back to article US Air Force outlines combat raygun safety

Just because the US Air Force wants to arm itself with deadly combat rayguns doesn't mean it's about to skimp on safety. No sir. With great power (say, a weapons grade 100 kilowatt blaster cannon) comes great responsibility (a 32-page safety manual). A recently published Air Force Instruction paper has established a safety …


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  1. David Boosalis

    Only 32 pages

    32 pages for a highly sophisticated weapon. I thought to myself this isn't the DOD I knew from long ago that used to producte 320 page manuals for using a shovel.

    The link provided for the manual showed to be a manual on which manuals to refer to

  2. Anonymous Coward

    so teh first rule

    Rule 1: Don't look down barrel to see if it's loaded.

    If they use this in the Alps, do we then have Mountain DEW?

  3. Jodo Kast

    Don't Ionize Me, Bro!

    Keep safety on.

  4. Anonymous Coward

    "terminate the beam at the end of its useful path."

    So you don't accidentally carve a lascaux cave in an Iraqi hillside.

    these exposures will become a part of the individual's occupational exposure record.

    Note: jr. office so-and-so vaporized on this date. oopsie

  5. Anonymous Coward

    I've heard of the rest,

    but what the hell is a "atomic-scale and subatomic particle beam weapons"? Are they intending to put a particle accelerator on a plane? If so, what particles do they intend to fire? And why?

  6. MG

    well if there's a manual, it must exist.....

    .... so we surrender to our (far more advanced than we previously thought) American overlords.

    That saved a lot of nasty war now didn't it.

  7. Anonymous Coward

    Guaranteed Safety

    The best safety mechanism is simply to get the enemy to wear red shirts. Then it doesn't matter how good the weapon is, it's only ever the guys in red shirts that die.

    Skip the coat, just beam me up, Scotty.

  8. Mr Mark V Thomas

    Re: Aircraft Mounted Particle Accelrators....

    There was a programme (I'm not sure if this was a U.S Navy or U.S Airforce Program) in the 1980's codenamed White Horse, which would have used 2 co-axial particle accelerators (1 accelerating Protons & the other Electrons) to essentally fire Hydrogen atoms, abeit at speeds close to light at a fast moving target... If they are intending to put such a device on a aircraft, then could it be a sucessor to the ABL (Airborne Laser) programme, due to enter service in the next few years...?

    The original codename for said program, Sipapu, had to be changed after protests from the Native American community,as it meant Sacred Fire, in a Amerindian dialect...

    Mine's a suit of Powered Armour, with the optional Particle Cannon on a shoulder mount...

  9. Joseph Helenihi

    They also want to develop space based missile defense

    Will a tinfoil hat be of any practical use against a particle weapon fired from space? Or perhaps a carefully woven Kevlar undercoating to the tinfoil hat of this shape

    for stray missile debris will be a necessary fashion accessory now that the safety manual for such a device is out.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It's wasn't that hard with conventional weapons

    The Air Force wishes to know effects due to troublesome "beam drifting" and "failure to achieve pointing accuracy."

    Couldn't they just use another laser, for accuracy?

  11. Nikolai Kuzmin

    Re: Only 32 pages

    It's one of them natural bureaucracy laws - simple tools need longer instructions because they have to be detailed down to very basic operations. On the other hand a complex tool will have more logic built-in and therefore need only a few high-level hints to work. Thus, an infinitely complex tool would not need any instruction manual at all, while an infinitely long instruction manual will get the job done without any tool.

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  13. Anonymous Coward

    "...potential fratricide." ????!!!!

    Wouldn't this be a bit of a problem for the US Army's band of brothers?

  14. Chris G Silver badge

    Hmmm, they must know more than we thought

    Or perhaps Walter Mitty is now at the helm of US defence. The most interesting bit is `terminating a ray at it's destination. Somebody is going to have to fire up Einstein and have a word about the propagation of an electromagnetic wave front, he'll have to rewrite it, unless there is a plan to provide the target with a mirror or some kind of death ray absorbing material. Otherwise people, houses, trees and large planets such as the earth can provide a useful backstop to such a beam.

