back to article 'Ruggedised, weaponised' raygun modules now on sale

US killtech behemoth Northrop Grumman has has said that it is ready to take orders for the "world's first ruggedised, weaponised high energy solid state laser designed for battlefield applications". The raygun module is dubbed FIRESTRIKE™. Northrop cutaway of the Firestrike™ laser chain module Overkill, you might say, just …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Power Consumption?

    any news on whether it'll need a car battery or a powerstation?

    or just a solar blanket and a box of caps? (rapid fire obviously not an option..)

  2. Anonymous Coward

    Can Santa Get me one??

    Could be useful against teenage louts who pester my staff and shout abusive comments at customers every school holiday.

    Flame?? Obviously!!!! (Imagines ball of fire wearing Nike Trainers and 9ct gold plated "bling")

  3. Bobak Fakhraee


    errmm... couldnt you just reflect it with a mirror?

  4. Rob Foster

    So the Stargate Program is starting to pay off...


  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Of course, a waterproof version for your underwater menagerie would presumably require your menagerie to sit very close together in order to get the 100kW beam...

  6. David S

    "...FIRESTRIKE™s come with Ethernet interface as standard"

    no USB?

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Bobak Fakhraee

    Mirrors are not 100% efficient. As they heat up they become less effective. Mirror armour is feasible but like any armour, it won't last under a sustained attack.

  8. Matthew


    What sort of damage are we talking about? Is there any scale for what level of damage 15Kw and 100Kw weapons would be capable of(first person to suggest 1d20 needs to get our more)?

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Bobak Fakhraee

    You could coat each unit with a mirrored surface to provide some protection, although that causes more problems than it realistically solves. In a choice between painting your tank green / brown / grey to blend in with the surrounding environment, and therefore being difficult to detect in the first place, and chrome plating everything so it stands out a mile, even in heavily wooded terrain, I'd say it is no choice at all. Surely the best defense against a weapon is to not get shot by it in the first place?

    Although a chrome plated tank would look awesome.

  10. E


    LAN interface may imply an OS. Is this thing running Windows for Warships? If instead it runs Linux then what kernel version is it?

  11. Simon C

    Crude Death Star??

    Anyone else thought of bundling maybe couple of thousand of these units into say the Aricebo Observatory (google it) dish for a somewhat crude death star?

  12. kevin biswas

    Living in a bad sci-fi movie ?

    Loan Sharks wid frikkin lazers. Oh goody.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Half a megawatt from a diesel engine that isnt the size of a shed? You having a laugh?

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Chrome plated tanks

    Chrome plate your tank, _then_ overpaint it with camouflage? I guess a laser hit would burn the camo paint off and then the mirroring comes in to effect.

    Anyways, I'll take a dozen in the "Blue Whale" size for now, can't wait for the miniaturised version as the good guys are getting close....

  15. Martin Gregorie

    @Simon C

    Nice idea, but it won't work. Arecibo is a radio telescope with a reflector made of aluminium sheets, so its smooth but not shiny.

  16. Craig Vaughton


    Never mind mirrors, primsmatic aerosols will be the next thing. Some sort of spray with tiny prismatics beads in to defract the laser. So that will be another layer of ERA on your tankss and MICVs then!

    So is the next step use the laser within a chamber to superheat a gas and project magnetically contained plasma at high speed? DARPA should try reading more Sci-Fi books or play the old Traveller RPG. (That's Role Playing Game, not Rocket Propelled Grenade)

    It wouldn't be 1D20 of damage either, more like 6D6 and treat as Fireball spell.

    Mine's the coat that looks like TL-15 Battle dress with an FGMP-15 attached.

  17. Brian
    IT Angle


    You could probably fit a 500KW generator set into the back of an armoured personnel carrier - the diesel engine and generator combined would weigh no more than 3 tons or so, and even commercial sets aren't much bigger than a garden shed, so with a bit of ingenuity, it's possible to pull off.

  18. Tom

    not only...

    ...a huge diesel engine for powering the sucker, but judging from the size of those 'thermal interface' ports, you are going to need a HUGE watercooling system to lug about on your laser tank, with a nice big radiator... which would make compelling target for an RPG methinks.

  19. Master Baker
    Black Helicopters


    Do lasers have advantages over conventional cannon?

    I often strap a laser pointer to my hard knob to freak out street prozzies.

  20. Steve Evans


    ...the enemy don't decide to attack on a foggy day...

