back to article Boeing raygunship fires first blasts in ground testing

US airliners'n'armaments colossus Boeing announced today that one of its prototype aerial laser cannon planes has fired its first energy bolts in ground testing. "First firing of the high-energy laser aboard the ATL aircraft shows that the program continues to make good progress," said Boeing blast-cannon biz boss Scott …


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  1. Marvin the Martian

    Fight fire with fire

    That will teach those neds shining laserpointers in pilot's eyes!

  2. Rick

    Anyone for popcorn?

    imdb "Pure genius".

  3. Shinobi87

    "hey ali get the lazer defences out"

    i cant wait to see insurgents coverd in mirrors trying to reflect these lazers back at the planes! i imagine osama wrapped in tin foil (shiney side out) leading the way!

  4. DM


    ...we need lots of mirrors!

    /Mine's the sequin one...

  5. Bill Buchan
    Black Helicopters

    Forgive my ignorance

    But would just putting a reflective coating on the target defeat this exercise ?

    It'd be like 'Saturday night fever' - all those mirrored surfaces..

    ---* Bill

  6. Anonymous Coward

    Put a mega-taser on the plane, not a laser

    Wouldn't that be more fun?....

  7. Matthew Smith
    Black Helicopters


    "People in the vicinity of an ATL strike might not realise what had happened until well after the event, if at all.". Well yes. Thats because their retinas will have been burnt out. Purposefully blinding the enemy is illegal. Though if they just happen to be looking at the target when it is hit, thats collateral.

  8. Anonymous Coward

    @Anyone for popcorn?

    The movie title is actually "Real Genius"

    ...was the first thing I thought of when I saw the article too

  9. John Robson Silver badge


    You need really well polished surface reflectors in the arrangement of the inside of a cube.

    And BIG ones at that.

    TBH - even a few percent of that power getting back to the plane is going to seriously bad news, and a decent retroreflector ought to turn around practically all of the incident radiation - whether or not it hits the pilots eyes is pretty much a moot point

  10. Bad Beaver

    I grew up after. In the ruins... starving... hiding from H-K's.

    Too bad someone took the "hunter killer" moniker for some other flesh-reaping abomination already, this reminds me so much of the laser-blastin' H-Ks in movie...

  11. Jamie

    ICBM no ICBDs

    Can see it now.

    West Coast wiped out by Inter Continental Balistic Discball, laser defense is useless.

  12. Jason Clery

    Reflective surface

    Depends on the heat. Usually the heat would melt the reflective surface, unless the beam needs time to heat up the target.

  13. Erick Carse

    Mirrors are useless

    All the laser must to is radiate at frequencies that the mirror absorbs, then burns away, like it wasn't even there.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Its definitely laser not lazer. Laser is an acronym where the S stands for stimulated or something similar. Something that could only start with an "s" and not a "z", even in America.

  15. daniel

    Was there not a Tom Clancy book...

    Cardinal of the Kremlin IIRC when a guy said about fitting ICBM's with mirrors and spinning them, and the response was that 'it's about as useful as a ballerina spinning in front of a shotgun. That energy has got to go somwhere". This is why the "Star Wars" mirrors, lasers, masers et al had serious cooling problems on the sending end...

    As for reflecting it back to the aircraft, that would take some funky aiming to get it right... you may get fried a few times before getting it right, and that is only if the mirror does not get totaled by thermal shock beforehand.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    20 tonnes?

    That's big. Mind you, I think the first iPod was that size and weight.

    Give it a few years and these frickin' laser-beams will be small enough to mount atop shark's heads...

  17. Rob Holmes

    Return to the 70's

    Chrome is going to be back in fasion then.

    Although this raises an interesting point - do you go ahead and chrome all your tanks / APC's / HummVees and risk the fact that you WILL be seen by standard weapons platforms, or do you go for the standard camo paint job and prey the pilot of the LaserPlane doesnt notice you?

