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The Military

Watch a Lockheed Martin Laser Destroy a Missile In Flight 177

Posted by timothy
from the missiles-missiles-missiles dept.
An anonymous reader writes "As well as providing the equipment necessary to fire missiles, defense contractors also want to offer customers the ability to defend against them. Lockheed Martin is doing just that with its Area Defense Anti-Munitions (ADAM) system. ADAM is a high energy laser system mounted on a trailer allowing it to be transported around quickly to help defend high-value targets. It is still in prototype form, but basically uses a 10-kilowatt fiber laser which can be focused on to a moving target up to 2 kilometers away."
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Watch a Lockheed Martin Laser Destroy a Missile In Flight

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    • by tsadi (576706)

      The final application doesn't need GPS units as sharks can find their way without GPS guidance.

    • by mrops (927562) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @04:07PM (#43678757)

      2KM is kinda useless once the missile has achieved ballistic trajectory.

      At speed of 2.5km/second, the missile will whiz pass this thing quicker than any damage can be done to it.

      Note both the videos show the missile at launch, when they are not at top speed, may work for Hamas to Israel scenario, won't work for North Korea to South Korea type of scenario.

  • Interesting (Score:5, Funny)

    by LocutusMIT (10726) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @11:57AM (#43675671) Homepage

    But can it be mounted on a shark?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Sure, as long as it's a trailer sized shark
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Whale_shark

    • I'd settle for a video of this thing destroying a shark which has been launched into the air.
  • Bet it costs a fortune, though.

    • Re:Cool (Score:4, Funny)

      by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @12:08PM (#43675843)

      Bet it costs a fortune, though.

      Just ask some loan sharks with lasers...

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        Bet it costs a fortune, though.

        Just ask some loan sharks with lasers...

        Just loan them the shark long enough to fire a few shots.

    • Re:Cool (Score:5, Insightful)

      by RobertNotBob (597987) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @12:19PM (#43675995)
      Sure... but that was implicitly addressed when they discussed the cost of REPEATED use. So this is a Pay (a lot) ONCE, vs a missile (or other ammunition based) system which is Pay (less, but still serious coin) EVERY time you shoot.

      It's not so bad when you put it into context.

    • I'm sure it costs a lot less than the damage to persons and equipment that it protects.
    • by pchan- (118053)

      Cost is not a big issue. The big issue is power.

      A laser of this type is almost always a chemical laser because that is one of the best ways to portably produce that much energy in a hurry. The drawbacks of this are
      1) the laser reactant supply needs to be reloaded after every shot or few shots. This is time consuming.
      2) toxic chemical byproducts of the power-generating reaction. If you're defending a base in the middle of the desert, this may not be an issue. If you're defending land that you care about

      • The article refers to a '10-kilowatt fiber laser.' That's means electrical, and probably continuous operation too. 10KW isn't a huge amount of power for something that size. You could run it off of an ordinary engine and generator, though I expect it uses batteries or ultracaps with a generator or external power hookup for charging to avoid keeping an engine spinning all the time.

  • by Picass0 (147474) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @11:59AM (#43675691) Homepage Journal

    Considering this a defensive system 2 kilometers means the high velocity threat is nearly on top of what you want to protect. It's 'destruction' is still likely to rain down debris nearby.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Since it's a prototype, I'm sure progress will need to be made to extend the range & power of the laser. Otherwise, it'll only be a short-range solution.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by tsadi (576706)

      The 2km limit is likely due to the heat lost due to the atmosphere.

      • Since you can deal with that using a proper wavelength, I'd go for thermal bloom problems instead.
    • by gl4ss (559668) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @12:13PM (#43675915) Homepage Journal

      Considering this a defensive system 2 kilometers means the high velocity threat is nearly on top of what you want to protect. It's 'destruction' is still likely to rain down debris nearby.

      well.. most missiles aren't kinetic energy weapons.. few broken windows isn't as bad as a warhead exploding inside your building.