  21. Pete
    Paris Hilton


    When was the last time you saw a tank as small as a shed?

    This kind of tank is for kicks - I'm sure the military can make them even bigger!!

    Paris because she can blow me away anytime.

  22. Jeff Rowse

    No Mr Bond, I expect you to get a hernia!

    Still not exactly man-portable though, are they?

    Nice effort, must try harder. 3/10.

  23. Mike Crawshaw

    @ Simon C

    As soon as I saw:

    "FIRESTRIKE™s can be linked together to get a more powerful beam, apparently."

    I thought "uh-huh. Death Star".

  24. Bad Beaver
    Jobs Horns

    @ David S

    With that name it should come with Firewire.

  25. James O'Brien

    What no lasers for Dolphins?

    Telling ya Flipper is out to get us for that crappy TV show

    /mines the one with Tuna Safe on the back :)

  26. Dex

    Firestrike not using Firewire?

    Ya know....keeping with the name + all

    Windows for Warships? noooo Linux for Lasers

  27. Charles

    @Chrome plated tanks

    Don't think that'd work, either. For one thing, chrome plating by its very nature isn't very conducive to coating. Most aficionados say you need to rough it up (such as with sandpaper or acid etching) before you can paint it, and in this case, that would defeat the purpose of the chrome plating. Furthermore, anything underneath the camouflage paint could receive damage from the combustion of the paint, causing potential deformation to the reflective surface that defeat the reflection defense.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    halfmegawatt less than shed size?

    Well it all depends on what you consider a shed. Mine holds a rake, some small Garden tools, the hand mower and some flower pots. My Dad's is a quonset hut.

    You would be amazed on what the military is putting together in the way of power and cooling systems. I have a lil info on some of the multi band, selective jamming systems the US uses out in the field. Very compact and powerful, covers the theatre no problem and yet still fits in a Bradly. Unfortunately you need a second Bradly to carry the power supply and cooling system. IR invisible these things are not.

    Besides - Diesel? When did the military go back to rugged and reliable diesel when it has all those turbines to play with?

  29. Bounty


    I can't help but think of the doom ray from Hyperdrive.

  30. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Big car batteries

    These batteries can provide 20kW for about five minutes. You would need four of them to power one laser module. A module plus batteries would weigh about 300Kg. You could put this in your car and still drive around, but if you fire it, you are sitting next to a 60kW heater (in the UK, domestic electric heaters are limited to about 3kW).

    Here is a tank with a 1MW engine, so a 100kW laser on a tank is possible, but I have no idea if it would be useful.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    In the words of Mrs Beaton

    First catch your terrorists (or just mistakenly identify a wedding party) then cook them. More useless shite from the people who haunt the halls of Washington.

  32. Ron Christian

    re: Ethernet

    > LAN interface may imply an OS. Is this thing running Windows for Warships? If instead it runs Linux then what kernel version is it?

    Thinking of the rooting possibilities, I see... Trying to pwn one of these things could be a major geek pasttime.

  33. Charles

    Re: Prisms

    Anything that requires it be suspended in the air can be easily defeated by a laser. Lasers work by directing heat, and this also works in the air between weapon and target. The sudden heating of the air where the prismatics are suspended will create a sudden localized wind burst which would cause the particles to be blown out of the way. Furthermore, there aren't a lot of materials that can withstand a prolonged laser emission. Those that can't rapidly deform and become useless as reflective or refractive materials.

  34. easyk

    @ damage

    "What sort of damage are we talking about? Is there any scale for what level of damage 15Kw and 100Kw weapons would be capable of(first person to suggest 1d20 needs to get our more)?"

    In the lab we had a 4 watt (pulsed) 1550nm laser. If you left in on a target for a few seconds it would bun holes in paper. About equivalent to a 4 inch magnifying lense on a sunny day. Multiply by 375.

  35. Chris G

    Chrome plated tank

    Not much good on a battlefield but I'll have one if I can paint flames down the side and drag race it at Santa Pod.

    Half a megawatt is about 670 HP so a lot of tank engines already exceed that, using a purpose built vehicle with sufficient engine power and fuel cells , batteries or large scale capacitor discharge would make the thing do-able.

  36. CurtisB
    Paris Hilton


    You'd think they'd use FC with all that laser stuff around.

    Anyway, where do you buy these? The lighting and electrical area of B&Q or accessories in Halfords (alongside the chav neon lights and furry dice)?