    Personally I'd like to see chrome battle tanks on the battle field, it'd just look cool.

  18. Chris Harden

    @John Robson

    "You need really well polished surface reflectors in the arrangement of the inside of a cube."

    That just sounds like hellraier (6...or...90...or....whatever the last one was).....Maybe they are secretly trying to make a system to destroy pinhead?

  19. Dalen

    Envision giant disco balls...

    ... mounted over terrorist training camps.

    Mine's the CID with reflec coating.

  20. SpeakerToAliens



    Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation

    Mine's the one with the opaque goggles in the pocket.

  21. oxo


    Thanks for this line :)

    "The secret raygun project couldn't resist a hint as to where they got their new technology"

  22. Richard Brown


    Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation

  23. Trevor Watt

    Take Out?

    So this laser thingy is all about 'taking out' enemy vehicles and missiles? Surely they would be better off destroying them, if you took a missile out it might blow up in the restaurant or something.....

  24. Kevin McMurtrie Silver badge

    Who stole my bicycle reflectors?

    The simple retroreflector has become a military weapon!

  25. Anonymous Coward

    Who's up for Curry tonight

    cooked curry in under, lets c... 1.30 secs or is that delivered via a Flashy c130


    mines the shiny asbestos lined one.... with the curry stains (on the front, that is);p


  26. Anonymous Coward

    I just want to know when....

    ...ET started disguising their spaceships as C-130's.

  27. Skullfoot

    Geez guys!

    Its and "A"C-130

    A... you know .. like ATTACK!

    Mines the ones that says "even wiki knew"

  28. Niall

    My Cataracts...

    there gone!

  29. Natecar
    Thumb Up


    They are protected. You'll have to use sea bass.

    Hopefully you can find agitated sea bass.

  30. Franklin

    No blinding...

    According to Boeing's published tech specs, the laser produces a four-inch-wide infrared beam. Nobody on the ground would even see it, and it's unlikely that mirrors would help; gold is one of the few efficient infrared reflectors, and it's hard to imagine Third World countries plating all their gear in gold.

  31. Glenn Amspaugh

    Throw me a bone

    Funny, it doesn't look like a shark.

    Mine's the one with the folded up fembot in the pocket.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Tom Chandler

    You'll still only end up with ill-tempered, mutated seabass with lasers mounted on their heads.

  33. Chris G

    Has anyone?

    Thought about friendly frier

  34. William Morton
    Jobs Horns

    Light Amplification through Stimulated Emission of Radiation I believe

    On a side issue you dont have to use a solid retro refractive surface, might be easier just to coat target in copper with a water jack over the top, High Specific heat capaity and all that and copper to dissipate heat over larger surface area.

    "Get the Americans round Abdul, someone drained the immersion heater again"

  35. Drew

    Not your average laser

    The laser is invisible to the human eye. Mirrors or reflective surfaces wont help. It will just burn straight through them. It burns targets to destroy them. (i.e., hitting the engine block of a armored enemy truck to disable it.)

  36. Steven Raith


    For the benefit of the pedants, and those who cannot spell.


    Amplification through the


    Emission of



    With an S.

    *Never* with a Z. Ever. Or I'll send over the C-130 with the pretty lights on it and tattoo it on your motherfucking head from thirty miles away.

    Hope that helps :-)

    Steven R

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    star destroyer... uh no...

    heh... a mirror wont work... it's a kilo-watt class laser.. it'd burn right through it and cook the guy holding it. Besides, a mirror is really only designed to reflect visible light.. this thing will not be visible. It's not a death star, guys :)

  38. C


    No I'm sure the ET's have these things small enough to fit on hip holsters, or if you fancy some of the more obscure sci-fi, wrist mounted devices.

    @Chris G: Yes! Because everyone knows that 'friendly friar' is more accurate!

    also BTW polished copper is a good reflector of infrared, I imagine it could be used *behind* camo that is transparent to those frequencies ... OOPS, high $$$ tech once again 'foiled' by simple field engineering! Oh well, I guess its back to the plasma weapons.

