back to article HELL-beam project now one step from jet-fighter raygun

US military boffinry chiefs have stated that they will shortly issue a brace of contracts for "refrigerator sized" laser blaster cannons. One of the deals will see a full-power ground prototype built which will be the final stage prior to America's first raygun-equipped jet fighter. The news comes in a pair of notices issued …


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  1. gollux
    Black Helicopters

    Next issue...

    HAZMAT suits to protect soldiers from all that smoking paint.

  2. Martin 6 Silver badge

    Refrigerator sized

    Remember this is an American refrigerator - so in imperial units about the size of Wales.

  3. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Black Helicopters

    All we need now

    is for a nice large un manned drone aircraft to fit it on, might I suggest some sort of twin lifting fans mounted either side of the main body with the weapon mounted in the rear and we'll be ready for when the evil mastermind unleases his AI program on the internet.

    At 3.42am, it becomes self-aware and.... well........ you can guess the rest

  4. Anonymous Coward

    9mm some other time

    The impact time of a 9mm bullet is microseconds, not seconds so we are talking about something that is still 6 orders of magnitudes away in terms of energy density. However, it will exceed another altogether "useful" threshold - the threshold of being able to instantaneously blind people. This is the energy threshold that causes nearly instantaneous retina detachment.

    A laser with that power can ensure that no low-tech miscreant can even have a look at a guarded target. Slave it off to a basic digital camera based motion detector, add some limiters so it does not turn around and start shooting your people by mistake, hook it up to a generator and voila - job done. Anyone trying to approach without special vision gear is guaranteed to be blind for the rest of their life. Perfectly fit for purpose for that one specific "problematic" country and costing _WAY_ less than running constant Predator cover or god forbid ground patrols.

  5. Gary F

    The silent battlefield

    If every soldier and vehicle get to carry one of these 'ray guns' then it would create a deadly silent battle field. The only sound would be men screaming as their limbs are sliced off or holes suddenly appear in their torso. No BANG and no ZAP sounds. It would make war films of the future very boring.

  6. Flocke Kroes Silver badge

    Battery powered laser sharks

    A next generation super efficient 150kW laser needs about 200kW of electrical power. The first jet fighter I found has a 300kW generator and needs 400kW to power all its electrical systems simultaneously. Finding an extra few hundred kilowatts near a powerful jet engine on a fighter aircraft is achievable, but could be a bit of a challenge on a shark. A 50kg 10kW output power laser could be powered by a 50kg lithium ion battery for about 30 hours. (A smaller battery cannot power a bigger laser for less time because a smaller battery has a lower maximum discharge rate). Still, 10kW is not to be sneezed at.

  7. Eddie Edwards

    Kool Aid

    I get the feeling from this article that Lewis thinks a 150kW laser can be put into "Pink Floyd" mode and project a lethal sheet of death into the sky.

    This of course spreads the laser's power over a very wide region, rather than focussing it on a specific target.

    You might want to wait for the 15,000kW laser first.

  8. Dave Bell

    Travelling hopefully

    I shall not be satisfied until DARPA issues a contract for an FGMP-15

  9. Neal 5

    Totally pointless.

    With one well directed mirror, the beam could be deflected to wreak untold havoc on the civilian population.

    Yet another totally unworkable idea, created by scientists, too wrapped up in their own hype, to actually remember the very basics of how a laser actually works.

    So now some old hag in Iran or North Korea, is going to redirect the beam with a makeup mirror from out of their handbag.$300 Trillion of wasted effort, undone by a 50 cent throwaway.

    Maybe DARPA needs to rethink this a little bit?

  10. Paul 129

    @Battery powered laser sharks.

    You miss the obvious upgrade, have jet powered sharks.

    Oh no a pool filled with sharks with lasers how namby pamby is that. If you want to be a feared evil genius you have to go that one stage better.

    Jet powered laser sharks now available at "Evil mad scientists ******" for a limited time only.

    *Victims sold separately

  11. Anonymous Coward

    All I want to know is, where's my fucking plasma rifle

    in the 40 Watt range?

