back to article DARPA orders 'fridge-sized' laser energy cannon

American weaponry researchers have awarded a $21m contract for the design and development of a 150-kilowatt energy weapon, high-powered enough to blast missiles out of the sky yet light enough to be carried by a jet fighter. The cash-in the newly-inked deal goes to Textron Defence Systems, who will in return "fabricate and …


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  1. Chris Thomas
    Thumb Up

    Told you so

    said so in a previous comment to the ABL article that the aim of the ABL is not to build 747 based weapons, but to improve on the tech so to reduce the size and fit into fighter aircraft.

    try dodging a laser beam hitting your fusilage, you'll wish for the days of missles when one of those beams hits the cockpit, or even better, the fuel tanks of your SU-27

  2. Jon H

    Why stop at anti-missile?

    If they're going to put them in jet fighters, they may as well be used in air to air dog fights against other planes. How much does a firing of this laser cost compared to a single air to air missile?

    And I suppose there's no reason why the laser couldn't be used on various ground targets too? Cars, tanks, factories.... people?

  3. Martin Lyne


    they just want to shrink the MTHEL then?

  4. Jon Double Nice

    And as an added bonus

    If the US got invaded by aliens, like in Independence Day, they could just fly the raygun planes upside down, so that the lasers pointed out into space.

  5. Kenneth Chan

    Fridge Size Laser?

    This begs the Question:

    Honey, Where do I plug in the New Fridge?

  6. Stu
    Thumb Up

    I is liking it

    Yes, cool tech!

    I cant remember the name of that quite chunky fighter aircraft that essentially has a front mounted minigun. Well rip that heavy lead chugging beastie off that aircraft, and fit this fricking laserbeam weapon to it, probably better fitting it to something like this than your typical F15, as its going to be very heavy.

    The other coo thing is that its likely you don't actually need to point the laser at your target by pointing the aircraft. More likely a computer will highlight designated targets in line of sight and potentially zap em all in one go by redirecting the beam off a mirror. Knock a whole squadron out the sky before they can even get in range to use an AIM missile!


  7. Secretgeek

    Obvious flaw.

    Fridges aren't particularly aerodynamic.

    I'll get my coat.

  8. Graham Marsden

    Can I just be the first to say...

    ... I want one that's frickin' shark's head size!

  9. Dave Jones Silver badge

    Self immolation

    Given how inefficient lasers are, it's going to be fun how they figure out what to do with the 500+ kW of waste heat at the source.... Goodbye, enemy missi......oops.

  10. Fluffykins

    i still don't know

    How you set a laser printer to "stun"

  11. Anonymous Coward

    Frickin' sharks with frickin' laser beams

    That last paragraph had me chortling for a good few minutes

  12. Charles Silver badge

    If you can do an airborne laser...

    Then that begs the question: what about a GROUND-borne laser? The article mentions such a tactical airborne laser being able to shoot down an anti-aircraft missile. But what if the shoe's on the other foot, and the jet is targeted by an anti-aircraft LASER? Undoubtedly, it'd be capable of a power output superior to anything possible on a mobile base, and I would think hitting a moving target is about at tricky as hitting a stationary target while moving, and both are mitigated because a laser moves at the speed of light and is not affected by the wind.

  13. Adam Foxton

    @Dave Jones

    At several hundred miles per hour, I'd guess Air cooling would be a practical proposition.

    Unlike strapping Curry's finest kelvin-nicker to the wing of a Raptor and expecting it to fly...

  14. Stuart Van Onselen

    @Stu (cool name, btw.)

    "[T]hat quite chunky fighter aircraft" you're thinking of is probably the US A10, aka The Warthog.

    Just two niggles: It's not a mini-gun. I think the term "mini-gun" refers only to Gatling guns under 20mm, and usually "just" 7.62mm. The A10's weapon is a terrifying 30mm!

    Secondly, it's not so much a plane with a nose-mounted gun as it is a gun with a breech-mounted airplane! :-)

  15. radian


    Isn't that what Phorm delivers?

  16. Graham Marsden


    The plane you're thinking of is the A-10 Thunderbolt, better known as the "Warthog", essentially it's a 30mm cannon with a plane built around it!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Paris Hilton


    You mean the Fairchild A-10(a)? Thing that has a bloody great big cannon in it? It's a close support craft, not a fighter, but yeah, it can rip the front armour off a main battle tank. Can't fire for more than a couple of seconds at a pop, or it stalls and drops out of the air, either.

