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US Congress Funds Laser Weapons 423

Posted by Soulskill
from the vaporize-ware dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Washington Post reports that the US Congress is funding laser weapons for use in the near future. Low-power lasers called 'dazzlers' are already being used in Iraq to temporarily reduce a person's vision. High-power laser weapons would allow precision attacks that minimize civilian casualties. From the Post: 'The science board said tactical laser systems could be developed for broader use because they "enable precision ground attack to minimize collateral damage in urban conflicts." The report suggested, for example, that "future gunships could provide extended precision lethality and sensing." The board also proposed using lasers to protect against rockets, artillery, mortars and unmanned airborne vehicles by blasting them out of the sky. Last month, the Army awarded Boeing $36 million to continue development of a high-energy laser mounted on a truck that could hit overhead targets. But deployment is not expected until 2016, even if all goes well.'"
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US Congress Funds Laser Weapons

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  • by Archangel Michael (180766) on Monday September 22, 2008 @12:59PM (#25106513) Journal

    All shark jokes go here!

  • by Recovering Hater (833107) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:00PM (#25106547)
    Come on, you know the battlefields of the future are going to look like a 1980's G.I. Joe cartoon. Hilarious. Wait... Not really hilarious...
    • by sharkey (16670) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:08PM (#25106699)
      No, the battles of the future will be fought in space, or possibly at the top of very tall mountains, by robots.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Attackman (95672)

      Shouldn't this be from the "pew-pew-pew" department?

      Screw your "vaporize-ware" gag. I'll take cheap meme humor any day of the week!

    • I never quite figured out why it is so hard to hit people with lasers or phasers on Sci-Fi. oops you missed your first shot You can quite easily see the beam. while the beam is still going just adjust aim a bit and there you got him. Heck if I was behind a rock I could just kinda shoot left and right at kneecap range and whip out an army.

      • by Mr2cents (323101) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:38PM (#25107269)

        I'd like anyone with a minimum of imagination to think about the kind of wounds these weapons will cause. Seems horific to me. It always strikes me how these weapons are promoted to "eliminate targets", and while one might think about destroying infrastructure, they are actually talking about killing.

        But hey, I guess more weapons is just what the world needs.

        (sorry for the sarcasm).

        • by ParanoiaBOTS (903635) on Monday September 22, 2008 @02:06PM (#25107795) Homepage

          I'd like anyone with a minimum of imagination to think about the kind of wounds these weapons will cause. Seems horific to me.

          Not to belittle your point here, but have you seen the wounds that todays weapons cause? They are already horrific. I think this is a step in the right direction because while the wounds we cause are already bad, what we need is a weapon with less collateral damage. The fact is a bullet is affected by many things, how clean your barrel is, the wind, what round you are using, etc. So when you fire it there is no guarantee you will hit what you are aiming at even IF you aim dead on. There is also the problem of a ricochet if you miss. With a laser weapon, you don't worry about wind or many other factors. Ricochet is also not a real concern.

          • by Ihlosi (895663) on Monday September 22, 2008 @02:13PM (#25107939)
            With a laser weapon, you don't worry about wind or many other factors.

            Laser weapons powerful enough to damage any target will permanently damage the eyesight of anyone who looks at as much as a non-specular reflection of the beam. So much for collateral damage.

            • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

              by Fumus (1258966)
              Does this also apply to the non-visible light based lasers?
              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by grgyle (538200)

                Yes, and it is even more concerning because the eye's blink reflex will not occur, increasing the damage. Infrared laser == nasty.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by parcel (145162)

            There is also the problem of a ricochet if you miss. With a laser weapon, you don't worry about wind or many other factors. Ricochet is also not a real concern.