  12. SilverWave

    Tinfoil and welding goggles?

    Sounds likes BS but interesting.

  13. Anonymous Coward

    @Neal 5

    Not true. For a start, you'd have to know where to put the mirror to reflect it. Secondly the laser wouldn't be firing long enough for you to move the mirror to where it's firing.

    Finally, a mirror would heat up and warp, distort and fracture with a 150kW beam. Especially a make-up mirror as they're usually covered in make-up.

    And before you try to counter points (1) and (2), chrome-plated or mirror-clad targets wouldn't work because of point (3).

  14. Michael Hoffmann
    Thumb Down

    @Nea 5

    I am sure you are waiting eagerly for DARPA to call in a panic ("OMG, why didn't we think of that?!") and offering you that bazillion dollar consulting contract to help those poor stupid fools.

    Meanwhile, the rest of us can google for a minute and find that the old "lasers easily defeated by mirrors" canard is just a wee bit outdated when it comes to the power of a fully armed and operational Battle-Fridge!

    Your poor old hag might have the wherewithal to watch her make up mirror be evaporated in a millisecond followed right afterwards by her hand disappearing.

    Personally, I wonder much more about how they intend to address required target precision, seeing as contrary to other anti-missile systems that can rely on explosion shrapnell to take down its target, a laser actually has to hit. But with the apparently near infinite ingenuity humans have when it comes to things that can kill, maim or blow up other humans, I'm sure they'll figure that one out too.

  15. TimeMaster T

    conter messure?

    Let see ...

    If a plane mounted unit fired on an incoming air-air missile it would, mostly, only be able to affect the nose cone since the missile would be coming directly at the plane.

    What if you put a high grade corner-mirror aka retro-reflector under the nose cone?

    The laser would burn off the nose cone and the reflector would send the beam back at the plane firing the laser. Since this would be a high grade optical mirror, the sort being used by the laser itself to direct the beam, the mirror might last long enough to f%^$ with the pilot or plane firing the beam, maybe.

    Feasible? I don't know, but I would not want to be piloting the plane this counter measure was tested against.

    Just an idea off the top of my head.

  16. Anonymous Coward

    tax money for nothing -

    shark fin soup for free

  17. John F***ing Stepp

    Well if a dog can spit bees. . .

    Actually one of the dandy things from the 60s; the inertial guidance system for the F4 was damn near the size of a refrigerator; I have to think that might be smaller now.

    And @Neal; that old hag has got to have Laser Ninja reflexes (which takes a while to learn.)

  18. exit...quit...bye...quitbye.ctrl-C..ctrlX.ctrl-alt-X...aarrrr*slam* Silver badge

    One word:


  19. Anton Ivanov

    Re: Totally pointless.

    Mirrors are not perfect. They absorb at least some energy. At this energy density the reflective surface on a normal mirror will be damaged almost instantly and the mirror will go on to disintegrate same as a perfect black surface.

  20. Martin 49

    Dr. Evil would be disgusted.

    Everybody knows the word "L A - S E R" should be in finger quotes.

  21. It wasnt me
    Thumb Down

    @ Neal 5

    You never know, maybe, just maybe, all those kW of laser enery will melt your 50c mirror rather than reflecting it.

    Im going to trust that DARPA might have thought of this.

  22. TeeCee Gold badge

    Fridge laser?

    Late after hours in DARPA:

    "You know how we jusht shent Ted for shome more beersh? Get thish <giggle>, I've shwapped the fridges around!!!"

    <suppressed giggling>

    <fridge door>



    <four blokes pissing themselves with laughter>

  23. Fred 1

    Ablative Armour

    The tip of my anti laser missile would be coated with ablative armour.

    When the laser hits it, it instantly vapourises into a layer of thick impenetrable smoke.

    Shark steaks anyone?

  24. Anonymous Coward

    @ AC 00:55

    Perhaps the burgeoning field of meta-materials could be used to thwart these dastardly ray-guns. At last a use for materials that deflect an extremely narrow bandwidth of light around an object!

    ... still ... the imparted heat load would be problematic. Freon cooled meta-material laser cloaking combat suit anyone?

