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The Military Technology

Air Force Looks To Laser-Proof Its Weapons 347

Posted by samzenpus
from the have-you-ever-heard-of-a-mirror dept.
slugo writes "This wired.com article has probably the coolest laser destruction video you have ever seen. The video shows the Israeli and US Air Force working on laser defense systems. The US Air Force is starting to look for ways to laser-proof its bombs and missiles — with spray-on coatings, no less. They think everyone is going to figure this laser thing out sometime and need a defense against what they are already very good at — shooting things out of the sky with a laser."
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Air Force Looks To Laser-Proof Its Weapons

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  • by JeremyBanks (1036532) <jeremy@jeremybanks.ca> on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:06PM (#24411487)
    Cover everything in mirrors.
    • Not so obvious... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Firethorn (177587) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:10PM (#24411503) Homepage Journal

      Doesn't necessarily work as well as it does in scifi. Mirrors aren't perfect, and tend to gather things like dust, which reduce their efficiency even more. Not to mention different mirrors vary in their effectiveness with different spectrum lasers.

      Shouldn't matter much, but at the high powers weaponized lasers operate at, they quickly destroy mirrors.

      As for working on anti-laser stuff, well, it's best to keep three steps ahead militarily wise - tends to keep your casualties down.

      • by khasim (1285) <brandioch.conner@gmail.com> on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:26PM (#24411605)

        The problems with lasers is that the need to punch through the armour in the time they can stay on target.

        #1. Spin them. If the laser cannot hit the same spot for X fragments of a second then it cannot burn through (unless you get a bigger laser).

        #2. For when the enemy gets a bigger laser, you coat the missile in a nice insulator. Something like carbon.

        So now the laser has to punch through the carbon armour before the missile rotates new armour into sight.

        • by davester666 (731373) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:57PM (#24411825) Journal

          Instead of carbon, how about that magical substance known as: Tin Foil.

          If it's good enough to stop the beams entering my head, it should be good enough to stop the beams from entering missiles!

        • by rtb61 (674572) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @10:06PM (#24411871) Homepage
          Time to stop thinking of lasers as light and start thinking of them as particle cannons. So it all depends on the type of particle you a firing at the target, whether it passes right through the armour to target the components you a particularly after, or even if it actively targets the armour as part of the destructive affect.

          It is all about how much energy you want to get on target, the nature of that energy and the affect you wish to achieve.

          So, minimal amount of energy solution, target CPUs and get all the 0s to be 1s and those smart weapons go stupid and don't target targeting anything ;D.

          • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @10:30PM (#24411987)

            target CPUs and get all the 0s to be 1s and those smart weapons go stupid and don't target targeting anything

            I see they got to yours already.

        • by MachDelta (704883)
          Um, someone correct me if i'm mistaken, but don't most artillery shells and rockets already spin rapidly for stability?
          • by budgenator (254554) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:14PM (#24412207) Journal

            yup the 81MM mortar is a smoothebore but it's round has fins at the base that are canted so the projo spins in flight. 81's are slow too, after you drop one down the tube you can look up and see the round about 100m down range and watch it going until after it's a little past it's max ordinate and it disappears. Howitzers have a rifled barrel so the round spins. All artillery rounds that I know of have a fuse that doesn't arm until the round has spun so many times, this prevents most barrel bursts. Shooting one 81 doesn't impress me, shooting 3 fired in a ripple that's getting interesting; shoot down 3 fired at the same time I'm impressed, but remember real world is going to be somebody see all the loud IR energy pointing at the laser source and they are likely to answer with 3 81mm;s in flight, backed up by three salvos of 3 60mm mortars all taking the high trajectory while 6 more 155mm howitzer rounds are coming in low and fast.

            • As effective as that strategy may be, it does raise the cost of the mission quite a bit.
              With any luck, it will keep the US gov't from wiping entire villages on the cheap 'just to be sure' and moving on to precision strikes.

              The US has the means to fight a quick and precise war with very little collateral damage (laser/GPS guided precision weaponry).
              They just prefer to use (cheap) unguided weapons, which might miss a bit but makes up for it with a bigger bang.