    • by westlake (615356)

      It's 'destruction' is still likely to rain down debris nearby.

      Which would you prefer? Debris or an explosion?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 09, 2013 @12:17PM (#43675961)
        Why does everything always have to be a binary choice? I'd like debris and an explosion.
      • by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @01:47PM (#43677155) Homepage

        Which would you prefer? Debris or an explosion?

        Depends, how big is the debris and what's it made of, and how far away is the explosion?

        Big giants chunks of debris would be no fun, nor would it be if the missile had radioactive material and destroying it turned it into a dirty bomb.

        I'm more curious to know how much of this test was 'real', and how much relied on some of the tricks they've done in the past by essentially making it impossible for it to miss.

        It's not like they haven't stacked these tests in their favor in the past to the point that you'd need whoever might be shooting at you to schedule an appointment and tell you exactly where the missile is coming from. Which kind of defeats the purpose.

        • by cfalcon (779563) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @01:52PM (#43677221)

          "Big giants chunks of debris would be no fun, nor would it be if the missile had radioactive material and destroying it turned it into a dirty bomb."

          No, that would be the BEST CASE scenario.

          If the missile has radioactive material then:

          1)- It is already a dirty bomb. Destroying it minimizes the damage.
          2)- IT IS A NUKE. Destroying it saves likely a city.

          Neither of these are likely, but you'd rather 1000 dirty bombs than one fissile warhead.

    • by sjbe (173966) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @12:17PM (#43675965)

      Considering this a defensive system 2 kilometers means the high velocity threat is nearly on top of what you want to protect.

      Let's say we have a cruise missile traveling at roughly mach 1 or about 1,150 kph - actually pretty slow compared to many missiles. That means that the missile would cover the 2 kilometers in about 6.25 seconds. Better have a hell of a good target tracking system...

      • by berashith (222128)

        not all missiles have to reach the ground to deliver their destruction. This seems to be most useful at a distance from the target, in between the suspected launch point and target. Depending on the range of motion, that could nearly double the amount of time to destroy the missile. Like you say, this may require slowish missiles, and a somewhat low trajectory to stay in range. Still, portable tracking, aiming, and power is impressive.

      • Sounds like a point defense system--for when all else fails. The targeting/tracking system need not be limited to the effective range of the laser.
      • by Overzeetop (214511) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @01:06PM (#43676599) Journal

        A target tracking system for an incoming missile will have a much lower slew rate than the video, where the target is flying perpendicular to the beam. Unless the missile starts doing the Harlem Shake on the way in, it's a sitting duck for a laser adjacent to the target. Also note that the internal tracking system is good to 5km out, so that gives it 10 seconds to lock onto the final trajectory, and it can be tied into a larger tracking system as well.

        This is clearly limited to smaller, slower, less sophisticated munitions right now, but I would anticipate larger power as they get better, which means effectiveness further out and quicker kills. Heck, you don't need any laser research to quadruple the power of this laser - just bring in four of them and target the same incoming vehicle.

        • Uh, a different idea might be to have more than one, spread out. I see no reason why we can't start heating with laser A and continue with laser B. Especially if for any reason scaling them up gets complicated.
        • by matfud (464184)

          That was what I was thinking.
          Currently you have available:
          a) A Phalanx Centurion C-RAM (land based version) which can possibly hit something up to 4km away but generally much closer and sprays god knows what downrange (if that is a town then ....) Costs a lot but firing is fairly cheap iff you can keep it supplied. And whatever you hit still fragments and rains down on the original target.

          b) A short range anti-missile missile system. Something like http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Iron_Dome [wikipedia.org]
          Far longer range up t

      • Let's say we have a cruise missile

        Why? What exactly do you think this system is designed to protect against, an attack from a sophisticated air force? There's a reason they say that they are testing the system on Qassam [wikipedia.org] style rockets. A Qassam rocket isn't supersonic. But you can bet that if they get a few years of good experience with this thing deployed in the field, they'll eventually end up with a bigger version.