  39. ImaGnuber

    RE: Sharks?

    "They are protected. You'll have to use sea bass."

    Oh great. It isn't enough that we have to tolerate freetards - now we've got basstards.

  40. Kanhef


    would simply fail, even if the laser was visible light. All mirrors absorb some small percentage of incident light. At the wattage this thing puts out, that percentage is more than enough to burn through the mirror in milliseconds.

  41. Erik Aamot
    IT Angle


    1st, you can not see any wavelength of light traveling thru clean air, though I understand you have those visuals from science FICTION tv and films

    while you might not be able to see it, infrared can certainly burn a retina .. but if you *observed* a good reflection of this laSer, it's likely your eyeballs would explode a nanosecond before your retinas were destroyed

    as far as gold, maybe not third world, but wouldn't be too surprised if Putin were to gold plate a couple of those mobile Nuke's for next year's Red Square military gala, where he'll probably show off a bigger laSer than this, and gold plate that too ..

    then US will start goldplating it's military stuff .. and we'll have a US-Russia Gold War until Sony develops it BlueRay Death LaSer .. then the Geneva convention will spend 10 years deciding which Death Ray format is to be used ..

    .. and I'll probably be dead before I can afford a home use version <sigh>

    my mind boggles, obviously

  42. Adrian Esdaile

    No rules in love or war?

    "Purposefully blinding the enemy is illegal." ooohhhh... naughty! It's the war crimes tribunal for you, Marine!

    But slamming high-velocity depleted uranium into their craniums, blowing their limbs off with cluster bombs, burning them with phosphorus or melting them with microwave anti-personel rays ISN'T illegal, so, like, go for it!

  43. Captain DaFt

    I saw a laser demonstration years ago

    The one they were showing off could burn through 8 centimeters of armor grade steel in less than 3 seconds from a range of .5 kilometers.

    They then demonstrated with a block of acrylic. The beam sputtered out about half way through due to the dense smoke.

    So, if you don't want something fried with a laser, cover it with plastic! Or just put it in a foggy area, lasers are useless in less than clear conditions!

    (I'll be off then, to gitmo, for revealing state secrets!)

  44. Fuzzy


    I get the distinct impression that the development of ideas for future weapons involves several cases of beer and watching the austin power movies. Next thing they will be proposing is to build a bigger version of this on the moon and calling it a "death star". Complete with an experimental Mini-me

  45. David Gillies

    Call me when they build this round a FEL

    Meh. It's a chemical laser. Those things can only go a few shots before the reactants are used up, and they create a load of really, really toxic waste products. I can certainly see the attraction of frying a truckload of Jihadis completely silently from 20 clicks away - if for nothing more than psychological reasons.

    What we really need is a free electron laser capable of MW power output and low cycle time. That really would be a deathray worthy of the name.

    Fire hazard icon for the pyrotechnic hijinks possible with your laser-armed gunship.

  46. Charles Manning

    Don't fire through dust, clouds or smoke!

    Because in these conditions the laser energy will get absorbed by the air instead of the target.

    Good thing battles only happen in clean environments.

  47. Chris
    Black Helicopters

    Fake right?

    This looks like a faked picture. The C-130 has landing gear that doesn't extend far enough from the airframe to land or take off with that dome hanging underneath. Perhaps the dome is retractable, but that's a lot of trouble when there's more apt and more stable platforms available.

    There's no way they'd redesign the landing gear on a C130 to accomidate that. There's no reason to add complexity (and weight) to extremely heavy test gear by making it retractable. I wouldn't think that the low running cost of a C130 would be a deciding factor when you are developing a weapon such as this.

    There's a slight odour of rodent in the air.

  48. wim

    invisible shed ?

    will it burn my invisible shed ?

    that is what I want to know.