              • by Firethorn (177587) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @08:16AM (#24415279) Homepage Journal

                As effective as that strategy may be, it does raise the cost of the mission quite a bit.
                With any luck, it will keep the US gov't from wiping entire villages on the cheap 'just to be sure' and moving on to precision strikes.

                Are you talking about enemy forces using laser weapons against US ones? Because if so one valid solution would be saturation - you can only shoot down so many bombs/rockets/morters.

                So having an effective anti-munition laser is probably going to encourage saturation attacks - with the attendant misses, whether by failed guidance, poor aim, and munitions still armed that lose guidance due to the laser.

                They just prefer to use (cheap) unguided weapons, which might miss a bit but makes up for it with a bigger bang.

                Uh, no. We use the guided stuff all the time, matter of fact I believe that the majority of the bombs we drop today a precision guided. The guidance system doesn't always work, but we try. Even our dumb bombs are dropped on a rather precise basis today.

                As for bigger bang - even the MOAB is technically guided, the difference between a 'dumb' unguided bomb and a guided one is simply the addition of a guidance package.

                And, quite frequently, the guidance package costs more than the bomb.

                Laser defenses work better against opponents with relatively limited assets - palestinians, for example, can only get ahold of so many rockets. They currently choose to mostly stutter them out, producing a more or less constant presence, effect on israeli morale. The damage to life/infrastructure is actually pretty insignificant. The same deal with insurgents/terrorists in Iraq/Afghanistan.

                With some laser systems, a soletary rocket becomes a non-issue, even three-six might be handled by a single laser depending on the laser's attributes. So they'd have to switch to mass attacks. Morters and rockets don't need expensive, hard to hide tubes like artillery does, so that's handlable, but having to warehouse rockets until you get enough to penetrate the laser defenses in a meaningful way hurts in a number of ways.

                First would be that both Isreal and US Forces have active intel agencies - the stockpile of rockets is more likely to be found and subsequently bombed or otherwise eliminated. This results in NO rocket attacks(bad for them). Second would be that many of these rockets are built on the cheap - their stability isn't the best, so stockpiling them for an effective attack increases the chance of an accident, again costing the terrorists/insurgents casualties and supplies. Third would be that while a trickle of rockets damages morale, it doesn't generally get Isreal or US Forces on the warpath. An attack of a couple hundred after no attacks for months might. By warpath I don't mean a flyby attack with a fighter or chopper. I'm talking about ground assault, massive retaliation.

                • I was referring to the US having to fire 6 mortars instead of one, just to hit the target.

                  Apparently, I have been out of the loop for quite a while.

                  Last time I spoke someone 'from the field'(former marine), the US still had the tendency to 'soften up' hard targets.
                  (Not quite Geneva-endorsed, remember the surfing scene from Apocalypse now?)

                  Also, in the news, you see attacks where the US blew up the entire village,
                  just to blow up someone's house.
                  And he wasn't even home.

                  Apparently, the darn things are actually

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by DaveAtFraud (460127)

          As a guess, the artillery round was spinning as was at least one of the rockets engaged (visible in the video). Any sort of insulator means taking out either shell casing or explosive or both. Tends to make the round less lethal and may also mess with the ballistics. The other guy has to do this to all of his rounds since he doesn't know which ones will be engaged by a laser defense. So you end up making the other guy let's say 25% less effective everywhere because you have a laser defense at a few plac

      • Re:Not so obvious... (Score:5, Interesting)

        by v1 (525388) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:29PM (#24411623) Homepage Journal

        a simple chrome coating can add a few seconds of protection for a shell, enough to prevent it from being destroyed before it reaches its target. Mirrors are vulnerable because the reflective surface is usually very thin and poorly heat-protected. Chrome a shell and the shell serves as a heat sink to dissipate most of the energy the chrome actually ends up absorbing in the first place. Chrome's a lot hardier than a few microns of silvering.

        The lasers weren't blowing holes in the shells, they were cooking them. They aren't nearly as devastating as you might at first believe. Several of their demos required several seconds to detonate the incoming round. If you can buy another 3 seconds of time on a shell, that's probably enough to beat the laser. You only have to survive the heat from the time you are acquired to the time you pass out of view of the laser.

