back to article Boeing touts feeble Hummer-mounted raygun

US aerospace giant Boeing has announced plans to demonstrate laser energy weapons for battlefield use within months. Speaking at the annual Space and Missile Defense Conference in Alabama last week, unnamed company officials revealed the plans to journalists from Aviation Week. Boeing is already a leader in the field of …


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  1. Tom Chiverton

    Freakin' lasers on their heads

    "Raytheon and the US Navy claim they can zap falling mortar shells usefully fast, with ordinary weak electric lasers, right now"

    Maybe they use an array of weak lasers, focused on the same spot...

  2. Alex


    isn't ducking easier? and by ducking i mean putting ducks on trucks to dissipate the energy from enemy rounds.

    i hate ducks

  3. Register Reader


    "Maybe they use an array of weak lasers, focused on the same spot..."

    with that kind of insight, you should be working at NASA!!

  4. Ian Ferguson


    When I next go into war against the US, remind me to take a compact mirror.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Air Born laser

    The ABL would be a lot more use against manned wepons than against missiles.

    What could the ABL do against say a foxbat comming towards it, I bet the foxbats sensors if not the pilot would be blind.

    and can the ABL hit the ground ? What would that do to a person trying to shoot ?

  6. Pete Burgess


    can't lasers just be defeated with a mirror? reflect it back to source.. it's basically just light after all isn't it?

  7. Dan


    Do they make a satisfying noise when fired? If not this laser thing will never catch on, like electric cars that don't go 'brum-brum'.

  8. Jarrah Mckenzie

    Too simple

    A bunch of little off the shelf tech lasers seems the way to go, but surely the boffins thought of that right... all you have to do is have the heat input greater than than what the object can dissipate to start to heat it, my thinking is a group would work better at this than say a single laser. Must be some reason why it cant work cause it seems to simple a answer

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Let the music play! With phr33k1n LaZ0rz!


    Seriously, I can't wait for the first "three blinded, one fried in ray-gun assisted field-ration-heating accident". BRING IT ON! HEAT MY HUMMER!

  10. rory alsop

    Is it just me that sees the connection

    It's all Boeing's fault -

  11. Brett Leach

    Whatever happened to the fridge sized jobbie?

    I think it was reported here a couple of years or so back. Was going to be the end for the ABL.

  12. Karim Bourouba

    i just dont get the pork thing

    seriously, is this an americanism?

  13. Mark Grady

    Wrong technology

    Lasers are soooo 1960's!

    We should be developing nastier technology like rail guns. Imagine one of those babies packed into a hand held device that fires steel flechettes!!!! OK, I know that's not a new idea but it's more realistic than a Star Was style laser gun.

  14. James Pickett


    IIRC, the MiG Foxbat had/has a radar capable of incinerating a rabbit a kilometre away, so maybe RF is a better way to go than visible light. It certainly has the advantage on not being easily dissipated by mist and fog. If I was Al-Q'aeda, I would be buying a few dry-ice machines, just in case...

  15. Steve

    re: James Pickett - Foxbat

    Who said anything about visible light lasers? UV lasers are capable of carrying more power.

    The rabbit thing sounds like an urban myth though.

  16. Ian Sneyd

    HMS Camden Lock

    Reminds me of the early Hyperdrive episode, the super death ray being fired at a "rebel" and would kill him in probabably less than 3 days.... and when it has recharged in a week, you're next...

  17. John Mangan

    @Pete Burgess

    You might get away with a mirror for a 1kW device but much above that the leakage would probably cause you some harm. Mirrors are not perfect reflectors and I would think that even 10% of a 100kW beam would hurt. (Assuming that was a serious question).

  18. James Pickett

    Foxbats and rabbits

    Maybe the distance has been exaggerated, but believe me, the radar was powerful enough to blast through any attempt to jam it (the original intent) and it was a criminal offence to turn it on when the plane was on the ground. It was rated at 500kW, thanks to the use of valves rather than feeble imperialist western transistors - much laughed at initially, until it was realised that they were much more resistant to EMP and thus better able to survive a nuclear attack...

    WRT visible light, I think UV is still susceptible to dissipation by fog. The point I was trying to make was that laser beams can be interfered with relatively easily, which is not what you want in a weapon. I think the US military takes Hollywood science too literally.

