Skip to comments.First Test Fire of an Airborne Laser
Posted on 12/04/2008 11:54:17 PM PST by gandalftb
The US military has carried out the first test-firing of a laser weapon system housed aboard a 747 plane.
The Airborne Laser (ABL) was conceived to shoot down enemy ballistic missiles in the early stages of their flight.
An airborne intercept of an in-flight ballistic missile is planned for 2009.
Scientists are reported to be working out other uses for the flying weapon - which could help secure continued funding. These extra missions include shooting down surface-to-air missiles, cruise missiles and even enemy aircraft.
A laser beam travelled the length of the aircraft at 670 million miles per hour.
It raced from the aft section, through the beam control and fire control system, and out through the nose-mounted turret.
After acquiring and locking on to the target, a second, high-power laser fires a three-to-five-second burst from the turret in the 747's nose.
Against solid-fuel ICBMs the useful range would be about 300km.
(Excerpt) Read more at news.bbc.co.uk ...
This could be the game-changer.
The Air Force has no user requirements for laser weapons on bomber platforms, and the technology is still several generations away from even integrating it onto strike platforms such as gunships, a service acquisition official told "Inside the Air Force" last month.
Gonna come a day, enemy offensive missiles will be useless.
“Gonna come a day, enemy offensive missiles will be useless.”
It will be easier to sleep then but don’t forget even the best gates don’t protect from the enemies within.
Or simply make the missiles highly reflective - just like the mirrors in the laser to begin with...
670 million miles per hour? Why not just say the speed of light?
They will have to rely on low tech, infiltration attacks. But this puts the Iranians and Russians and their ilk out of the air threat business.
What ever cheap shots our enemies do, they'll do it walking.
yeah but Obama won :(
An airborne laser weapon, now that’s change we can believe in.
No mirroring could protect the target as they would not know the precise direction to create a deflection and no mirror would be aerodynamic. Anything airborne would be defenseless.
Don't worry. Fearless Leader will cancel the program before it does any harm to our Asian Marxist comrades or those peace loving jihadi's.
So when are they going to test one mounted on a frikkin shark?
Airborne, that is where we'll dominate, offensive or defensive weapon platforms, aircraft, satellites, whatever. Delivering this kind of power by laser will be technology that others couldn't afford to duplicate, much less airborne.
Obama will kill this program. It is provocative and destabilizing.
Better, yet, he will give the technology to the Chicoms because the world should not have only one superpower.
I wish I was joking. Billy Bob did it first.
I don't believe that anyone was proposing equipping the attacking missiles with (flat) mirrors which would bounce the beam directly back to the airplane from which the laser was shot.
I think that, instead, the proposal was simply to coat the outside of the missile with the same reflective substance as is used on the mirrors of the laser so that any incoming beam would be bounced away and thus rendered harmless.
A flat mirror would, of course, be aerodynamically problematic, but simply "dipping" the outside of the missile in silvery stuff would reduce its absorption of light and thus would reduce its vulnerability to laser beams.
As it turns out, a mirrored surface is no protection against a high-energy laser. It has been demonstrated in lab tests that the energy transfer is enough to destroy a target.
It was not my intent to make any "blanket statements." Notice that I said merely that a mirrored surface would reduce the missile's vulnerability - perhaps even enough to allow it to survive, e.g., a "near miss."
It has been demonstrated in lab tests that the energy transfer is enough to destroy a target.
As long as those lab tests included such real-world factors as the atmosphere's intrinsic opacity, possible interposing clouds, the gradual widening of the collimated beam, etc., I will accept that.
“Hmmm, useful range of 180 miles (300km).”
Yes, and that’s against targets in the atmosphere. There should also be a significant anti-satellite capability with the 747 at altitude. Not much atmosphere above 60,000 or so feet.
They should work on a modified 747 that’d cruise at more like 80,000 feet.
“Gonna come a day, enemy offensive missiles will be useless.”
Perhaps. Lasers tend to overheat, and of course could be swamped by too many targets. No denying that battlefield lasers will be a game changer though.