    At critical moments, necessity for exposure to DEWs presumably covers friendly fire, `oops sorry that was a critical moment and in my enthusiasm for wiping out the enemy, I have just vapourised several companies of allied combat troops and our President who was visiting them¨.

    It is, however, good to know that the DOD ( short for doddery?) has put a great deal of thought into the safe operation of such things as DEWs, 32 pages Eh?

  15. Mike Banahan

    Warning label

    That warning label is hilarious! Please please please start selling some of those with sticky backs on peel-off rolls!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    particle weapons

    when I worked at a rather large physics lab, making antimatter routinely, we *did* have a visit from besuited serious 'merkins. This is all many many years ago! The discussion was briefly about annihilation, and how many Pbars would fit in a bottle, and how big the bang would be. I think we convinced them that it would take many many many large physics labs in parallel, and a long time, and I certainly wouldn't want to be anywhere near the magnetic confinement bottle.

    As for particle beams - they're a doddle when space based as an active denial system (OCS) counter satellite communication system - , the few times I did pass a 40MeV Proton beam through normal air, I reckon it got around an inch before interacting fully. A free space (air) neutron beam might get some metres. There's always laser plasma/paritcle hybrid beams I suppose; A neutrino beam could go rather further, but wouldn't be noticed!

    The mil could always accelerate iron or gold or U238 nucleii, they do qualify as corpuscular matter, might need a hand-held wakefield linac?? which would still need almost as big a battery as the pbar mag confinement.

    some 2009 (unspecified technology) 'things that go bang in space' funding info at

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Thumb Up

    Can I get that on a T-Shirt??

    That is a funny warning sign, wheres the cash'n'carrion version.

  18. Dave Bell
    Black Helicopters

    It's for everything

    It's likely a pretty fair summary of all the potential hazards, when you look at the list of weapons covered, and see it includes the non-lethal types. That infamous crowd-cooking microwave contraption could easily put Air Force personnel at risk, with all the potential for reflections, though I really hope the engineers checked for antenna side-lobes.

    Any mention of unexpected black helicopters?

  19. Thorsten

    "terminate the beam at the end of its useful path."

    Does that mean they intend to build light sabres?

    What else could be meant by "terminating" a beam at the "end of its useful path"? Either it gets absorbed by the target, or it travels through the target. How do they want to "terminate" it??? Or did I miss something in physics class? (admittedly, it's been a while...)

    (completely off topic: what happened to the additional icons that were promised a while ago?)

  20. Alex Timchula
    Thumb Up


    as a member of the USAF I assure you that compliance with every AFI is mandatory, believe me I know. And 32 pages for a death ray isn't bad considering the AFI that outlines how to wear our uniforms is about the same.

  21. Secretgeek

    What a quality shopping list.

    Milk, eggs, bread, tootthpaste, high-energy lasers, weaponized microwave and millimeter wave beams, explosive-driven electromagnetic pulse devices, acoustic weapons, laser induced plasma channel systems, non-lethal directed energy devices, atomic-scale and subatomic particle beam weapons, butter, frozen pizza and washing up liquid.

  22. Simon


    "atomic-scale and subatomic particle beam weapons"?

    LASERs, for one (A LASER beam is a bunch of photons of the same wavelength(/energy level, depending on how you look at it) travelling in the same direction).

    I'm more interested in the 'LASER induced plasma channel systems'...

    Is this channelling plasma created with a LASER, or using a LASER to channel plasma?

    Hmmm... *ponders*

    (LASER is an initialism, not an acronym)

    The goggles!.... They do NOTHING!!!

  23. M7S

    From Sci-fi weapons to magic

    After all the best way to safely terminate a beam (at least for the intended recipient) is surely smoke and mirrors?

    Even the humblest of Wizzards (sic) should be able to do a Paul Daniels on this.

    The cloak thanks, with the top hat and cane. Yes that's the one thank you, mind the rabbit droppings.

  24. Farmer Hackit

    They forgot the most important one...

    Don't cross the streamers...

    ..that would be bad.

  25. Pascal Monett Silver badge


    LASER stands for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation".

    Yup, that's an acronym.

  26. Dangermouse

    Don't make me laugh...