            I know nothing about weapon-strength lasers, but what about reflective surfaces? I know there's enough around the house that when I'm playing around with one of those laser cat toys, there's plenty of stuff around that reflects enough of the beam that the reflection is clearly visible. And i'm not even just talking mirrors, but things like dishes, vases, even sufficiently shiny wood furniture reflects at least some of the beam.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by phayes (202222)
              Lasers of the power levels that are being talked about in TFA don't slowly melt things. They deposit mega-joules of energy on the surface of objects they touch. Even the slightest imperfection will cause the surface to explosively sublime as if the first millimeter had magically turned into high explosives. Another attribute of these lasers is that the beam is of very short duration, hundredths of a second. Your mirrors, dishes, vases, etc would turn into shrapnel so fast & with such energy that you nee
              • by vux984 (928602) on Monday September 22, 2008 @04:04PM (#25109845)

                Your mirrors, dishes, vases, etc would turn into shrapnel so fast & with such energy that you needn't worry about any reflections.

                Oh good, so I don't have to worry about laser reflections!

                What's that about the shrapnel though?

                Seriously, that sounds even worse than bullets in terms of killing innocent people in the area. (I won't stoop to dehumanizing them into 'collateral damage'.)

                • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                  by Talgrath (1061686)

                  Shrapnel already happens with high-powered bullets; and most bullet or laser shrapnel is small enough to generally not cause serious injury or death.

        • by Cajun Hell (725246) on Monday September 22, 2008 @02:14PM (#25107951) Homepage Journal

          The very premise is that you're in war, and need to kill someone. So the question is: do we kill the target, or do we kill the target and everyone else in the general area or just happens to be unlucky?

          Improving weapons is humane.

          • by Bearpaw (13080) on Monday September 22, 2008 @02:56PM (#25108723)

            Improving weapons is humane.

            Not going to war is even more humane.

            And no, I don't believe war can always be avoided or even should always be avoided. But we can do a hell of a lot better job than we've done so far.

            But maybe that won't happen until someone figures out how congresscritters can get large amounts of funding for peace projects in their districts ...

            • by phayes (202222) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:57PM (#25109709) Homepage
              Good luck with convincing the Taliban, Al Qaeda, North Korea, and that nice Putin fellow that because the USA has decided to no longer constitute a credible threat that they should do the same. I'm sure the Danish ambassador to Pakistan agrees whole heartedly with you that US congresscritters financing lasers is the root cause of evil in the world today.
          • by Oktober Sunset (838224) <sdpage103@ y a h oo.co.uk> on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:33PM (#25109339)
            Blah, flushing all my moderation here but I simply had to say something about this.

            We have seen every development of new more advanced weapons lead to more and more killing and less and less regard for human life. Rather than stopping the killing of civilians, it just makes it more acceptable by giving cover to those who killed the civilians.

            If a soldier goes into a town and stabs an innocent child with a sword, there is do doubt he is a murderer, if he shoots him with a rifle, then some people will be willing to believe it was an accident, a stray bullet, opps, if he man flys over in a plane and drops a bomb, oh well, theres always some collateral damage, the child isn't even acknowledged as a human being, the killer is 100% blameless.

            Smart bombs are not to reduce civilian casualties but the make them acceptable, oh yes, we dropped these bombs all over civilian houses, we dropped them on this hospital, of this school, but these were smart bombs, they targeted the evil doers next door, all the innocent people that were still killed by the horrible shock wave were just collateral damage.

            Oh we didn't drop that horrible weapon napalm on these people, be used this harmless white phosphorus for illumination, the civillians who had their faces burned off were just collateral damage.

            These weapons will be used to kill everyone in the area just as before, except now they will have a new line. Oh we used a laser to get the evil doers, all these blind children with thier faces burned off are just collateral damage, theres a lot less of them than if we had used a normal bomb.

            Whats that idea? Send in troops on the ground to actually find and shoot the bad guys rather than blast the whole neighbourhood from the air? That's crazy talk! But then an American might have died, and as you know 1 American soldier = 10000 Iraqi children, people back home might not support our important war for oil and Bushes approval ratings might go down if an American dies, we can't have that!
            • We have seen every development of new more advanced weapons lead to more and more killing and less and less regard for human life.