      • The scary thing about these new weapon systems is that given enough time and money a laser, electronic, or kinetic based missile interceptor will render every countries missile stockpiles practically useless. What would Russia do if the US was able to reliably counter their ICBMS? You know their would be some moron in Washington that would start proclaiming that the US could actually win now so full steam ahead. The only thing that has stopped a global all out war is the nuclear stockpiles of the major play

    • by Anonymous Coward

      (1) A small shower of hot debris is a hell of a lot better than a successful missile strike.
      (2) 2-km is further than you think. Most of the small rockets this is meant to protect against don't have a blast radius even *remotely* close to that distance. In most scenarios even the debris won't reach the target.
      (3) As another reply noted, the distance limit is probably due to laser heat loss in the atmosphere. That sort of implies that the closer the target gets, the faster the laser destroys it. I'm not s

      • by Nutria (679911)

        Even the US probably doesn't have any easily-portable system to fire high-velocity kinetic missiles of significant mass.

        They're called cannons; been around for centuries.

        For a decade, the US Navy has been developing rail guns to shoot *really* high speed projectiles. Progress has been slow, though.

    • Small pieces of debris have a considerably lower terminal velocity than an aerodynamic missile. I'm sure some larger bits would still be deadly but probably wouldn't penetrate a building.

    • by jon3k (691256)
      You're right I'd rather be hit with a missile.
    • by Joce640k (829181)

      Considering this a defensive system 2 kilometers means the high velocity threat is nearly on top of what you want to protect. It's 'destruction' is still likely to rain down debris nearby.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nirvana_fallacy [wikipedia.org]

    • by Afty0r (263037)

      Debris from 2km away seems preferable to a detonating warhead 5 metres away.

    • by Kanasta (70274)

      Given that usually missles you want to destroy are aimed AT you and not flying OVERHEAD, esp when just 2km away, I wonder how useful this system is.
      Maybe we can ask our enemies to put them next to their launching pads?

  • by Antony T Curtis (89990) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @12:01PM (#43675725) Homepage Journal

    How long before we start seeing missiles with highly polished chrome finish on the outside?

    • by Brandano (1192819) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @12:05PM (#43675787)
      There's small battery powered ones already...
    • by LocutusMIT (10726)

      That raises some interesting questions:

      Given the stresses of launch, how long would such a finish remain highly polished, or at least reflective enough to protect against a laser?

      Is the laser accurate enough to target the engine nozzles, which would very quickly lose any lustre they may have?

      • by K. S. Kyosuke (729550) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @12:26PM (#43676083)

        Given the stresses of launch, how long would such a finish remain highly polished, or at least reflective enough to protect against a laser?

        I think you're dealing with a cascade degradation problem anyway. Once a tiny part of the reflective surface loses its reflectivity because the beam melts it, or for whatever reason that can happen, the rocket is done for. There's no problem with laser weapons that can't be solved with the pulse being strong enough and short enough, since you'll never have a 100% reflective surface. Even in experiments with laser-initiated fusion, where the cleanliness and optical properties of the whole system have lab-grade care taken of them, the optical interfaces are a bitch.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Given the stresses of launch, how long would such a finish remain highly polished, or at least reflective enough to protect against a laser?

        Ever seen footage of those old unpainted aircraft? I'm sure these days the alloys they use are even more resilient.

        I imagine designers will start to double insulate missiles as well, so that the outer skin can get extremely hot without affecting the inside temperature much.

        Is the laser accurate enough to target the engine nozzles, which would very quickly lose any lustre they may have?

        That will only work if you position the laser such that it can hit the nozzle. A smart missile might even use the laser beam to target itself at the emitter, similar to how anti-radar missiles work, or adjust its flight path to shield vul

        • I imagine designers will start to double insulate missiles as well, so that the outer skin can get extremely hot without affecting the inside temperature much.