    Oddly, the A-!0 is very old tech, much loved by pilots (argh, typed "pirates" twice there), as it actually uses mechanical control rather than "fly by wire" - cables and levers to move the control surfaces. It apparently has a very nice feel to fly. Can't say I've ever flown one myself, but there you go.

    The A-10 flies quite low and slow, and it's a beast. I guess a power plant could go where the huge magazine for the cannon lives. Fricken laser beams on such an old plane could be pretty amusing.

  18. mr.K
    Paris Hilton

    How many cubic furlongs?

    How many fridges goes into a cubic furlong? I get confused with these non standard measurements, and where is the link to cash 'n carrion for the T-Shirt with sharks armed with friggin laser?

    And what the frell is the Paris Hilton angel?

  19. Anton Ivanov
    Black Helicopters

    Re:Told you so

    Dodgin'? If the enemy is not blinded in the first tens of a second - not a problem actually. I would not expect anything fighter based to be tourette mounted. There is not enough tolerance in the aerodynamic envelope of a modern fighter jet to add the ugly blob that sits on the front of a B747-ABL to direct the beam. So we are probably looking at the fire-control system coupled with the autopilot and the pilot pushing a button and praying for 30 seconds while the autopilot aims the whole fighter at the target and keeps it that way. During those 30+ seconds this fighter is one BIG SITTING DUCK. Yeah, it may take out one Su27 this way. The remaining units in the "enemy" wing will pulverise it into atoms.

    There is a fundamental contradiction in "in-atmosphere" laser weapons for anything different from creating a discharge channel to zap something with a few MVolt. The higher the power, the more likely that the air will ionise. The moment the air ionises in the beam path, the beam becomes useless. A beam capable of damaging a fighter jet in less than 1 second simply cannot exist and 30 seconds in air-to-air combat is simply unrealistic.

    Lasers are not the answer. They are the question and the answer is NO. Masers and "smart" kinetic weapons are much more promising routes for future weapons.

  20. Warhelmet


    'nough said.

  21. Joe Cooper

    A-10 stalls

    "Can't fire for more than a couple of seconds at a pop, or it stalls and drops out of the air, either."

    That's actually a myth.

    "probably better fitting it to something like this than your typical F15, as its going to be very heavy"

    An F-15 can lift a LOT more than an A-10. The F-15 is _monsterously_ powerful.

    The F-15E strike eagle happily lifts more bombs longer distances than the A-10.

    That said, 750 kilos isn't THAT heavy compared to the weaponry any of these jets normally carry. An F-15 could carry over 10 of these things if you could find a place to stick them.

  22. BioTube


    The term is "rotary cannon" - an automatic Gatling gun, essentially.

  23. TeeCee Gold badge

    Practical joke potential.

    (Scene: A hanger in the future on a quiet day)

    Tea? Sure, just get the milk. It's in the fridge over there......



  24. Anonymous Coward

    150kW, but for how long?

    So the peak power output of this thing is 150kW. Marvellous.

    How long can it do 150kW for? It won't be very long, unless there's also a large heavy supply of raw materials outside the fridge. As already noted, there's also the small problem of waste heat to get rid of too. Not a problem for a quick flash, but if you want sustained death ray output... If the pulse is not very long, say a few ms, then the thermal effects of the death ray on the target may well be minimal, once any water droplets (er cloud, y'know) between laser and target have been boiled away. The energy emitted in 5 ms at 150kw is the same as 5s at 150W. How much damage can you do with a 150W light bulb (or three car headlamps) close up for 5 seconds? OK hopefully it'll go for more than 5ms, but you get the idea...

    Flame icon, 'cos there's no way this laser's causing flames on its target unless the target is specially prepared (and Boeing Lockheed Raytheon etc would never cheat in tests just to get their contracts extended, would they).

  25. ratfox

    Can't fire for more than a couple of seconds

    The actual reason for not firing longer is that it is out of ammo after less than 20 seconds...

    1,174 rounds in the drum; 3,900 rounds per minute.

  26. Mark Grady

    Pseronally I'd want ...

    ... a laser sized fridge.

    Mmmmm - beer ...

  27. Colin

    @Anton Ivanov

    "tourette mounted" ! so it attacks the enemy not only with the laser but also with bad language then ?

  28. James

    @ Ratfox

    Doesnt the F-22 run out of ammo for its machine gun in something stupid like a few seconds? or was that a wikimyth :)

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