  49. Newell White

    Mirrors do work....

    A 2-bar electric fire dissipates 2kW (mostly infra-red) and reflects it into the room with a chrome-plated steel sheet of about 0.1 square metres.

    This reflector has a life-time measured in years!

  50. lasersage


    All of the mirror comments wont matter if they aren't kept clean, a spec of dust will begin to heat on the mirror surface and then burn it away, gold or not. As for peoples comments about it being kilowatt class and mirrors being useless at this power level, you can reflect gigawatt beams with no problem as long as you have the right wavelength (99.99% reflective) CLEAN mirrors.

    And the bit that really bugs me: SILENT!!!!

    you ever heard a laser melt something, or vap it entirely. Its not quiet.

    I agree with the comments from David Giles, they sure do make some nasty waste. Infact if you totted up waste against usefullness these probably outweight a nuclear reactor.

    Fire coz we all know burning stuff isn't silent

  51. TeeCee Gold badge


    Oh my! I think I just prolapsed (and that's *another* keyboard off to the great coffee house in the sky).

    Moderator: I'd like to nominate ImaGnuber for the "El Reg insider gag of the week" award.

  52. stizzleswick


    would be about the only thing that could reflect a LASER attack, and then they'd have to be optically perfect, which just doesn't happen in the real world. An ordinary mirror is still nothing more than a silver-plated bit of glass, and a LASER of the magnitude entertained here would simply burn off the plating in a few milliseconds. Plus the carrier material also absorbs some energy, so you'd get a smoking, expanding cloud of glass shrapnel partially plated with silver...

    The acrylic idea mentioned by Captain DaFt should work for a few moments. The acrylic-protected object would probably get coated in another layer of partially-burnt plastics though.

  53. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: @ImaGnuber

    TeeCee: Nah.

  54. Anonymous Coward

    Ablatative armour

    I seem to remember in the old sci-fi role-playing game Traveller that you could buy either cheap ablative armour or expensive reflective armour to protect against lasers. Ablative armour would burn off after absorbing several shots, reflec lasted indefinitely.

    Mine's the one with 2D6 in the pocket

  55. Daniel Wilkie


    It's not an AC-130 - an AC-130 has Howitzers and miniguns on port side, and thus wouldn't have space for 20 tons of gear. This clearly has none. If I was to be really nerdy I'd say it's a C-130H but I'm not 100%. Definately not an AC130 though.

    /geek mode off.

  56. Matthew

    In related news...

    Gordon Brown's government has announced the formation a new national database tracking all mirrors and reflective surfaces for 'National Security purposes'.

  57. JP Strauss

    @Chrome Battle tanks

    And we could fit them with really big spinners on the tracs, a loud sound system and boot spoilers and get the chavs to drive them...

  58. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    If mirrors or optics don't work, what do we suppose they are using to aim the "frickin' laser beams" in the first place?

    That aside, coating all potential targets in really shiny foil/mirrors/gold etc which reflect EMR ...even if this defends against lasers...kind of opens up the game to other targeting systems?

    i.e. defeat the laser beam weapons, only to get blown to bits by the laser guided missile. Either way you're toast.

  59. stizzleswick


    " you'd get a smoking, expanding cloud of glass shrapnel partially plated with silver..."

    That would be an excellent way to kill werewolves, though.

  60. Steve

    @Geez guys!

    It's actually "It's an "A"C-130."

    Where's my pedant icon?

  61. Murray-Mint



  62. Toby
    Dead Vulture

    disintegrating nuclear missiles

    Cant imagine that disintegrating a nuclear warhead would be "safe" maybe if its somwhere that doesnt matter too much, you know, like; *stahn, chechnya, etc.

  63. alistair millington
    Thumb Up

    one point

    In order to protect your said comms tower you cover it in mirrors or silver foil etc

    Then surely everyone with a normal missile, tank shell, bomb, can hit it.

    Win win all round.