          Yes, and if the weapon designers decide to send the energy in very short pulses, you end up having to cope with mechanical stresses - the pulse will turn a small amount of the missile surface into plasma which will send a shock wave through the construction. Essentially, this could work like a small HESH warhead. I really don't think there's a lot you can do against lasers in a flying object that has to be lightweight (by virtue of having to, you know, actually *fly* and deliver some sizable payload to its

      • by gl4ss (559668)

        something like clay would probably have better time at dissipating the heat. or heck, a layer filled with water or something else that evaporates.

        • by matfud (464184)

          Yep it would. However it is heavy and the out gassing would change where the thing is going unless it is still able to move.

    • by westlake (615356)

      How long before we start seeing missiles with highly polished chrome finish on the outside?

      How reflective is chrome (or any other coating) at the frequency of the laser? What are the chances the laser will simply "punch" or "torch" its way through the finish?

    • by bcmm (768152)
      What about retroreflectors? Presumably, it would require only a miniscule fraction of a missile-killing laser beam to screw up the tracking optics.
    • by Solandri (704621)
      Aluminum is usually the go-to material for broadband reflectance in the visible spectrum. It's about 93% reflective [wikimedia.org] when freshly applied (it corrodes on contact with oxygen to form a thin layer of transparent aluminum oxide which helps protects it from further corrosion but degrades reflectivity - better to coat it with something else). You can improve it a bit with coatings, but those are highly directional. Silver is a bit better for most of the visible spectrum, but falls off quickly towards the blue/
      • by Digicaf (48857)

        That would be a 7% absorption in ideal conditions only during initial contact. Once the coating and reflective surface reach a critical temperature then there'd be a cascading failure. The coating would be subject to both ablation and charring, which might actually help the laser more than hurt it.

        There are a lot of factors that would quickly degrade the initial absorption figure (quality of coating, wavelength, surface contaminants, etc...). But even with that, I'd bet that a reflective mechanism would onl

        • Assuming this takes off, what we'll probably see will be an arms race of a sort. Missile designers would start using reflective surfaces and internal insulators while the laser designers would increase power, focusing ability, and introduce wavelength shifts (maybe dynamically). This could get interesting.

          From the point of view of the defenders such a race is a good thing - because it increases the difficulty of handling the missile, and either decreases it's range or decreases it's payload (for the same si

    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      A new generation of reactive armor will have to be developed to defend against lasers. Some kind of fun phase-change material stored in layers of lattice?

    • I have more objections than that-
      1) looked like a hobbyist type rocket, paper and wood
      2) rocket didn't go very fast at all
      3) was on a wire with a predetermined path
      Pretty unimpressive from my standpoint

    • Polished chrome varies depending on wavelength. For example a clear plexiglass sheet is opaque to FLIR. On the otherhand an oxidized grey sheet of aluminum plate is a polished mirror at the same wavelength. White aluminum oxide paint may protect it at some wavelengths. Note in the video the targets were painted black. Reflecting 95% instead of absorbing it will require a much higher power LASER.

  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Thursday May 09, 2013 @12:02PM (#43675737)

    >> As well as providing the equipment necessary to fire missiles, defense contractors also want to offer customers the ability to defend against them.

    Naturally. How else would you extract top dollar from both sides?

    • by oodaloop (1229816)
      I'm pretty sure niether China nor North Korea got their missiles from Lockheed Martin.
    • How else would you extract top dollar from both sides?

      Lobbyists, bribery, paranoia, and threat construction. None of which require you to offer defensive systems against your own "defensive systems."

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Maybe carriers won't go extinct after all

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      Maybe carriers won't go extinct after all

      I'm sure they'll have a missile design that's immune to this soon enough.
      moreover, this design looks like it needs to know the type of missile?

      and editors, why the fuck is the subject in flight if it's tethered missile? or am I superman since I "flew" on a zipline once??