              Really? You think there's less regard for human life than there was 63 years ago? The very idea of people complaining about children getting killed in war, is something your great grandparents would have thought strange.

              if he man flys over in a plane and drops a bomb, oh well, theres always some collateral damage, the child isn't even acknowledged as a human being, the kille

            • by tsotha (720379) on Monday September 22, 2008 @05:16PM (#25110873)

              We have seen every development of new more advanced weapons lead to more and more killing and less and less regard for human life. Rather than stopping the killing of civilians, it just makes it more acceptable by giving cover to those who killed the civilians.

              This is simply wrong. The peak of civilian killing was WWII, when entire cities were targeted because that's as accurate as the bombers could get. Not only did this culminate in the complete destruction of two Japanese cities, but the US had already killed far more civilians with firebombs than it managed to kill with nukes. And the Japanese were hardly in a position to complain after their own actions in Korea and China.

              Now we have weapons that are precisely targeted. So much so we can use bombs filled with concrete to destroy AA installations parked in civilian neighborhoods without killing people in the house next door. That AA position would surely have been destroyed in earlier wars as well, and it would have been done with 2000 pound bombs dropped on the entire neighborhood, or, more recently, a more precisely targeted 500 pound bomb that destroyed the AA installation because it was accurate enough to hit the house next door. Which is worse, do you think?

              The laser would give us the option to be very precise, to the point where we could destroy vehicle tracks on an advancing armored column without injuring the soldiers inside. Someday that will be SOP, where countries that inflict unnecessary losses on enemy soldiers will be roundly criticized.

              • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

                by caluml (551744)

                The peak of civilian killing was WWII, when entire cities were targeted because that's as accurate as the bombers could get.

                I've been surprised to find out that people weren't aware that Hitler fired (not personally, I believe) large rockets right into the middle of London, as well as just dropping tonnes of high explosives randomly over major cities [wikipedia.org]. Everyone used to run into air-raid shelters, or down the Underground stations, meaning that only 43,000 were killed.
                Children were sent from the cities to live with random strangers in the countryside [wikipedia.org], to protect the next generation, I assume.

        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          Laser weapons would be more humane, preventing death via infection or bleedout.

          My name is Tony Stark, and I approve this message.

        • by Amazing Quantum Man (458715) on Monday September 22, 2008 @02:33PM (#25108323) Homepage

          With the ATL (AC-130/chemlaser described above)... If you get hit by the beam, you're pretty much dead. Current RoE prohibit using a laser to intentionally blind or maim someone. ATL is really intended for attacks on physical targets where explosive munitions are either too noisy/obvious, or they can cause too much collateral damage.

          Consider a case where insurgents or rebellious forces have taken over an anthrax factory. You don't really want to drop a JDAM on top of it. Or if they've set up near a culturally significant mosque. For political reasons, you don't want to drop a JDAM on their equipment.

    • by halivar (535827) <{moc.liamg} {ta} {reglefb}> on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:18PM (#25106887) Homepage

      If both sides of every conflict missed every single target like on the TV show, I would, indeed, find it hilarious.

    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by FishAdmin (1288708)

      Come on, you know the battlefields of the future are going to look like a 1980's G.I. Joe cartoon. Hilarious. Wait... Not really hilarious...

      The important thing is that now we know...and knowing is half the battle!

    • Come on, you know the battlefields of the future are going to look like a 1980's G.I. Joe cartoon. Hilarious. Wait... Not really hilarious...

      Please RTFA, I quote (emphasis mine):

      The science board said tactical laser systems could be developed for broader use because they "enable precision ground attack to minimize collateral damage in urban conflicts." The report suggested, for example, that "future gunships could provide extended precision lethality and sensing."

      I don't know what GI Joe cartoons you watc

    • by Culture20 (968837)
      I think it would be awesome; that means no one would get hit by the lasers. Yo Joe!
    • by skiingyac (262641)

      I more imagine people in 60's style space suits that reflect the lasers running around and laser beams bouncing everywhere. Or maybe a group of soldiers high stepping around carrying a big mirror (or better yet, a piece of one-way glass so they can shoot but not be shot at!).

      At least tinfoil hats will finally have an actual use.

      note: I don't know how fancy of a reflective surface you'd need to reflect a laser weapon (or a reflective-surface-piercing laser weapon), but you are welcome to speculate.