        I'm more interested in how they are generating that much laser energy. Most lasers of that calibre are chemical, and I didn't see what I would expect of a chemical laser. Being able to engage several targets one after another rapidly is a big plus over traditional chemical lasers, which require large amounts of chemicals which have to be pumped in, triggered, and vented to be replaced with more chemicals to fire again. The large flying laser beds work this way and I don't even know if they can fire more than once without landing and refueling with more chemicals. (though they are certainly more powerful than the one demo'd here)

        They also demo this in the desert every time I see it. No clouds, low humidity, line of sight. Guess what laser weapons don't do well in?

        • by Prune (557140) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:38PM (#24411701)
          This is a deuterium fluoride chemical laser. Indeed, in one of the infrared segments you can see the heated exhaust behind the unit.
        • Re:Not so obvious... (Score:5, Informative)

          by Firethorn (177587) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:48PM (#24411769) Homepage Journal

          Last time I saw a specification for the laser mounted in a modified 747, it had 30 seconds of firing capacity, and was capable of being turned on and off at will.

          That 30 seconds was considered sufficient to engage something like 5-15 targets.

        • by DougF (1117261) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @10:10PM (#24411893)
          of chrome would probably rule out using it as a coating/shield. Its tough enough getting EPA approval to use chromium coatings on stuff that isn't going to go BOOM (such as bearings/anti-corrosive coatings, etc), let alone a proposal that says "We'd like to put chrome on artillery rounds so there are lots of opportunities to leach into water supplies, cause cancer, etc."
          • by smidget2k4 (847334) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @10:32PM (#24411993)
            See depleted uranium bullets.
            • In other words, only use it where you shit but not where you eat.

              • by kitgerrits (1034262) * on Thursday July 31, 2008 @02:18AM (#24413161)

                In other words, only use it where you shit but not where you eat.

                Do any American troops ever consider the fact that people might be LIVING in that regions after the war ends?
                (That is what you are fighting for, isn't it, the right to live?)

                This is one of the reasons the US is not welcomed with open arms when they're coming to liberate a country.

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  by Opportunist (166417)

                  Imagine this: You have a culture. Let's say, a western culture. You grew up with that culture and for some odd reason, you think it's good. Sure, it ain't perfect, but hey, what is? You have your believes, which may or may not include some sort of God, you have your financial and commercial system which you consider ok, if not good, and you have your country which you consider the best on this planet by default.

                  Now someone comes in and says that everything you do is wrong. You're forced to work for The Man

        • Re:Not so obvious... (Score:4, Informative)

          by Brain_Recall (868040) <{brain_recall} {at} {yahoo.com}> on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @10:17PM (#24411937)
          Chrome might help with lasers, but it'll decrease other factors such as stealth, both visual and radar. Older fighters (think P-51 Mustang or B-29 Superfortress) often went out with polished aluminum skins. Later generations opted to increase the weight by adding paint, so that they could get additional visual camouflage both when on the ground and in the sky (depending on where they were being deployed they would go with different color schemes, though lately the services prefer the general-all-around-good patchy-gray). I'm no specialist, but I also imagine a chrome/polished surface isn't the best radar absorbent material available.
          • Most weapons (bombs and missiles) aren't really 'stealthy' to begin with. The bulk of bombs and missiles currently in wide spread use are based on physical designs that are decades old. They may have been upgraded (new warheads, new motors, new seekers, new guidance, whatever), but the physical setup is the same. As a result, they were never designed with stealth in mind. Making them chrome isn't really going to hurt.

            Stealthy weapons (actually stealthy weapons) shouldn't be tracked in the first place.
            • Today's laser systems all use radar to detect and track targets, so perhaps the best defense against lasers is the best defense against radars.
        • Re:Not so obvious... (Score:4, Informative)

          by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @10:41PM (#24412053) Journal
          No clouds, low humidity, line of sight. Guess what laser weapons don't do well in?
          Yeah, our DOD ppl just can not think for themselves. Thank God we have you to point out the screw ups that we make. Or, you can think that perhaps not all is a fake:
          Very quickly, deuterium was dropped in favor of hydrogen, since it is far less costly and more readily available. However, later it was realized that HF produces infrared radiation in the 2.6 to 3.1 m waveband, a region of the spectrum absorbed by water vapor in the atmosphere. Interest was renewed in DF, which produces radiation in the 3.7 to 4.2 m band, which passes easily through the atmosphere. [wikipedia.org]
          THough to be fair, we still need a line of sight. Of course, that could be bounced off a sat.
          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by KDR_11k (778916)

            Bounced off a sat? How would you do that? You can't reflect this laser because it melts your mirror and it would be even worse if you could (just put the same material on the projectile).