      • You watched the wrong (bottom) video then - that was last year's test. This year the missile was in free flight. However, the site provided both videos on the same page.
    • by akb (39826)

      This laser with its 1.5km range would be of little use against a maneuverable DF-21D [usni.org] traveling at Mach 10. SM3 is the missile being tapped to for that duty but the kill vehicle is not the big challenge.

      • That *might* be true. Remember that Mach 10 is not the likely speed of the craft at full atmospheric density, and at high speeds the integrity of the heat sheilding is very critical to performance. For an incoming missile, the long range slew rate on the laser will be very low (i.e. easy to acquire and track), and actual penetration of the airframe won't be necessary if the skin is at or near it's thermal limits on final approach to the target.

        So, yes, 1.5km will be covered very, very quickly by a hyperson

  • by Anonymous Coward

    These are designed to defend against qassam type rockets. Qassam rockets are very simple rockets (steel tubes, warhead on the tip, no electronic gizmos) that are fired into Israel by the Palestinians. I doubt that they could defend against something more substantial.

  • Ft Bliss USA, they were testing lasers on conventional ballistics. Maybe the program finally completed and this is the end result. But I suspect this can also shoot down ballistics as well.

  • by Dunbal (464142) * on Thursday May 09, 2013 @12:55PM (#43676465)
    The rockets were painted black. What happens when a rocket is not painted black?
    • It takes .125 seconds to destroy a black target, .1251 to destroy a non-black target. Seriously, at these energy levels the color of the target is largely irrelevant.

    • Send in the Rolling Stones
  • I'm guessing you need pretty clear weather for the targeting system to work.

  • Missile defense system is designed to operate when the target is in *clear* sight? What if skies are not so clear - heavy rain, fog, or dust?

    "Baron, my apologies. These madmen are attacking under cover of the storm." --Frank Herbert, "Dune"

    • by Nemyst (1383049)
      It's not quite that simple. If the beam is narrow enough, it won't pass through much rain. If the beam is of the proper wavelength, fog may not deviate it much. Furthermore, there's the little element that the beam will instantly evaporate whatever water it comes close to, so it could very well "buffer" an area around it just by being there. This isn't to say it wouldn't be affected at all, but chances are it could still be effective if calibrated properly.
  • Terminator: "Phased plasma rifle in the 40 watt range."
    Shopkeeper: "hey, just what you see here pal..."
    Terminator: "Uzi nine millimeter."
    Shopkeeper: "You really know your guns. This baby's perfect for home defense..."

  • Apparently no birds were harmed in the making of that video.

    We'll probably never see the videos where they were :-)

  • Honest question.

    What alternatives are there to a low-production, high-powered laser that likely requires a ton of support crew/machinery to take out missiles?

    Phalanx or successors? Are these considered competent?
    What about missile-to-missile platforms?

    And how useful is this thing if it's not an on tangential course?

  • There is no defense, like a good offense.

  • ADAM - Absolute Destruction of Available Mass

    (Megazone-23, part 2)

  • As a practical test to prove the potential I'd say it was a pretty good success. Imagine if you will mounting several of these things inside a 747 with some being able to shoot the laser out the bottom, the sides, and even the top of the jet. You'd have a mobile platform that can get reasonably close to the launch site and destroy missiles before they got close. From the looks of the size of the trailer I'd say you could easily fit 4 to 6 of these inside a jumbo jet or retrofitted B1 bomber and still hav
    • Given the history of these contractors of doing rigged demos... Remember back to the rocket defense system where it came out they put tracking devices into the the rocket so all it had to do was fly towards the beacon in the target? After that huge PR nightmare one would think they would learn .... and usually it is not the right lesson (make it actually work) but to learn to do a better job of not getting caught.

      Everybody forget the F-22? That was lockheed martin. So, does this laser work in the rain?

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