“...he will give the technology to the Chicoms because the world should not have only one superpower.”
Precisely the first thought in my head reflecting on the “Socialist” Government just elected.
Can they be tested on Somali pirate skiffs?
In my mind’s eye, I picture an Iranian president at an open air lecture (in a stadium) and disappearing in a puff of smoke.
An alternate target worth considering.
and the result
You should probably also factor in any contamination of the mirrored surface such as dust, dirt, oils and anything else that could absorb the energy.
That's why it would do little good as a cruise missile shooter.
The laser requires 4 tons of chemicals per shot fired.
until they replace it with a solid state laser, it will be not be all that useful.
What about chaff?
Don’t worry, 0bama will defund it because it will be “weaponization of space”.
Gee. Where are all of the knuckleheads who say that this is a waste of money because all we need for anything is a .50 cal?
What happens is that no reflective is perfectly reflective. Absorption of even a small amount of the laser's energy damages its reflectivity, which causes it to absorb more energy, etc.
A combined AWACS/laser platform would be interesting. It could detect targets and terminate them at the same time, and be out of range of conventional air-to-air missiles while doing so.
I suppose you could “spin” the missile as well as reflective coating the skin, so that no single targeted spot gets overheated. I really don’t know the physics of these particular lasers well enough to know if that would work.
You’d still have to dissipate more energy than the laser was applying in order to keep the whole missile from eventually overheating and destructing. It’s all a matter of (Energy in the Laser Minus Energy Dissipated).
Maybe that's why they put it on a 747. It has the cargo capacity to carry several shots worth of chemicals.
Yeah. Like I said, I don’t really understand the underlying physics enough.
I wouldn’t think that the Pentagon would have invested money into this project for this long & with this level of testing without the technology being able to delete affordable countermeasures. But then I often don’t understand the underlying logic of government research programs, either. ;)
“747 wing design fades long before that altitude.”
I guess you missed the word “modified” in my post. ;-)
“I suppose you could spin the missile as well as reflective coating the skin, so that no single targeted spot gets overheated. I really dont know the physics of these particular lasers well enough to know if that would work.”
The pitch has been that under the G forces of boost phase, it doesn’t take much weakening for the structure to fail. Reflective and spinning missiles might well make a difference.
It occurs to me though, that targeting the missile’s nozzles might be highly productive. They are already hot, which increases their absorption and makes them easier to destroy. There are typically other delicate structures in the neighborhood of the nozzles as well.
The article isn’t quite right on one point BTW, the laser runs for (IIRC) about 40 seconds per “shot”. It can engage multiple 3-5 second targets during that period. The system will be able to shoot several times per mission.
The military already has a “death ray.” It turns out that the sensor systems for the F-35 (and F-22, I think) are potent enough to fry missile electronics and they are quietly experimenting with them used in that mode...
So what do you bet they can do “Wonderful Things” with an AWACS?
There was a space game back in the late 80’s called “Elite”.
One of the accessories that you could get for your ship was an ECM for missiles. Basically an energy blast that fried the missile. Took a lot of energy. The info in your post shows that such a thing is indeed possible.
*Looks at watch*
Still waiting for lightsabres....
It would be a design modification and not very difficult. The 747 isn’t a fused wing/body design, and there’s nothing particularly bad about the body for high-altitude flight.
It just needs more wing area, like a U-2. Modern composites would probably mean no extra weight either.
I have been told by Boeing engineers that the wing form used on their commercial aircraft is optimized for Flight levels between 30,000 ad 40,000 feet. That it will not fly over 60,000. To redesign and qualify an new wing system - which BTW would require a whole new control system of rudder etc - would be a waste. There are already large aircraft flying at much higher altitudes that have qualified wings etc.
"It's an honor to meet you, sir. Telcom... isn't that the satellite that's raining debris all over Europe?"
"Why is that toy on your head?"
"Because if I wear it anywhere else, it chafes."
I loved Elite! I also played Wing Commander Privateer, and that was pretty good.
I wish there was something like it on the market today, maybe a little more advanced to take advantage today’s processors.
LOL, I actually did the math to check.