Feeds

Aerial laser gunboat 'burns hole in fender' of moving car

World's evil shark-owning billionaires unimpressed

Remote control for virtualized desktops

The Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) ray-cannon, mounted in a specially-equipped Hercules transport plane flying above New Mexico, has now succeeded in "putting a hole in the fender" of a ground vehicle driving along beneath it.

The not particularly awesome result was announced by Boeing, maker of the ATL, yesterday.

"In this test, a directed energy weapon successfully demonstrated direct attack on a moving target," said Gary Fitzmire, Boeing raygun veep. Though that is nothing new; Boeing's Humvee-mounted "Laser Avenger" ray-turret shot down a small flying robot earlier this year.

Undaunted, Fitzmire goes on to say that "ATL has now precisely targeted and engaged both stationary and moving targets, demonstrating the transformational versatility of this speed-of-light, ultra-precision engagement capability that will dramatically reduce collateral damage".

Indeed, the ATL seems to reduce not just collateral damage but damage inflicted on the actual desired target, too. Generally a Hercules equipped to conduct ground attack - in the form of the popular AC-130 "Spectre"/"Spooky" gunships - bristles with a broadside of devastating firepower including 105mm artillery pieces, 120mm heavy mortars, 40mm cannon etc.

By contrast the ATL - also dubbed the "Laser Gunship" by Boeing - offers a single 20-tonne weapon system capable of a limited number of "shots", perhaps as few as six. The six-tonne chemical laser must be refuelled with dangerous toxic fuels once it is empty, a procedure much more logistically troublesome than loading regular ammo aboard an AC-130.

The actual effect of the laser appears to be distinctly limited, too, as the vid above of an earlier trial against a stationary vehicle indicates. Boeing's talk of "putting a hole in a fender" of a moving (unmanned) ground vehicle is equally unimpressive. And one notes that the firm, in yesterday's announcement, walked back slightly on its earlier claim that the ATL had "defeated" a stationary ground vehicle in a previous test - now Boeing only says that vehicle was "damaged".

The option of using the raygun plane as a silent, undetectable, unattributable sniper would seem to remain - it could perhaps strike from as far off as 20km, beyond audible and even perhaps visual detection. No telltale bullet or projectile would remain at the scene. But this seems a pretty marginal capability given the expense and logistic burden. The secret supertroopers of the US Special Operations Command - the operators of the existing AC-130 fleet - would seem likely to stay with their current equipment.

The news will doubtless have a depressing effect in evil billionaire circles. It would seem that the day of the cranially mounted, shark-portable, waterproof pool menagerie above-water combat augmentation system remains as far off as ever. ®

Intelligent flash storage arrays

More from The Register

next story
Antarctic ice THICKER than first feared – penguin-bot boffins
Robo-sub scans freezing waters, rocks warming models
I'll be back (and forward): Hollywood's time travel tribulations
Quick, call the Time Cops to sort out this paradox!
Your PHONE is slowly KILLING YOU
Doctors find new Digitillnesses - 'text neck' and 'telepressure'
Reuse the Force, Luke: SpaceX's Elon Musk reveals X-WING designs
And a floating carrier for recyclable rockets
Britain's HUMAN DNA-strewing Moon mission rakes in £200k
3 days, and Kickstarter moves lander 37% nearer takeoff
Rosetta science team thinks Philae might come to life in the spring
And disclose the biggest surprise of Comet 67P
prev story

Whitepapers

Seattle children’s accelerates Citrix login times by 500% with cross-tier insight
Seattle Children’s is a leading research hospital with a large and growing Citrix XenDesktop deployment. See how they used ExtraHop to accelerate launch times.
Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
How to determine if cloud backup is right for your servers
Two key factors, technical feasibility and TCO economics, that backup and IT operations managers should consider when assessing cloud backup.
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?
Business security measures using SSL
Examines the major types of threats to information security that businesses face today and the techniques for mitigating those threats.