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by budgenator (254554)

          phenolic resins are pretty heat resistant or maybe something that breaks down endothermicly when irradiated with IR.

        • by Animats (122034)

          As someone else mentioned, it's a deuterium fluoride chemical laser. It's the Tactical High Energy Laser [wikipedia.org] demo system from 2000 mounted on three semitrailer-sized trucks. It isn't a fieldable system; it's just a semi-mobile demo unit.

          Israel has considerable interest in this thing, because they have fixed locations to defend against hostile neighbors who use unguided rockets, and they're in a desert with clear air. So they have the special case where this is a useful technology. The US military isn't that

        • a simple chrome coating can add a few seconds of protection for a shell, enough to prevent it from being destroyed before it reaches its target.

          Any chrome or metal coating added to a missile or shell that is designed to increase reflectivity, will (very likely) increase the radar reflectivity of the object. That may have the unintended consequence of making the object more susceptible to standard intercept missiles which use radar guidance. It will be difficult to defend against both defensive possibilities

        • Guess what laser weapons don't do well in?

          Outer Space? [wikipedia.org]

        • Keep in mind that, as you makr your weapons more reflective, they are also more likely to show up on radar/lidar systems, making them easier to track.
          Maybe they should consider making the rounds harder to track in the first place?

    • by Biff Stu (654099) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:11PM (#24411511)

      That's why you need sharks to go with your lasers. You think you can defend yourself with mirrors, do you? Don't you know that sharks like to eat shiny things?

    • by oldspewey (1303305) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:35PM (#24411673)

      Cover everything in mirrors.

      ... preferably shaped like a disco ball, and also incorporating a loudspeaker system that plays a continuous loop of The Trampps "Burn baby burn, disco inferno"

    • by Anpheus (908711)

      Why mirrors. Why not something that's retroreflective? I mean, if you can put 1% of your energy back on laser, and it looks like the laser and the sensor are part of the same piece, you could saturate the detector.

      Your first missile, whatever, might end up destroyed, but you might succeed in blowing the CCD chips in the sensors.

    • by jo42 (227475)

      Sparkles man, just sprinkle with sparkles and faerie dust.

  • weaponized bling. Jay-Z will be one of our biggest defense contractors.
  • by Chairboy (88841) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:16PM (#24411541) Homepage

    1. Buy all the Krylon 'Chrome' spray paint.
    2. Relabel it and sell it to the government as 'Anti-Laser Shielding'.
    3. Profit!

    Ha ha h- wait... there's a step #2. There's never a step #2. wtf

  • by Brain Damaged Bogan (1006835) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:17PM (#24411553)
    my sharks-with-freaking-laser-beams missile defense is useless now
  • Because, last I checked, they could only shoot things out of the sky with a laser when the trajectory, speed, etc was known. Otherwise, it was impossible to get the laser aligned to hit the very fast moving object quick enough.

    • by elnico (1290430)

      From the video in the article, it seems that the laser was acquiring targets all on its own. It could have been clever editing, but the thing looked like it was working quite well.

      I'm not all that surprised, either; it's been quite a while since laser defense was in the public's attention. Plenty of time for technology to advance.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Prune (557140)
        It's been able to track on its own since around 2001 or 2002. This is mentioned on one of the wikipedia pages.
  • We need to do this to our torpedos or we'll still be vulnerable to Dr. Evil's sharks.
  • by doublee3 (1276070) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:33PM (#24411663)
    Judging from the video it seems to be able to shoot blow up 9-10 mortars per minute. But a quick google search showed that the M224 60mm Light Mortar can fire at 8-20 mortars per minute indefinitely or 18-30 mortars per minute for 1-4 minutes. Seems like you'd need a lot of these lasers to make an area 100% protected from mortars.
    • Three words:

      Counter

      Battery

      Fire

      :)
      • by Dun Malg (230075) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:03PM (#24412143) Homepage

        Three words: Counter Battery Fire :)

        Heh. Reminds me of a story about a sort of makeshift counterbattery fire someone once told me. Small Lebanese army military camp in Lebanon during the civil war, and every afternoon they'd go outside and play volleyball. Local shia militia jerks noticed the pattern and started dropping mortar rounds in the middle of their volleyball game every day. Immediate patrols trying to find them turned up nothing, as the shia militia jerks simply drop a few rounds, picked up the mortar tube, kicked sand over the base plate, and ran. Tiring of this, the Lebanese army guys measured the angle of the holes at the bottom of the impact craters made by the fuse assemblies being blown into the ground and used trigonometry to figure out where the rounds probably came from--- about a quarter mile away. Based on the size of the rounds, they knew the shias weren't taking the heavy base plate with them when they ran. They went out there in the middle of the night and, sure enough, right where they calculated, they found the mortar base plate. They picked it up, buried a big antitank mine underneath, and carefully concealed the plate just as they found it. Next day, they went out to play volleyball. Five minutes into the game, they head a loud explosion from the direction where the plate was. No mortar rounds ever interrupted their game after that.

        • by Anpheus (908711)

          Thanks for giving me a great way of explaining how trigonometry could be useful to people in high school.

          In case you ever want to find out where that stray mortar fire is coming from, trust your friend trigonometry!

        • But for the whole implausibility factor. I mean, I can only suspend my disbelief so far:

          "the Lebanese army guys measured the angle of the holes at the bottom of the impact craters made by the fuse assemblies being blown into the ground"

          Yeah. Granted if your calculations are thrown off my five degrees by something irregular -- say, I don't know, an explosion -- you get garbage data which broadens your "X marks the spot" to a few square miles, which is about what you could have guessed given that the shells

    • If the mortar crew wants to live, they can't fire a lot of rounds. Radar can pick up the mortars, calculate launch location, and assign counterbattery fire (like dropping 6 inch shells) within seconds (say 10 seconds). Say the mortars are 5km away from the counterbattery battery. Maybe another 20 seconds.

      Also, multiple lasers are a given I think.
    • by greyhueofdoubt (1159527) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @10:56PM (#24412113) Homepage Journal

      We already have this. It's called the Phalanx sometimes, or just CIWS (close in weapons system). It features a 20 mm vulcan cannon, multiple radars, autonomous operation, and on top of that it can track multiple (dozens) incoming targets as well as its own outgoing projectiles. They can also network together to form a basewide protective shield. They are loaded with a tracer every 20 or 30 rounds and at night the bullet stream looks like the world's most powerful and accurate garden hose- one continuous stream of projectiles. The sound and feeling even from 200 yards is something you'll never forget, especially after you clean your pants the first time they fire without warning. Watching 5 of them fire in synch during a test is awe-inspiring (in good and bad ways, I guess).

      Yeah, lasers, great... But in a deployed area, the CIWS provides early warning and interception of incoming mortars and missiles and doesn't require anything more than a generator and a full magazine. Someday lasers might provide an even better shield but until then we could use a few more CIWS in the field.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgpQBZF2sZQ [youtube.com]

      You should watch that video- dove or hawk, any geek has to admit that the phalanx is one bad ass mutha.

      -b

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by im_thatoneguy (819432)

        I can see one huge advantage however to a laser based system:

        1) It can be deployed in heavily populated areas without fear of killing an entire village down range.

        If that minigun drops below 45* wouldn't it become a lethal weapon to all parties who happen to be down wind? Those .50 caliber rounds aren't light.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Shihar (153932)

      Eh, if you can turn 15 mortars into 5, if have done yourself pretty good. On top of that, realize that the longer you fire mortars (especially against Americans or Israelis), the far more likely an artillery shell is going to come your way. Every time you toss up a mortar, a radar station is tracking it. The Israelis have gotten so good at it, that they can practically return fire before the rocket/mortar has hit the ground. These days, the only way Hamas and the like can take a pop shot across the bor

    • by TheLink (130905)
      It's still useful.

