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The Military

The Jet Fighter Laser Cannon 464

Posted by kdawson
from the back-of-the-shark-calculation dept.
fahrbot-bot sends in a Register piece about DARPA issuing the penultimate contract for what is intended to be a jet-mounted laser cannon. The Reg outdoes itself in a BOTEC involving downsizing to shark scale. "The US military 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. ... If it scales down far enough, this would seem to put handheld HELL-guns within an order of magnitude of the striking power offered by conventional small-arms. A 9mm pistol bullet has about 750 joules muzzle energy: a 5kg portable HELL-ray weapon would put out this much energy in a blast less than a second long. ... A dolphin can carry a human being weighing up to 100kg along for a ride. A thoroughbred shark in good training can surely match this. Thus, we seem to be looking at practicable head-[laser] output in the 20-kilowatt range."
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The Jet Fighter Laser Cannon

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:20PM (#30136064)

    "Penultimate" means "second to last" and nothing else.

    It sounds like "ultimate", and it is derived from "ultimate", but it still doesn't mean "super awesome".

  • Re:9mm? (Score:4, Informative)

    by TheKidWho (705796) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:22PM (#30136090)

    Fail.

    From you're own link, the bullet performance shows 702J as the highest energy output.

  • Re:The Future (Score:4, Informative)

    by evanbd (210358) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:31PM (#30136246)

    Give credit [xkcd.com] where credit is due.

    We live in a world where there are actual fleets of robot assassins patrolling the skies. At some point there, we left the present and entered the future."

  • Re:Mirrors (Score:4, Informative)

    by Orange Crush (934731) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:32PM (#30136252)
    ^photons. These are lasers, not particle guns.
  • Re:Recoil (Score:3, Informative)

    by MichaelSmith (789609) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:47PM (#30136502) Homepage Journal

    If the recoil has the energy of the projected laser but in the opposite direction, the way a bullet gun's recoil does, how is it not enough to notice? The lasers in this article, including the hypothesized portable version, pack quite a wallop.

    The recoil has the momentum of the projected laser. Photons, like atoms, have mass-energy which, along with velocity determines momentum. But a lot of energy gives very little mass. So photons have a lot of velocity (C) and hardly any mass, so they have hardly any momentum for a lot of energy.

    The atoms in normal rocket exhaust have less velocity but heaps more mass-energy, most of which is just dead weight.

  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:50PM (#30136544)

    "Penultimate" means "second to last" and nothing else.

    Which is exactly the sense in which it is used here, as is indicated by the language from TFA quoted in TFS: "the final stage prior to America's first raygun-equipped jet fighter."

    So, in the series in which the last (or "ultimate") stage is the contract for a laser-armed jet fighter, the contract for the ground-based prototype is the second to last (or "penultimate") stage.

    So, great job of knowing what "penultimate" means, but next time work on reading and understanding the post in which it is used before accusing someone of using it wrong.

  • by Hatta (162192) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:55PM (#30136618) Journal

    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.

    This prototype is second to last(penultimate) contract in this project. The last one (or ultimate) will be for the actual jet. The use is valid.

  • Re:Recoil (Score:2, Informative)

    by XSpud (801834) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:57PM (#30136646) Homepage
    The recoil doesn't have the same energy, but it will have the same momentum.
  • Re:Mirrors (Score:3, Informative)

    by TheBig1 (966884) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @06:59PM (#30136666) Homepage
    I know this was a joke, but to be pedantic, there are more neutrons than protons in lead... 125 vs 82 respectively. ;-)

    Cheers
  • Re:Effect on humans? (Score:3, Informative)

    by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @07:36PM (#30137144)

    A laser might deliver a cauterized burn, or blindness if in the right spot.

    Blinding weapons are a violation of the Geneva Conventions (Protocol IV, if I recall correctly - and no, the USA isn't a signatory to Protocol IV last I looked).

  • by esampson (223745) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @07:39PM (#30137188) Homepage

    Yes and no. The amount of energy isn't a terrible base line of comparison if you are doing "apples to apples". There are really 3 factors involved; the energy, how rapidly and efficiently the energy is transferred to the target and over how much area. Sunlight is a pretty good way of illustrating this. In full sunlight you can assume that 1 square foot (30cm x 30cm) receives about 100 watts of energy. Since 1 Joule is 1 watt per second that means that in about 7.5 seconds an area roughly the size of your chest would receive about as much energy as a 9mm bullet.

    Obviously this has practically no effect on you. However take a magnifying glass a bit over 1 foot across (32 cm) and focus all of the energy into a spot a little under 1/3 of an inch (9 mm) across and all of a sudden you're causing some serious skin trauma. Likewise if the sun were suddenly 7.5 times brighter you would start to peel and blister in a hurry. Combine all the light of 7.5 seconds into a circle 1/3 of an inch across and apply it all in 1/100th of a second and you'll inflict some real damage.