  • You'll get idiots like these [defensetech.org] running around with laser weapons.
    • You'll get idiots like these [defensetech.org] running around with laser weapons.

      And what about this kind of idiots [nickscipio.com] ? Do you really want them [nickscipio.com] to be able to buy lasers over the counter ?!?

      Gun crazy private militia has always frightened me. As if these idiots didn't have a big enough aresenal you want to add lasers to their tool belt ?

  • by b96miata (620163) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:09PM (#25106725)

    Great, now mirrors will be renamed to "Improvised Reflective Devices"

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by halivar (535827)

      Do mirrors work against high-energy lasers? Say, the kind powerful enough to fry a person?

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by bughunter (10093)

        Only if very nearly perfectly reflective at the laser wavelength, and then only if kept perfectly clean.

        Something like this would be far more difficult for a low-tech insurgent to deploy than, say, a PIC [yahoo.com], a cellphone, some vectorboard, a length of det cord, and a hunk of C4.

      • Re:compact=gitmo (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Nyrath the nearly wi (517243) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:29PM (#25107075) Homepage
        No, mirrors will not work. The weapon will use internally a wide beam that is just barely under the intensity level that will damage the weapon's internal mirrors. At the barrel, the focusing mirror will focus the wide beam down to a searing pin-point on the hapless target. The focused beam will be more than intense enough to defeat any mirror the target might be wearing. I have some notes here: http://www.projectrho.com/rocket/rocket3l.html#laserpistol [projectrho.com]
      • by plover (150551) *

        How fried? Do you mean disable (i.e. temporary blindness), cripple (permanent blindness), burn (seared flesh), or maim (severed limbs or death?) An ordinary mirror will work fine for the lower power attacks (as would a sheet of cardboard!) If you have a mirror made from the right kind of material (such as copper) it'll deflect any of these. But the kind powerful enough to take out a satellite, missile, or weapons platform? I have heard that no ordinary mirror would withstand them, but that copper sheet

      • Re:compact=gitmo (Score:5, Informative)

        by TheRaven64 (641858) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:09PM (#25108925) Journal

        A mirror will reflect some percentage of light that hits it, and absorb the rest. A sufficiently high-power laser will mean that the absorbed percentage is high enough to melt or burn the mirror.

        If you put a mirror in the sun on a hot day then the back of it will become warmer than the surrounding air, which acts as a demonstration of this. The density of energy from the sun is quite small in comparison, however. Most anti-laser designs involve rotating mirrors, so that the mirror only has to survive a small fraction of a second before being the laser starts hitting a different part.

        If you shoot a mirror (or anything other than a perfect black body) with such a laser then there will be some reflection, which is roughly analogous to a ricochet from a bullet. How much energy is contained in this depends on the intensity of the beam, the reflectiveness of the mirror, and the shape of the object at the point where it's hit (if it's not flat then the energy will be the same, but it will be dispersed or focussed).

  • by shawb (16347) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:10PM (#25106737)
    It's going to take a Real Genius to get this right. I do hope they make sure their optics are clean.
  • Battlefield Use (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s31523 (926314) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:11PM (#25106747)

    Laser use remains controversial because a protocol of the Geneva Conventions bans their use in combat when they are designed to cause permanent blindness.

    Conventional weapons (bombs, mines, bullets, missiles, etc.) can cause death, permanent paralysis, limb loss, and even blindness. What is the difference, really?
    Also, what does it mean when fighting a group that does not abide by the Geneva Convention?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by krystar (608153)
      Actually the Geneva Convention has nothing about weapon types. Geneva Convention covers the treatment of POW's and civilians. It's the Hague Convention of 1907 that covered weapon types.

      It's not legal to shoot a human target with a 50 caliber sniper rifle. However, it is legal to shoot the helmet he's wearing.
      • Re:Battlefield Use (Score:5, Informative)

        by Kagura (843695) on Monday September 22, 2008 @02:33PM (#25108335)
        It's not legal to shoot a human target with a 50 caliber sniper rifle.