      The enemy has to get many shots in the air at once (nearly), they can't just stay in one spot and keep pounding away - someone will be blasting at them soon.

      Unless they also have one of these devices AND they've managed to get it to not shoot outgoing mortars, whilst shooting the incoming ones. Then it could get interesting - if your laser leaves, your artillery gets hit, but if the laser doesn't leave, eventually there may be too many mortars heading for the laser and it gets hit. So it's
  • The answer is mirv (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moteyalpha (1228680) * on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:36PM (#24411681) Homepage Journal
    mirv already exists and so does flack. You can't hit what you don't know is a target. There are always limits to energy per unit time per unit area and since we are already 10 trillion dollars in debt destroying things, perhaps that money would be better spent on a plan to grow some crops to eat.
    • by Dun Malg (230075) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @11:05PM (#24412149) Homepage

      perhaps that money would be better spent on a plan to grow some crops to eat.

      We already grow enough crops. Hunger is a politically created distribution problem, not a problem of lack of food.

      • Yawn (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Chuck Chunder (21021)

        We already grow enough crops. Hunger is a politically created distribution problem, not a problem of lack of food.

        Every time this comes up someone trots out "it's a distribution problem, not a production problem" line.

        Here's a clue for you, while better distribution might be one part of the solution, so is more production, ie production where food is needed.

        Any solution based on distribution is inevitably reliant on political goodwill. Production can empower people so that they aren't so dependant on ongoi

        • And again (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @02:05AM (#24413099)

          That's not a crop growing problem. The problem isn't that crops can't be grown in Africa, for example. The problem is that the governments there are unwilling to do so. A good example is Zimbabwe. It used to be the bread basket of Africa. It was like the farm states in the US. However, Mugabe has put a stop to that. Now they are a net food importer and their production is next to nothing.

          Food shortage these days really isn't a problem of production. We have the technology and the land to handle it. It is a problem of distribution. The places with large starving populations have governments that are not interested in allowing the problem to be solved, or sometimes have no real government at all and are anarchys more or less.

          This isn't an easy "just throw money at it" kind of problem.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Chris Mattern (191822)

          We already grow enough crops. Hunger is a politically created distribution problem, not a problem of lack of food.

          Every time this comes up someone trots out "it's a distribution problem, not a production problem" line.

          Probably because it's the truth.

          Here's a clue for you, while better distribution might be one part of the solution, so is more production, ie production where food is needed.

          True, but the problem still isn't that the technology or capability to grow that food isn't there.

          Any solution based on

  • by CrazyJim1 (809850) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @09:42PM (#24411735) Journal

    Hopefully the guy making the decisions weighed espionage. You can really shoot yourself in the foot if you find a counter to your own missle defense and then someone publishes the counter. Do you really need an anti missle defense technology so bad that it is worth endangering your own missle defense?

  • by Un pobre guey (593801) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @10:02PM (#24411851) Homepage
    1. Create an expensive and ostentatious weapons system on which other nations were not willing to squander billions of dollars
    2. Make a cool video about it and circulate it widely. Conceal the real, practical day-to-day performance results.
    3. If a global arms race fails to start, announce that you are also developing a handy-dandy, sure-fire defense against the weapons system only you possess. Caution: increased risk of scam backfiring.
    4. ???
    5. Profit!

    Yet another defense industry scam, and all of us are dragged along for the ride.

    • by Artaxs (1002024)
      The cynic in me can't help but agree with you, but this is the first "evidence" I've seen that such a thing can even work consistently. Given, these are all "staged" successes, but I have to admit that I am now a little more convinced that someday the USA could shoot down a few of those Chinese / Russian / Pakistani(?) nukes in an incoming ICBM attack.