    Paris? She'd know where to get her death rays...

  37. Allan Holmstadt

    a turbine generator could...

    ...produce 500kw in a relatively small package. Coincidentally, some tanks are already powered by turbines.

  38. Greg Trocchia

    What this might be like in the field

    First off, let's talk about the power plant. The AGT 1500 (the power plant used in the M1 Abrams) produces over twice the required power, 1,120 kW. It weighs in at a bit over a metric ton, 1,134 kg and takes up about 1.3 cubic meters of space (1.629 m long X 0.991m wide X 0.807m high). So even with the extra radiator capacity and the like that you would require for such a system, you shouldn't have any trouble fitting one into an AFV (Armored Fighting Vehicle). Indeed, instead of having two power plants in the AFV, you could just uprate the vehicle's power plant and use the excess to power the laser. In an M2 Bradley chassis, for instance, you could install a power plant with the output of the AGT 1500 and you could power the laser and still have remaining the 600 hp that the Bradley uses to propel itself. Since the laser will be replacing the main armament and ammo for that main armament, this seems quite doable.

    As to the kind of damage it would do, I made some assumptions about the system: that it would use a 1 micron wavelength beam (Northrup Grumman didn't specify the beam wavelength) and that these laser modules would feed into a set of steering optics 1 meter in diameter. Being a bit more pessimistic about beam quality than the spec sited at twice the diffraction limit you get a beam width of ~4.8mm (a little smaller than a NATO standard 5.56mm bullet) for a target 2km distant. I then plugged this beam diameter and the 100 kw beam power into the calculator provided at this site: which told me that this beam ought to chew through something on the order of 9cm of steel or 15cm of aluminum a second (the calculator assumes that the absorptivity=1, so these numbers might need downward adjustment for targets with a shiny surface).

    As an added bonus, the main page of the above site has a plausible-looking artists conception of such a vehicle mounted laser, albeit one mounted on a wheeled rather than tracked chassis and operating in the green part of the visible spectrum as opposed to an IR wavelength, as I had been assuming.

  39. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    @Greg Trocchia

    Oi... take you logic and go.... PPl here want to make wild assumptions about things they know very little about

  40. Dave Bell

    Look, it's NaNoWriMo...

    So I just have to ask.

    Is it any good against airships?

  41. Michael Chester

    @ Greg Trocchia

    So that would be about 10d4 + 10 then? (side note: seeing as the laser will probably do reasonably consistent damage, its better modelled by a large number of small dice (e.g. 5d4 = 5-20) than a small number of large dice (e.g. 1d20 = 1-20))

  42. Martin Usher
    IT Angle

    Can I have schools, health care, working infrastructure and stuff -- Please?

    This sort of thing irritates me because I'm a US taxpayer. We're paying big bucks to develop and use this junk when we're hurting with budget deficits and local shortfalls of cash.

    I don't want this kind of crap. Its amateurish, childish, stupid games for boys who never grew up that servers no useful purpose in our modern world.

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Damage (@ Mathew)

    Basic calculations:

    100 kW = 100000 Joules per second by definition.

    From the heat capacity of steel is 500 J/kG C

    So 100 kW will heat 1 kG steel 200 degree C in 1 second

    Say initial temperature is 20 Deg.C and Melting point of steel is 1400 (approx, depending on grade. Armour plate tends to be high in chromium, so the melting point may be higher)

    So 100 kW will take 6.9 seconds to melt 1kG of steel.

    Or 100 kW will melt 0.14 kG steel in one second.

    These calculations assume that all the energy is adsorbed by the steel, and neglect thermal loss by radiation or conduction, and that the laser stays in the same place. It also neglects changes in heat capacity, especially as the steel goes through transition at about 720 degrees. C.

  44. Lukin Brewer

    Re: lots.

    Hmmm... boxes that can link together to make a more powerful blast. Sounds like Zelda's cubes from "Terrahawks".

    Prisms? Smoke or fog will absorb the beam just as well.

    Plasma sounds sexy, but it is no use as a ranged weapon, and not much use in any other weapon capacity. It's basically a charged gas. Released into air, it will mix with the air molecules, discharge and dissipate. A jet of plasma is behaves pretty much like a blowtorch flame, except that it's much hotter, and the generating equipment much bulkier. You cannot make it squirt out like the burning petroleum from a military flamethrower, nor can you make it travel in a straight line like a laser. A plasma torch can cut through metal at close quarters, but a standard oxy-acetylene job is easier to tote around. Sorry.