    Unfortunately the laser in their example delivers all its energy about 100 times slower than that. There's also a question of how big the target spot is and of course the fact that just the color of the target can cause a substantial amount of the energy to be reflected (substantial in this case being perhaps a few hundred Joules). So while the total amount of energy isn't a terrible way to compare them that does assume that the beam is focused relatively tightly (probably a safe assumption) and delivers the energy as a sudden single shot (which it clearly doesn't). As it is the comparison is less "apples to apples" and more "apples to orangutans".

  • Re:Obligatory (Score:3, Informative)

    by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @08:02PM (#30137474)

    Val Kilmer seen running around MIT hollering with joy.

    "Pacific Tech" from Real Genius was modelled on (very closely, in many areas) Caltech, not MIT.

  • Re:9mm? (Score:3, Informative)

    by photon317 (208409) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @08:20PM (#30137674)

    Unfortunately your father in law is misinformed. It's common for even people with a great deal of field experience to be misinformed about these things. Ask a qualified ballistics expert and you'll find the diameter of the entrance wound is a relatively small factor. Proper bullet design, and proper consideration of the correct weight to use for the platform in question, are much bigger factors. A 147gr Winchester RA-9T ("LE" ammo, but civilians can legally buy it if they find nice dealers) out of any full-sized 9mm handgun will vastly outperform a standard "chunk-o-lead" target-shooting round out of a .45, for example. Using that level of ammo in both, the difference between the wounds from the two is negligible.

  • Re:Effect on humans? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Stray7Xi (698337) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @09:26PM (#30138248)

    Blinding weapons are a violation of the Geneva Conventions (Protocol IV, if I recall correctly - and no, the USA isn't a signatory to Protocol IV last I looked).

    Weapons designed to blind are a violation. Weapons that may inadvertently cause blindness are acceptable. Just about every weapon we have can cause blindness. I suspect this weapon will be designed to burn a hole into their head rather then blind.

    But Law of War also says you limit collateral damage. Will diffuse reflections from these lasers cause collateral blindness. When dealing with highpower lasers in a dynamic environment, there's really no predicting where reflections might end up.

  • Re:9mm? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Sir_Lewk (967686) <sirlewk@gm a i l . com> on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @09:35PM (#30138310)

    Expanding rounds are forbidden from being used in war by the Hague Convention of 1899 [wikipedia.org]. Full metal jacket rounds may be better at penatrating armor, but the real reason they are used is because using expanding ammunition (in war) is a war crime.

    [the relevant section of the treaty] [yale.edu]

  • Re:9mm? (Score:5, Informative)

    by SETIGuy (33768) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @10:37PM (#30138772) Homepage

    As for the size of the wound, that depends on how tightly you focus the beam.

    There are limits to that. The divergence of the beam depends upon the size of the optics. For a man portable weapon system, I'd guess 10 cm is about the maximum optics diameter that would be useful. Assuming a wavelength of 1 micron, 10 cm gives a divergence of 1e-5 radians, so at 100 meters you could focus to a 2 cm diameter spot for an irradiance of 240 watts per square cm. At 1000 meters you're up to a 20cm spot for a fairly insignificant irradiance of 2.4 watts per square cm. If you want something useful at a kilometer, it's not going to be man portable.

    Lets put that into terms every slashdotter will understand. Remember your 5 cm diameter magnifying glass and its 20cm focal length? It projected an image of the sun 1.7 mm in diameter with an irradiance of 122 watts per square centimeter, almost exactly half of our laser gun at 100 meters, and 50 times larger than our gun at 1000 meters.

    So now, lets build a magnifying glass to match our laser gun. We want a 2 cm diameter spot, so we'll need a longer focal length, by the ratio of 20/1.7, which turns out to be 235 cm. We'll also need 750 watts of sunlight or 0.53 square meters of collecting area. That means a lens 82 cm in diameter. Feel free to build one and put a steak in the focus for one second. Please post your results to slashdot. I personally doubt that a second in that spot would be fatal to a human, but it would hurt a hell of a lot.

  • Re:Effect on humans? (Score:3, Informative)

    by c6gunner (950153) on Tuesday November 17, 2009 @11:35PM (#30139218)

    Blinding weapons are a violation of the Geneva Conventions (Protocol IV, if I recall correctly - and no, the USA isn't a signatory to Protocol IV last I looked).

    And?

    Weapons designed for the purpose of blinding people would violate the convention. Weapons designed to kill people which may, on occasion, blind someone, are perfectly legal. Soldiers get blinded by bullet fragments and shrapnel too, you know.

Whenever a system becomes completely defined, some damn fool discovers something which either abolishes the system or expands it beyond recognition.

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