We Have All The Best Toys: laser-cannon edition

September 5, 2014
Science-fiction comes to life

Science-fiction comes to life

(Photo via Wired)

Okay, how cool is this?

Boeing is building a laser cannon for the U.S. Army, and the new weapon has now proved it will be as capable at sea as on land. The High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD)—basically a high-energy laser mounted on top of a big truck—was successfully used to blast some UAV drones and 60mm mortars out of the Florida sky earlier this year, Boeing announced Thursday.

This test was done in a windy and foggy environment, an essential step to proving the technology is useful for naval deployment. The HEL MD used a 10-kilowatt laser—a much less powerful version of what it will eventually fire—to “successfully engage” more than 150 targets at Eglin Air Force Base, a Department of Defense weapons testing facility on the Florida Panhandle. In other words, it disabled or destroyed them.

In simple terms, the laser makes an incredibly powerful, highly focused beam of light and aims it at a moving target. Light equals heat, and, after enough heat has been transferred, the target is compromised and crashes or blows up. The Army and Boeing (which landed a $36 million contract for the project) have been working on this for the better part of a decade, par for the course for a next-generation weapons platform.

It’s a preliminary test of course –I doubt the UAVs were taking any evasive action– but the fact that the laser was effective through fog was pretty danged amazing. I can recall engineer friends back in the 80s describing the problem of lasers diffusing through fog and clouds as being insurmountable. Now? Check it off.

Which reminds me, I wonder how many of the people who called Reagan an idiot for pushing missile defense feel like eating some crow these days? The Israelis have already shown the concept works tactically on the battlefield, we demonstrated proof-of-concept with the HEL MD on our own system, and repeated tests over the Pacific show that ballistic missile defense is not at all a “Star Wars” fantasy. Other than Israel’s “Iron Dome,” these systems aren’t usable in battle, yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

Like the musket ended the age of armor, energy weapons may well spell the end of the missile age.

The next phase, of course, it to mount laser cannons on giant war robots, thus making Japanese anime a reality.

PS: Video at the link.

PPS: A very good book related to this is Max Boot’s “War Made New,” which covers the evolution of warfare as competing developments in technology and the effects these developments had on strategy and tactics. This is potentially the latest example.

 

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Good News! North Korea building missile-launching sub!

August 26, 2014
Hope and Change?

Happy to have a new toy

Because what aspiring nuclear-armed Dear Leader psychopathic God-Dictator doesn’t need his own ballistic-missile firing submarine?

U.S. intelligence agencies believe North Korea is building a submarine capable of launching ballistic missiles, potentially increasing the threat posed by the nuclear-armed rogue state.

A missile launch tube on a North Korean submarine was observed recently by U.S. intelligence agencies and is raising new concerns about the missile and nuclear threat from the communist regime in Pyongyang, according to two defense officials familiar with reports of the development.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Jeffrey Pool declined to comment on the North Korean missile submarine program. “We do not comment on intelligence matters, but we do urge North Korea to become more transparent in their defense sector in order to reduce tensions in the region,” he said in a statement.

Details of the missile submarine remain closely held within the government.

There’s speculation about what type of submarine this is, but the most likely candidates are old Soviet Golf-class boomers (Pyongyang bought about 40 in the 1990s after the USSR’s collapse) or some type of Chinese sub. And they’re reported to already have a supply of submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), which were secretly bought from Russia and and some of which were converted to land use.

Either way, this is just cheery news for the regular targets of North Korea’s hysterical bluster, from South Korea to the United States. And not just verbal threats: North Korea probably used a sub to sink the South Korean cruiser Cheonan a few years ago. Adding a nuclear-tipped SLBM capability to their submarine fleet will only increase the headaches for defense planners in the nations around North Korea and in America. And, don’t forget: North Korea has s history of selling nuclear weapons tech to other hostile nations. Going into the submarine business would be a natural extension.

Good thing Obama is cutting funds for missile defense. smiley whew