Feeds

DARPA in bid for shark-portable laser rayguns

Flimsy strato-robot cover story widely discounted

The smart choice: opportunity from uncertainty

DARPA, the Pentagon tech bureau which has conferred upon a suffering human race such boons as the internet, the stealth bomber and the night-vision goggle, has finally made a bid to achieve that which humanity has yearned for above all other things. We refer, of course, to a laser weapon sufficiently portable to be carried on the head of a shark.

The military mayhem-profs refer to their new scheme as Fibre Laser Pulse Source, or FILPS. According to a recently-released presolicitation document (Word docx format - you may need to download add-ons to read):

The FILPS program will culminate in a UAV compatible system that generates 10-mJ, sub-ns duration optical pulses at a 25-kHz repetition rate. The output pulse characteristics, including phase stability, pulse jitter, and laser beam quality, should be sufficient to enable efficient pulse energy scaling to the 100-mJ level via coherent combining.

As any fule can easily work out, that means a power output of up to 2.5 kilowatts - not a battle-strength ray able to vaporise a flying artillery shell in the blink of an eye, but still a pretty hot beam. It would only have to be held on a target for about a third of a second to deliver as much energy as a 9mm pistol bullet does.

But we've seen all this before, haven't we? Whenever an acceptably powerful laser is offered, it always turns out that you'd need a shark the size of a cross-Channel ferry to lift it, let alone its power systems. The world's supervillains have long despaired of a true head-mounted energy weapon solution for realistically sized execution-pool menagerie.

But now the waiting may be at an end. DARPA specify that FILPS should weigh no more than 10kg and have a volume of no more than 10 litres. Admittedly this would need to be scaled up for the higher-end output, and there'd be power sources to consider, but even so a two-tonne great white - surely the shark-pool choice of the more discerning evil billionaire - should have no great difficulty wearing such a device. Indeed, the FILPS technology might come close to putting an almost-practicable, almost useful combat raygun in the hands of puny humans at last.

DARPA, of course, offer a semi-plausible cover story about using the FILPS lasers on "high-altitude UAV platform". No doubt they would suggest that the idea is to use FILPS for such purposes as long-range communications or target designation from stratospheric platforms such as the hydrogen-fuelled Global Observer plane, or the planned solar-powered robot radar dirigible.

But I think we all know what's really going on here. ®

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
World Solar Challenge contender claims new speed record
One charge sees Sunswift travel 500kms at over 100 km/h
SMELL YOU LATER, LOSERS – Dumbo tells rats, dogs... humans
Junk in the trunk? That's what people have
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
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?
Beancounters tell NASA it's too poor to fly planned mega-rocket
Space Launch System would need another $400m and a lot of time
Bad back? Show some spine and stop popping paracetamol
Study finds common pain-killer doesn't reduce pain or shorten recovery
Forty-five years ago: FOOTPRINTS FOUND ON MOON
NASA won't be back any time soon, sadly
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Boost IT visibility and business value
How building a great service catalog relieves pressure points and demonstrates the value of IT service management.
Designing a Defense for Mobile Applications
Learn about the various considerations for defending mobile applications - from the application architecture itself to the myriad testing technologies.
Build a business case: developing custom apps
Learn how to maximize the value of custom applications by accelerating and simplifying their development.