Feeds

Secret US spontaneous human combustion beam tested

Silent deathray in first blast from the skies

The Power of One Infographic

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.

C-130 transport plane with laser belly turret fitted

'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. ®

Eight steps to building an HP BladeSystem

More from The Register

next story
Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 claimed lives of HIV/AIDS cure scientists
Researchers, advocates, health workers among those on shot-down plane
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
Mwa-ha-ha-ha! Eccentric billionaire Musk gets his PRIVATE SPACEPORT
In the Lone Star State, perhaps appropriately enough
MARS NEEDS OCEANS to support life - and so do exoplanets
Just being in the Goldilocks zone doesn't mean there'll be anyone to eat the porridge
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
Diary note: Pluto's close-up is a year from … now!
New Horizons is less than a year from the dwarf planet
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?
prev story

Whitepapers

Reducing security risks from open source software
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Consolidation: the foundation for IT and business transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.