        This is an oft-repeated and untrue myth. It is not illegal to shoot a human target with a .50cal machine gun or a .50cal sniper rifle. Here's just one source, of which there are many, along with an excerpt (JAG = military lawyer whose job it is to know the conventions of war):

        http://www.professionalsoldiers.com/forums/showthread.php?t=1573 [professionalsoldiers.com]

        This is your JAG speaking:

        Greenhat is absolutely correct. Use of a .50 cal is not contrary to the Law of War, anymore than use of 7.62/.308 or 5.56/.223.

        If you need to shoot with a .50 cal, do it. If you can just as well smother an objective with 7.62 and save those few & heavy .50 cal MLB for your M2's in favor of lighter 7.62 1-4, save the heavy duty ammo for when you need it.

        What is contrary to the Law of War (and the Principle of War - Economy of Force) is using more than you need to, given the choice, wasting a limited supply of ammo and endangering civlians or good guys who may be miles away.

        I've heard this .50 cal bulls--t before, along with comments that the following are prohibited by "Geneva Conventions":

        - handcuffing prisoners of war.
        - blindfolding prisoners of war.
        - photographing prisoners of war.
        - males searching female prisoners of war.
        - use of silenced weapons.

        In fact, of course, none of the above are prohibited.

        If you don't trust this source, then try asking your own JAG. Don't just ask random soldiers or superiors you work with, but go straight to a trustworthy source of information on these laws.

    • Conventional weapons (bombs, mines, bullets, missiles, etc.) can cause death, permanent paralysis, limb loss, and even blindness.

      Don't you think that have enough tools to maim our next of kin ?

      More seriously, pouring money into weapon-grade Lasers :

      1. Brings even more deadly toys on the market which could subsequently be abused. Currently there are no easily transported high power lasers, because most civilian use for which they are developed (see Tera-/Peta-watt Lasers) are perfectly happy with fixed solutions. There are no such thing as a laser-weapon of death. But once the technology is developed that's yet another weapon that all

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by gnick (1211984)

        Next time someone bitches that "Fusion power is perpetually 10 year away from now", remember that instead of developing lasers for that kind of application, money has steered research in the fields of lasers toward building DeathStar lookalikes.

        I don't know how much funding has gone into DeathStar lasers, but I know of at least one facility [wikipedia.org] where we've spent more than $4 billion on fusion-friendly lasers. I suspect the fact that it's 5 years behind (on a project that was supposed to run less than a decade) and almost 4x over budget has soured potential funding for similar efforts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by philspear (1142299)

      I think I remember hearing that this same reasoning in the first gulf war led some commanders to order their troops to turn the intensity of their laser blinders down so that they worked only as laser sights to then kill the target.

      I think it's probably just an excuse. While that sounds bad and hypocritical, I can empathize. If you're suddenly face to face with an enemy combatant, and he has a gun, you want to be sure he's not going to fire back. If you put a giant hole in his head and chest, he's not go

  • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:12PM (#25106771) Journal

    Last month, the Army awarded Boeing $36 million to continue development of a high-energy laser

    $36 million, eh? Not much when you say it quick. I suppose it's a drop in the ocean of US defence spending.

    Other countries manage to generate growth without being such warmongers. What is it with the US and this obsession with devising new and more efficient ways to wage war? Dwight Eisenhower's warning [google.com] seems to have been more prophetic than many would have realised. This war machine has every congressman in its pocket, it's sucking the taxpayer dry, and it's out of control.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      When the Russians go rolling across Europe again as the resources of the planet become scarce, remember you said that. You will be praying for the U.S. and all of its "wasteful" high-tech weaponry to come on over (again) and save you. Maybe next time we should stay home and let you all eat each other.

      • by FiloEleven (602040) on Monday September 22, 2008 @03:00PM (#25108807)

        When the Russians go rolling across Europe again as the resources of the planet become scarce, remember you said that. You will be praying for the U.S. and all of its "wasteful" high-tech weaponry to come on over (again) and save you. Maybe next time we should stay home and let you all eat each other.

        As opposed to the US, who is currently rolling across the Middle East in search of precious hydrocarbons that we need to fuel our military-industrial complex that has to keep growing to fight all of the people we piss off as we roll across the Middle East in search of precious hydrocarbons?