  19. James Pickett


    I found this amusing and informative. Note the 'science fiction' subtitle...

  20. E. Pi


    Coil is not an adequate high energy laser either. It suffers difficulties in the population process and so is confined to the lower powers with super poor beam quality. That is why boeing hopes to "phase together" or beam combine 6 SUV size (down from a previous 14 ) lasers onboard the plane to get up to lethal power. Never going to happen, and jumbo spot size, to put aside where is the target, is not the only set of problems. The only known high power laser is the deuterium flouride laser, example MIRACL in New Mexico.

    The abl is a political, create jobs spruce goose; in your face about violating nature's propagation laws, and is causing a sidestepping of funding laser development that is not only promising but has worked.

    The feeble raygun title is apt. Where are the adaptive optics, wavefront sensor, and beacon that are such a piece of cake for boeing on the abl??

  21. Tawakalna


    maybe all this laser-kill-tech malarkey is all well and good in the sunny skies over Area 51 (where the Lizard Overlords keep their main base for retro-engineered alien technology) but it's not going to be much good in a typical British downpour, is it?

    So that'll mean that UK Gov PLC will no doubt be buying into yet another crackpot Yank scheme, wasting our billions on something that's misbegotten from the very outset.

  22. Morely Dotes

    @ Karim Bourouba

    In the USA, a project which is championed by the Senator or Congressperson whose district stands to benefit most from that project is referred to as a "porkbarrel" project. I believe that comes from the barrel of salt port which was the standard rations on sailing ships a century or more ago. As a rule, lawmakers trade pork with each other: "I'll vote for your Boeing ray guns if you vote for my tobacco farmer subsidies."

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    RE: i just dont get the pork thing

    >> seriously, is this an americanism?

    Karim, I am not sure if you are being serious but I will answer anyway - it's not an amricanism it is cockney rhyming slang - "porkie pies" == lies, the phrase "telling porkies" is reasonable common in the UK.

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    500kW is no mean feat

    James, if you have any evidence for your claims, please produce it.

    Do you know how big/heavy the electronics to produce a 500kW radar signal for more than a fraction of a second would need to be? I do. Do you know how big/heavy the generator to power a 500kW transmitter for more than a fraction of a second would need to be? Do you know how big/heavy the engine to drive that generator would need to be? Do you know how much fuel you need... etc. I do, but I don't think you do.

    For comparison, the diesel engine in ye olde British Rail IC125 High Speed Train is around 1MW, with a generator capacity to match. They're not small/light, you wouldn't normally want to mount one on a fighter. You could probably make it somewhat smaller by accepting lower duty cycles and shorter service lives and maybe by using gas turbine engines (that's the business I work in these days). Your 500kW radar in a MiG claims are still implausible though, unless you can show otherwise.

    Have a look at Raytheon's "Active Denial" truck-mounted fiasco [1] for an example of where military microwaves have *failed* to be useful as a meaningful weapon (or defence mechanism), in part because of the hugely impractical power levels needed to have any meaningful effect at a worthwhile distance. Lasers don't disperse with distance quite the same way, but lasers still have power source problems which is why chemical lasers are reportedly still the preferred laser option for military use.


  25. Jason Clery

    @Air Born laser

    "I bet the foxbats sensors if not the pilot would be blind."

    Protocol IV says no blinding lasers allowed

  26. Nexox Enigma

    Re: Pork Thing

    In the States we have the concept of 'Pork Barrel Politics.' Gods know why it is called that, but the idea is that representatives push legislation that sinks money into their constituency. There are a few good cases of this practice displaying absurd levels of insanity (Someone got $250M to build a bridge to an island in Alaska that had only ~50 residents, none of whom wanted a bridge.)

    I assume that the porktastic remark refers to this. Or maybe there has just been an excess of Bacon around El Reg this Monday.

  27. Proton Wrangler

    pulsed power

    A 500KW radar is not particularly huge. The power rating is the peak amplitude of a rather short pulse - average power over time is probably a few 10's of KWs.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Protocol IV says no blinding lasers allowed

    Protocol IV says no blinding lasers allowed... they also say "no torture" but you can see just how much the US of A pays attention to that one...