      Also, WarGames [imdb.com] was being shown on the big screen for it's 25th anniversary here recently, which reminded me that "close" only counts in horseshoes, hand g
  • EESTOR (Score:3, Interesting)

    by WindBourne (631190) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @10:17PM (#24411931) Journal
    If EEstor is real, no doubt the feds are going to buy a lot of this. We have railguns and lasers coming on line. Our new DDX will have both. The ABL is designed not to just shoot rockets, but also to take out sats (it is flying at 40-50K feet; a great deal less atmosphere). And of course, our f22 were designed to handle lasers and we will shortly have them on their. My understanding is that future guns for the F22 will also be rail guns. Funny thing is, that most countries are gearing up with crewed planes. We are moving towards automated because we have figured it out that a human is not going to be able to manuever fast enough to avoid these things. But an automated system combined with a remote pilot, just might. Even the M1 is to be modified for these. And EEStor may make it all possible. All these toys will be held back for the next real war (and not just a bungled invasion). I think that any pres that tries to bring these forward for something as small as Iraq/Afghanistan would be lynched by the DOD.
  • what they are already very good at -- shooting things out of the sky with a laser.

    No, the Pentagon still sucks at shooting things out of the sky with a laser. They are excellent at spending $BILLIONS on trying, over and again, for decades.

    Maybe they're laser-proofing everything because they're so bad at lasering stuff that they're afraid they'll laser our own stuff. At the very least, it's innovation in spending $BILLIONS on lasers.

  • If you can wrap the missile in an optical cloaking device (http://www.physorg.com/news94744716.html) then the incoming laser energy should just 'flow' around the body of the missile and exit the other side.

    The resulting dispersal of the laser energy would prevent the missile from being seriously damaged.

  • by chebucto (992517) on Wednesday July 30, 2008 @10:58PM (#24412115) Homepage

    In battle, they would don a full-length ball gown covered in sequins. The idea was to blind your opponent with luxury.

    A more modern tack might simply be to let Frank Ghery design the bomb casing. The high-strength reflective materials would avert damage, while the deconstructionist curved form would, with luck, send the beam back to the attackers, using their own laser against them like in a cliched Star Trek episode.

    1. It won't work when it's cloudy
    2. Hope there are no aircraft in the empty space accidentally covered by the laser beam
    3. Just paint the shells blue. The trick isn't in making the projectile mirror back the laser, it's in making it stealthy enough not to be recognizable and trackable.
  • ...everyone has laser-proof missiles?

  • by gillbates (106458) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @12:02AM (#24412463) Homepage Journal

    I say, good luck!.

    Even a modest artillery battery, on a bad day, with the hot, dusty wind in their face and half their crew asleep, can manage to put 18 rounds downrange, per minute. With a 30 second flight time (hey, it varies with range), you've got less than two seconds per projectile if you're going to destroy them all. And the laser takes several seconds per round to destroy it. And that's without the coating.

    So here's what you do: you fire a 'smurf' round - that is, a hollow steel round as your first projectile. Because it doesn't have any explosive, the laser will track it and burn it until it hits the ground, paving the way for the remaining rounds to come through without any problem.

    Granted, I think lasers are cool and all, but we already have anti-rocket systems like the Navy's phalanx which seem to be much more effective. The problem is that something like a 3000 rpm chain gun can put more energy on the target than most tactical lasers. Even more embarassing, a .50 cal round can pierce 2 inches of solid steel at ranges greater than 3 kilometers. A single .50 cal round impacting nose of an artillery shell would detonate it instantly. Why not use those precision servos to direct a weapon with real takedown power? Ballistic flight trajectories aren't that hard to calculate.

    And unlike the laser, artillery can hit things beyond visual range, in places obstructed from direct line of sight. Put yourself in a valley, and your laser defense system might not even track the round until its already too late. I think it's a step in the right direction, but they clearly need much more powerful lasers to be practical.

  • I wasn't aware that there was any other unfriendly nation with any type of offensive or defensive laser. Seems like more military spending on something that we'll never use because some jackass in the government got freaked about about "terrorists with lasers".

  • I finally have a reason to justify my owning a pair of those polarized, reflective shades from the 1980's!

    Slap a pair of those rad-fashion babies on a missile and will not only be laser proof, but it'll look *cool* at the same time!

    To quote The Great M.C. Hammer: "Can't touch this!"

  • by LM741N (258038) on Thursday July 31, 2008 @02:24AM (#24413199)

    My brother, a University professor, who had a big laser laboratory, covered all the walls with plywood. What happens is that when a strong laser beam hits the wood, the glue vaporizes and spreads out the beam so its rendered much less concentrated. The cheapest laser defense in the world.

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