  25. Anonymous Coward

    @Totally pointless

    Where can I acquire one of these 50 cent throwaway 'ideal' mirrors? On the planet I live on mirrors are not perfect and do not reflect 100% of incident energy. The non reflected energy striking one of these mirrors (lets use the term 'real' shall we?)... The non reflected energy striking a real mirror will heat the glass and reflective layer. This heat will further degrade the performance further increasing the heating and so on. The question is how fast this happens.

    What percentage of the muzzle energy in a 9mm bullet or 750 joule blast would be required to destroy the reflective layer on the back of a mirror? A pretty tiny fraction of 1% I'd guess. So it seems likely the mirror will fail within one blast but how much of the 750 joules of energy in LP's 5kg portable HELL-ray be safely reflected before the reflector broke down letting the remaining energy in the blast through? I rather suspect DARPA are in a better position to answer that question than you or I.

  26. Jon Double Nice

    @ Dave Bell

    FGMP woot! You beat me to it.

  27. Anonymous Coward

    E x M = E ??

    Muzzle exit energy can´t be directly translated to laser energy as far as deadliness is concerned.

    The bullet is deadly because of its mass and velocity the Laser for its energy. Laser beams has no mass and thus needs to have more energy to be equal to the bullet in impact energy.

    (to anyone complaining about spelling and so forth. Screw you I´m English)

  28. goggyturk

    @ Battery powered laser sharks

    Don't forget, this could be complemented by an external ram air turbine. I guess you could even have one pod to generate and another with the actual laser on a fighter-sized plane, but the propellor fscks up stealth.

    They've been used to supply supplementary power to underslung pods before (as well as planes that suffer engine failure).

    However, I think the intended carrier will be the B-2, which may be less of an issue - big bomb bays to carry more conventional generating kit. You could even fit a small nuclear reactor in there to power the thing.

  29. Rob
    Thumb Up


    My sharks are in training as I write this, although I don't think I want to attach turbines to them the RSPCA might want to get involved if I take it that far.

  30. Robert Hill


    Was there a specific point made about B-2s that I (genuinely missed) indicated they were to be the carriers? Because when I think B-2, all I can think of is a MASSIVELY expensive bit of kit that I would not want to have loitering around a conventional battlefield - too many chances for a SAM to get lucky (it does have a heat signature), possible enemy fighers, too many chances to break it's stealth with radar, etc. I agree that it is a VERY capable platform for laser arming...but I think it is still better in it's inteded role as strategic and high value target strike craft - get in undetected, hit, and get out fast. I just don't think that the laser platform is a perfect shield - even firing the beam will break stealth by emitting a huge heat bloom, wouldn't it?

  31. Martin 10


    "screw you" isnt a very English term.... surely the response should have been a more robust and direct 'Anglo-Saxon" curse?

  32. Gordon is not a Moron

    So if the Yanks get handheld versions WWIII will be

    10 US marines with laser guns vs 9 chinese soilders with assault rifles + 1 with a smoke machine on his back.

    I know who my money is on.

  33. The First Dave

    @It wasnt me etc.

    If DARPA _really_ knew what they were doing about everything, they wouldn't need to spend billions of dollars on asking outside companies to investigate things for them.

    Anyway, the last time I checked, lasers themselves are rather dependant on high-quality optics for their function. Now, lets suppose for a second that I threw two missiles in the general direction of this fridge. It fires at the first, marking its position accurately for the second one. The retro-reflector on the first missile reflects 1% of the beam back where it came from, before being destroyed. What will that 1% do to the original fridge? Will it be 'armoured' in some way to defend itself against its own beam? How?

  34. goggyturk

    @ Robert Hill

    I'm just going on what I read on other sites. Apparently the entire laser system will be designed to be fitted into one bomb bay of a B-2 - no doubt with conventional ordinance in the other.

    I guess this wouldn't be for a threat intensive environment as you say - opening the bomb bay doors also breaks the stealth, plus the Russians have developed ESM / radar systems that are (probably) able to detect it, under certain conditions.