  29. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @proton wrangler: pulsed power

    Correct, you might get rather more instantaneous power than you would continuous/average. Unfortunately, unless the first pulse gets a knock-down, EMP-style, the destructive effects are likely to depend on the continuous/average power (ie thermal effects, Raytheon-style). So, let's go back to school/college physics again. A practical level of continous power could easily be 10kW. Apply inverse square law with something a lot more divergent than a laser. It's not going to do much at any sensible range. Conclusion: James has been had.

  30. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    don't see the point (<- that's kind of funny when you think about it)

    Unless you ramp up the power to the MW range your laser isn't going to do much as far as I can tell. Now it is possible to have that power generation capacity on a aircraft not that I would want it flying anywhere around my area. You may have guess that I am talking about a nuclear reactor, I think the USA did fly a 1MW reactor in a plane when testing shielding and alike for the nuclear powered bombers studies.

    However even if you could get a laser to run from it, as soon as you get a bit of dust on the optics you are in trouble. I seem to remember that even the gas/chemical lasers burnt the dust in the air when fired.

    It'll make more sense to use a particle beam, which can be focused by EM fields. However this gives you an idea how to defeat it too. :)

    I think it's a bit of a way off until we get the multi MW lasers we had in Elite. :)

    I still think laser research is a good idea, as it is better as a defensive technology, which can't be a bad thing. Also laser technology has been one of the biggest benefits to consumer technology, not that I think it likely that we will have these big lasers in our homes, but some of the supporting tech could be useful to us.

  31. Adrian Esdaile

    Protocol IV says no blinding lasers allowed

    Yeah, no lasers! They're cruel and inhumane!

    By INTERNATIONAL LAW, you MUST use approved, humane, high-velocity rifle bullets to blind people.

    Honestly, "rules" of war? Whatever happened to "do to them what they would do to you, only do it before them".

    Other favourite "rules" or war:

    Protocol XVII - prohibits use of itching powders, false moustaches and banana peels

    Protocol LII - prohibits use of nasty name-calling, offensive tongue-sticking-out and chants of "ner-ner-ne-ner-ner!" and "go home, your igloo is on fire!"

    Protocol CCLXVI - specifically bans the use of tree sloths as mascots for units smaller than a full army division, inclusive of supporting field and engineering units


    Protocol IV sublcause Q, revision 23.17 beta which states that blinding, mildly scorching and / or planet-destroying lasers MAY be used in certain situations, as long as the phrase "NO, Mr.Bond! I expect you to DIE!" is employed before use of said "lazor beems"

  32. Richard Freeman

    re 500kW is no mean feat

    Radars are usually pulsed so the 500Kw quoted is for a very brief period of time and is by no means continuous.

    Secondly a microwave transmitter will often use a directional antenna with what is usually referred to as gain - this means that because the antenna is directional with a very low spread, the signal is in the case of say '20dB gain' (not unusually high for a microwave antenna) 100 times more powerful than if the antenna was not directional so the 500KW figure may also take this into account also.

    so the Foxbat may have a radar capable of producing 5KW pulses (although modern radars can easily produce pulses much higher than this) into an antenna with 20dB gain which could be claimed at a 500KW output

    - looking around the internet although no firm figures or details are given there are suggestions that the Smerch-A or Foxfire was indeed capable of 500KW pulses as claimed by wikipedia


    of course this pulse is for a very brief period of time - well under 1mS probably for mere micro Seconds as a longer pulse would of course blind the radar to returning signals - a very short high power pulse in the order of 10's of kilowatts (if not 100's of kilowatts) is very achievable and has been since WWII.

    While I do not know if the short duration of the pulses would be sufficient to kill Rabbits it would certainly be likely to sterilise them (and anyone standing in front of the plane) and wreak havoc to electronic equipment in the area

  33. Aquilus


    Call me when they get it up to 1MW... I'll be waiting in my Cobra Mk III...

  34. john mann

    @Protocol IV says no blinding lasers allowed

    You forgot Monty Pythons Joke of Death - the one that was so funny the enemy died laughing.

  35. James Pickett


    "Your 500kW radar in a MiG claims are still implausible though"

    It's pulse power, which is how most radars are rated. Not especially large for a ground radar, but quite impressive for a fighter, even if it did weigh 30 tons (the plane, not the radar). Air traffic control radars are well into the Megawatt range, and a leaky waveguide (the signal 'pipe') will kill you if you get too close to it.

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