  64. Jack B
    IT Angle

    Oh look - physics!

    1 - You would not see the beam, as it is IR, but it can blind you. At that power, enough of the beam will be scattered by the air that is you are near it it will affect your vision, and blind you if you are near the target.

    2 - Do not compare an IR laser to a electric fire. A 100W lightbulb is safe, a 100W laser is capable of burning through a brick wall. This is because laser light is very concentrated, it is a beam not an expanding sphere. It is also coherent.

    3 - Mirrors do work on laser light, they are used in the laser after all. If you knew the frequency of the enemy laser, you could build a mirror capable of reflecting it. You could even build a roof mirror, similar to retro-reflective bike reflectors, to send it straight back to the aircraft. It would be very expensive though, a reasonable size, 99.9999% IR mirror would cost millions, and you would have to surround every target with them.

    4- A 1-second killowatt IR laser pulse delivers 1 kilojoule to the target. 1 kilogram of RDX explosive on the sharp end of a cheapo missile delivers far, far more. Maybe this laser can burn out a cellphone mast, but dropping 250kg of bomb on it would also work, and form further away. Boeing have some work to do yet.

  65. Adam Foxton
    Thumb Up

    Chemical laser waste

    is very dangerous, so surely they'd just dump it on the enemy? Worst case scenario they're left with the waste. Best case scenario it wipes out hundreds of them pretty quickly.

    It'd also mean that the carrier plane would be able to have a faster/longer return journey due to the lowered mass.

    They should mount one of these on either a spherical death-star-alike blimp. With a bit of plywood over the thermal exhaust vent. That'd be awesome.

  66. Daniel Wilkie
    Black Helicopters


    /Pedant Mode on

    THIS is an AC-130 -

    As is this -,_2007.jpg/800px-AC-130_gunship_firing_flares_August_24,_2007.jpg

    However I consed that I was infact mistaken - looking at the nose the H is different too :( Who knows.

    Warning - included links contain extreme aircraft pron

    Black Helicopters, because of the Extreme Porn law which I think this post may violate

  67. Daniel Wilkie


    Today it would appear that I am at least partially made of win...

  68. Anonymous Coward

    Can the crew....

    get 'frequent fryer' miles?

    coat - got - gone

  69. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters


    shock horror... after doing some research before posting, as opposed to some self informed drivel...

    According to Boeing it *is* a C-130H.

    The pictures on Boeings website also show the same C-130H but from different views, the laser dome slung underneath does look odd in relation to the ground clearance of these aircraft. So unless Boeing have photoshoped as portfolio of photos of this aircraft it is still confusing to how it hangs together.

    my research did not establish if the device was retractable, or how this was delpoyed on its "ground based firing"? - the works firewall prevented to much poking around or maybe it was the black hats?

    (yes, it is a modefied C-130H - it is not yet operational so wont have an AC-130X moniker, incidently there is more than one tye of AC-130 subtype. Boeing makes the *****ers so there shouldnt be any debate, even if it doesnt fit the percived wisdom of armchair military industrialists who are obviosuly moonlighting in IT for kicks)

  70. Anonymous Coward

    Not a son of Dr Strangelove

  71. Mike Price


    But surely;

    "The goggles - they do nothing."

  72. Jason The Saj

    Puff & Zilla

    Well, the old C-130 cargo planes adapted with the large caliber canons & machine guns were called "Puff".

    I think this new one should follow in the tradition of dragon lore and be commonly called "Lazilla" or 'Zilla for short.


  73. Anonymous Coward
    Dead Vulture

    What... all the fuss about, really?

    I'm sure it's easier to use small, highly manouvreable projectiles (whether they're self-propelled or not) to take things like ICBM's and other missiles down. There are plenty of CIWS systems around, and I'm sure they'll keep evolving.

    As for vehicles, what's wrong with good old boom-booms?