    It is quite ironic that the B-2 is being thought of in this kind of tactical role, while the F-22 is often thought of in more strategic terms as a mini-AWACS / ISR thing. Almost like a return to the Vietnam B-52 / F-105 situation.

    Mind, if I was a grunt, I wouldn't mind one of those cruising 40,000 ft above me, shooting down missiles, detonating IEDs and whatever else.

    I'll get me coat now, it's been a long day...

  35. Shadowdoc

    Not necessarily for the B-2

    Much better application on the F-22 or F-35, especially for air-to-air engagements replacing the 20mm cannon. Longer range, no need for deflection shooting and firing time for destruction of the target is probably equivalent. If you look at the size of the cannon plus the ammo container, that's probably refrigerator-sized in volume if not shape.

    Not only that, but you don't have to worry about housing ammo that can explode on places like an aircraft carrier, and a 150KW laser that fits where an M61 Vulcan fits will also be substitutable for the 20mm cannon on the Phalanx CIWS, with the same advantages -- more range, less to compute. Part of the problem with using the Phalanx as a counter-artillery or counter-mortar platform is that you're throwing a lot more into the air than is coming down, and all of it may be falling on civilian areas. With the L-CIWS, you're not doing anything other than detonating the incoming round, which makes for less of a problem. If this is feasible, I wouldn't be surprised to see the Israelis buy a few for their borders. Launch all the Katyushas you want, as long as they have diesel for their generators or connection to the grid, it's going to be hard to get through.

    The anti-laser missiles are going to be rather tough to engineer. Metamaterials aren't necessarily aerodynamic, and every missile that has to carry an ablative coating is that much heavier. You can spin the missile and cause the laser to fire longer to generate enough heat on a given spot to cause structural failure, but that only delays, not defeats the blowtorch that appears on the side of your missile airframe.

    If you consider that the F-22 and F-35 are pretty stealthy, shooting missiles at them isn't a real bright idea in the first place.

    Air targets are the ideal target because for things to fly they have to be light. Tanks can be as heavy as the ground supporting them will bear, and can have aerosol and ablative countermeasures -- along with their own lasers.

  36. goggyturk


    Just noticed that it's the B-1 bomb bay this thing is being engineered for. This makes more sense than putting it in the B-2 as they are indeed higher value targets.

    Yes Shadowdoc, I accept all your points. The only problem at the moment is that there isn't enough internal room on an F-22 or F-35 to fit it inside, hence you would have to carry it on an external pod, ruining the stealth on both of these planes.

    Let's put that argument on its head and say the Russians develop such a pod for the Su-35K - or the Europeans fit it to Eurofighter. In an engagement F-22 launches its missiles and becomes visible to radar when the missile bay door opens and IR (PIRATE sensor or whatever) because of the missile plume. Because of advanced fusion of sensors, the non-stealth has a cue for a shot at the F-22 using the laser that has a pretty good chance of hitting, plus the non-stealth missile (AIM-9/120) could easily be shot down by the laser as well.

    Btw, these planes still have an IR signature, as well as a small radar one. Missiles can still be used against them, but you have to get a lot closer to make the shot count...

  37. Douglas Fingles

    B-52s Would be better...

    The B-52 has hard points inboard of the 3/4 and 5/6 engine pods that could easily handle a 750Kg, refrigerator-sized, death-dealing, 150Kw LASER. I've heard that it is about 20% efficient, meaning you'd need a 750Kw generator. Now the AF has just ordered a boatload of 800Kw generators, squeeze it down to fit inside a bomb bay, one for each weapon, pipe in JP-5 from the humongous fuel reserves (and It's in-flight refuelable so no worries about running out of gas), and voila! I present you with the LASER-Mega-Fortress. Probably have to re-designate it as the B-52L.

    With two lasers on board, the crew would have the ability to tackle multiple targets, or be really nasty and slice/dice together. Put one over an inbound armada and you've got protection from SAMs, enemy aircraft, etc. Put a couple ground-based versions around a military outpost with clear fields of fire and you've got protection from mortars, rockets, cruise missiles, probably even dumb bombs (given enough time to burn through a casing).

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