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Vid US-based arms'n'airliners globocorp Boeing has released video of its aircraft-mounted ray cannon, the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) in operation.

The company doesn't say how far the carrying Hercules transport plane was from the target vehicle in the vid, but there's no audible engine noise on the soundtrack, suggesting that it was some distance off.

In the offered clip the laser beam doesn't seem to penetrate the vehicle's bonnet, but Boeing have previously announced that the ATL has "defeated" a stationary vehicle in tests, so it could be assumed that the blaster-gun is capable of doing so.

The ATL is the smaller of Boeing's two airborne deathray projects: the larger, the jumbo-jet mounted Airborne Laser (ABL) is said to be in the megawatt range and is intended to destroy intercontinental missiles boosting up through the atmosphere, beaming them out of existence from hundreds of kilometres away.

The ATL has no such clearly-defined purpose, but it has been speculated that it could be used as a silent, invisible, traceless sniper. The carrying aircraft might be hidden by distance or darkness, and selected enemies of America - or cars, buildings, cell towers etc - would appear to suddenly and inexplicably burst into flame. Or at any rate suffer a nasty burn, going by the vid above.

Lending credence to such ideas is the fact that the ATL has been developed under the auspices of the Special Operations Command, the USA's secret, deniable military elite.

Ray-weapons probably won't be a tool for every day, however. The current lasers run on dangerous chemical fuels, and hints dropped by Pentagon scientists suggest that the length of time the beam can be kept burning without costly and troublesome replenishment is distinctly limited.

In most situations a conventional AC-130 gunship or a helicopter sniper would be more useful. And a lot cheaper. ®

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