    Cooling problems are going to depend on the maximum operating temperature. The old Maxim heavy machine guns were water-cooled. The water in the jackets didn't circulate, it boiled off. But if the water was kept topped up, they could be fired continuously for hours or even days. If that's no good, they can always help things along by evaporating liquefied gases.

  45. Steve Roper

    @ Matthew re: Damage

    1d20? Not quite, it's a little more complex than that...

    The 15kW version (Gnomish Felblaster) is a green item reward from a quest line that starts in Duskwood at level 22 and finishes in Stranglethorn Vale at level 30, that is soloable by any player. It has 21.2 base DPS and a +4 Agility bonus making it a good weapon for hunters in that level range, especially if you've got some decent instance blues to pump the DPS up a bit. In simple terms, that would allow you to 1-shot any mob up to about a level 10. You MIGHT be able to solo Ragefire Chasm with it, but not much else.

    The 100kW version (Sargeras' Demonic Blaster of Doom) is an epic item that has a 5% chance to drop from a boss in an endgame 25-man raid. It has a whopping 87.8 base DPS, and adds +16 Intellect, +12 Stamina, +20 crit rating, +50 attack power (with 12% chance to proc for +250 AP for 10 sec) and two gem slots; if gemmed well and equipped with the right T6 armour set, you could theoretically 1-shot any mob up to about level 50, or a 40 elite. With that you'd be able to easily solo Scholomance or Stratholme, or the Outland instances without much difficulty.

    Now who says I need to get out more? I travel hundreds of miles across Azeroth and Outland every day! ;)

  46. Peter Gold badge

    Not a mirror - a retroreflector!

    I think just trying to divert the beam will have your mirror cooked in microseconds - unless you use it ti take out the laser itself.

    I wonder if there is a retroreflector precise and stable enough to send the beam back where it came from, and I winder what would happen if you did..

  47. Gordon

    Indirect Fire

    Of course the big advantage projectives have over Lasers is that they can lob shots over obstacles and horizons.

    Not a major issue for Bradleys and the like but surely a disadvantage of a laser mounted on a n M1A1 compared to a conventional M1A1.

    I presume tank still provide indirect fire on occasions? F

  48. Dave


    The problem with a retro-reflector is not the alignment/precision, but the size - it has to be bigger than the target, and between the target and source: that is pretty difficult to do, even on a stationary object. The success would depend a great deal on the targetting method used: on an aircraft that is likely to be radar and/or laser, which may well be confused enough by your retro-reflector to avoid being hit in the first place. A tank is likely to stick with the largely optical sights that it already has, so the biggest danger is of blinding the gunner.

    On an object similar to a tank, the aim (as ever) is to make the armour thick enough to survive for long enough, not to be completely impenetrable. In this case, movement would help, as would returning fire, with a nice quick kinetic round, which requires only a second or so: try making your nice big glass lens able to survive any kind of tank round.

  49. Peter

    Made my Monday

    I think this is perhaps the best comment thread I've ever seen on el Reg.

  50. Robert Ramsay

    Sorry, but...

    I'm still laughing at "Blind mating interface panel"...

  51. tim
    Thumb Up

    weight of power pack

    Looks like with modern ultracapacitors you could get about .5mW for 1 second from an 84 kg bank (according to some wikipedia numbers). You could have several of those so you can pulse the laser several times, realistically 2 banks should be all you need (if the charge time is equal to the discharge time) in order to maintain more or less continuous operation using an adequate generator that you could draw that much power from continuously. More banks needed if you have less continuous power from your generator. Of course the heat these components would produce is certainly significant, so again, that's even more cooling overhead required.

  52. Anonymous Coward

    suitable test candidate.

    can we test it out on "baby p's" torturing sadistic step father , useless mother and their lodger ?

    (since they are even more hated than your average banker currently in the UK )

  53. Alan Jenney

    Pointing the right way...

    Cannot help feeling that the "laser exit port" is aimed directly towards the poor sod who's connecting up the cables and stuff. Most weapons have the "dangerous end" pointing away from whoever's servicing it.

    "Just tighten up the coolant pipe..."

    "Mmm, spanner seems to be in two pieces. Where's me hand?"

  54. Max_Normal

    @ Charles

    How about sticky backed plastic then?

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