funneling cash to a company that is promising to build one.) Contrary to what some people have claimed, due to industrial accidents the diagnosis of laser burns is well understood. It is obvious that this system will have no "deniability" whatsoever.
What is even sillier is that the chosen platform, the C-130 Hercules, is a cargo plane that is about the most unstealthy aircraft in existence. It cannot fly at extreme altitudes, it has only intermediate range, and it has the radar signature of a large barn fitted with a pair of high speed windmills.
In contrast, in the places where you might want to use a stealth death ray (e.g. Waziristan), it is remarkably inexpensive to just pay someone to go and shoot the guy you're after. If you want it to be deniable, we recommend paying in used bills.
Re:The Alan Parsons Project
Surely you mean Project Wu-Tang Clan or Project Bananarama...?