    And I'm still waiting for my frickin' railgun, ffs! I bet it'd be much easier to get that working, and it would be so much more useful...

  74. Alain Moran


    I wont bother explaining the laser acronym since several other people have posted it correctly, however I think that the term 'lazer' refers to a collimated beam of light produced from a lamp of some kind.

    'lazer' light is not usually polarised in any way, nor is it made up of bands of frequencies ... it is simple white light that has been filtered and then passed through a system of mirrors/lenses to create a cheaper simulation of laser light for use in disco lights.

  75. ImaGnuber


    It was an honour to be nominated and I'm just thrilled to be here and I'm looking forward to the post-awards parties*.

    *Yes, I've been informed that these are 'Bring Your Own Beer and Chips and Enough for the Reg Staff'**.

    **Regrets but must beg off as the last requirement has put this wa-a-a-ay out of my financial reach.

  76. Anonymous Coward

    re: Me and mini-Me and thier plot to take over the world

    well for those of you not watching, i can reveal that.....

    ME= G.Bush Snr

    mini-Me= GWB

    and as you have already noticed, mini-Me is the nastier of the two....

    and it is already Tooo late, they did take over the world,

    it's now just a case of can they start another - even bigger war so that they can put off the next mickey mouse election...... indefinatly....

    mines gonna be the orange one hanging up in that place that dont exist on the edge of that truely free country of cuba.....

  77. Nick


    "According to Boeing's published tech specs, the laser produces a four-inch-wide infrared beam. Nobody on the ground would even see it, and it's unlikely that mirrors would help; gold is one of the few efficient infrared reflectors, and it's hard to imagine Third World countries plating all their gear in gold."

    Mr T pities the fool who points this at him....

    Mine's the coat with the A-team DVD in the pocket.

  78. TeeCee Gold badge

    @Sarah Bee


    My coat please and I'm taking my marbles with me too this time, so there!

  79. Andy Livingstone

    Collateral Damage?

    Should the text read.....

    "People in the vicinity of an ATL strike might not realise what had happened until well after " .........they have been fried ??

  80. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    ..more inane speculation on how yer average bathroom mirror would be an adequate defence.

    To summarise the last article about this:

    -Very few materials have good reflective properties in the IR spectrum

    -Even fewer materials remain reflective when the polished surface heats up and boils.

    -Dust and dirt negate relective properties

    -Mirrors would make the target light themselves up nicely for <insert laser guided weapon of choice>

    So we are left with the prohibitive expense of coating everything in gold and a little man with a tin of brasso on every street corner.

    Now for high value assets, space shuttle-esqe ceramin foam might provide some protection...

  81. Steve Evans


    Standard issue camo netting to be replaced with huge mirrors very soon!

    Mines the one with the reflective patches sewn onto the elbows.

  82. Pyros

    I smell

    ...a Mythbuster exclusive!

    Mind you, Adam and Jamie might have a tad bit difficulty in procuring an IR laser, but I'm sure they could whip one up ala MacGuyver.

  83. Treacle

    Dust particle jamming?

    Would a cloud of dust sufficiently diffuse this IR laser beam?

    If so, in Persia it would seem the worst place to use a laser weapon.

    Although, it would probably be pretty difficult to have some sort of dust-cloud generator device to protect critical infrastructure and object that could be used on-demand... since the "A"C-130 would still be kilometers away with no announcement of what they were going to target (let alone the fact that it looks like a normal AC-130, and not a futuristic space weapon thingy).

    /Mine's the one with the entrenching tool in the pocket, so's I can dig my underground hidey hole bunker.

  84. William Morton
    Jobs Horns

    Told ya, the way to go is water based mirror

    Advantages HSC of water means high energy to convert to gas,gas further disipates beam, water is cheap and can just be left running over retroreflective contouring on target or just submerge target in lake. Lasers are really only any good in space warfare where no atmosphere and not differencial density interfaces are present. JWB just fancies himself as Han Solo

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