    The yanks can't even work out who to shoot at with conventional weapons - with or without an instruction manual.

    Mind you, giving them lasers to play with should cause much more spectacular "regretable collateral damage" or blue-on-blue carnage.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    Friendly fire

    Not so much blue on blue, as Blu-Ray on blue??

    Flak jacket please!

  28. Francis Offord
    Black Helicopters

    As an example of the bleedin obvious this is a lulu

    Er; Yes. I think.

  29. ian

    This is all very confusing

    Is a Millimetre wave's length is greater than a Microwave's?

    Isn't a death beam terminated by terminating it's target?

    Well, innit?

  30. Anonymous Coward

    Warning Sign

    I like how the warning sign says "death or vaporisation". Does that mean the Yanks have found a way of turning people into pure energy without killing them!?!

  31. ShaggyDoggy


    Uniforms are now being made with a 'special' foil layer woven into the material.

    Can't imagine why.

  32. Will Shaw

    Death *OR* Vaporisation????

    What kind of crappy raygun is this? Non-fatal vaporisation? I want my disintegrations to be fully lethal!!! And preferably extremely painful, dagnabbit!!!

    Jeez, you just can't get the power-crazed mad scientists anymore.....

  33. Sarah Bee (Written by Reg staff)

    Re: Death *OR* Vaporisation????

    Tea and cake or death or vaporisation. Doesn't have quite the same ring to it.

  34. Schultz

    I disagree

    "After all, nothing is more embarrassing than leaving your phaser on kill."

    According to General Turgidson, nothing is more embarrassing than leaving your phaser on tickle. Separation between professional and private duty, etc ..

    "It also wisely instructs that there should be some way to "terminate the beam at the end of its useful path.""

    Reasonable demand considering the annoying habit of targets to jump away when shot at (especially if Pfc Butterfinger forget to change from tickle ...). But beam termination can be awfully tricky once it's beyond the event horizon, so better call ahead.

  35. Tanuki
    Thumb Up

    Do not look directly at laser with remaining eye.

    I rejoice at the thought of the armed enemies of my civilisation being on the receiving end of some cool technology. But fret that Al Quaeda might equip their operatives with disco-balls.

  36. Anonymous Coward

    please, oh please

    let this jumbo jet sized, toxic chemically powered, twenty tonne flying doom-ray have a small but immacuately presented black-on-yellow "Caution" sticker on it somewhere....

    I have a feeling that one day we shall hear of these featuring in the Darwin Awards when someone decides that it'll be a good idea to carry out that expensive laser eye surgery on a budget..

  37. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another warning sign

    Is anyone in the US military old enough to remember the "This machine kills fascists" label? If so, I suggest "This machine plays tunes - on the ionosphere".

  38. me

    Note to self... sure to decline any invites from USAF to weiney roasts!

    Flame On!

  39. Anonymous Coward

    particle beam weapons

    Just what you need for opening up a can of "black-hole" whoopass on somebody

  40. James O'Brien

    God I can see it now

    First we have Pickup trucks with gun racks on the back window now we are going to have deathray racks. What happens when they energy pack for the gun overheats because of being used as a fuse?

    Not to mention whos going to make the packs? SONY? Hell if thats the case why bother go into battle with the enemy just use the gun a bit till the pack ignites.

    /Mines the asbestos one. Thanks.

  41. Rachel

    i won't make any jokes about special school...

    "With great power (say, a weapons grade 100 kilowatt blaster cannon) comes great responsibility (a 32-page safety manual)."

    I love that movie so much, and no one has ever heard of it.

    "Think of the pussy, Weevil!"

  42. Sam


    "failure to achieve pointing accuracy."=Aiming like an American.

  43. Joe

    warnings from GLaDOS

    The aperture science high energy pellet has been known to cause permanent physical disabilities such as vapourization.

  44. Alan Jenney

    Getting in the way...

    It takes a fair bit of bad timing to step in the way during the firing of a projectile / rocket / bullet, but these beam weapons need to be trained on the target for several seconds to get the desired effect. I'm just imagining a plane flying through the beam having it's wing nicely softened enough to cause it to snap off.

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