        (And yes, we should stay home and let them eat each other...it's their business.)

    • by circletimessquare (444983) <circletimessquare@NoSpaM.gmail.com> on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:27PM (#25107037) Homepage Journal

      generating growth without spending on defense exist in peace due to the efforts of the us military. a world without us military spending would be a world of russian imperialism and utter havoc in the middle east, and those "peaceful" countries would radically ramp up their own defense spending, or cease to exist, or become war zones

      the usa is the de facto peacekeeper in the world today, for better or worse. some day, it won't be, nothing is forever, and that world will not be a more peaceful one, but a more warlike one, until it transitions to a new peacekeeper

      some people don't understand this, and its due to a common misperception: peace is not a state of absence of war potential. peace is a state of balance in war potentials between two or more sides. the world exists in this constant tension, always has, and always will. you would understand this ugly but undeniable truth if you truly understood essential human nature

      peace is nothing more than a state of balance between two deadly potentials. remove one of those balances, and in the transition to a new state of balance, much bloodletting occurs. that's all peace is. a balance between war potentials. it is absolutely impossible in this world for peace to exist without any armed forces. such a world would be full of more bloodshed, random warlord. a world of two massive armies with loaded guns pointed at each other is meanwhile perfectly peaceful. i didn't say this is a good thing, i just recognize an unfortunate ugly truth when i see one

      but there ar epletny out there, raised in a coccoon of relative peace ot the rest of human history and other parts of this world, who are blind to this reality. they live in a hermietically sealed bubble, and they begin to develop attitudes about peace and war which frankly, is absurd

      if you don't agree with this assessment, or don't understand it, you don't really understand the nature of the human beings living around you, and you aren't in very good touch with your own human nature

      a lot of people don't understand exactly what creates peace in this world. real peace is a balance between two deadly potentials, not the absense of any deadly potential

      understand that about the nature of peace, or live in denial

      • by fiannaFailMan (702447) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:41PM (#25107317) Journal

        a world without us military spending would be a world of russian imperialism and utter havoc in the middle east

        "Would be?" What's with the conditional tense?

        peace is a state of balance in war potentials between two or more sides.

        That was all you had to say. The two dozen repetitions of 'you don't understand human nature' were a bit superfluous.

        Europe was once a patchwork of opposing 'war potentials' as you describe them. There was a network of alliances pointing guns at each other in the belief that it would lead to peace. In reality all it took was a single assassination to trigger off the first world war. Modern Europe is a network of treaties and agreements where governments work together for mutual benefit. Result? It would now be impossible for the likes of Germany to go to war with France or any EU member to go to war with another.

        There is an alternative to violence or the threat of violence in international relations. The American attitude of 'a gun in everyone's pocket keeps everyone safer' is one that doesn't work at home, and in world affairs it's a very high stakes game to be playing in the interests of proving that your ideology is correct.

        • the eu (Score:3, Insightful)

          will either ramp up defense spending after what happened to georgia, or become a vassal state to moscow if the usa lowers its defense spending. if more in europe think like you than me, it will be a vassal state then

          the eu has done all it has done in the realm of peace over the last 50 years due to existing in a world larger than europe: sitting between the poles of moscow and washington, guns pointed at each other. not in the middle of a volatile balancing act of many european powers that existed for hundr

          • Re:the eu (Score:5, Insightful)

            by mjwx (966435) on Tuesday September 23, 2008 @02:15AM (#25116409)
            Perhaps you need to read up on what happened to Soviet Russia?

            They had this mindset after world war 2, this lead to decades of famine and oppression at the hands of Stalin and his successors. It was soviet policy that the military needs come first, way ahead of any other concerns even above feeding and housing their own people. This mentality gave them an army unrivalled by any other single power but it also lead to their downfall. Slowly their technology dropped behind everyone else's, their ability to support their civilian infrastructure lagged even further, they could not compete in international trade, civilian morale was non-existent and the only mechanism keeping the civilian population in line at some points was the secret police and their best military machines could not manage to defeat a bunch of determined rebels in Afghanistan.

            What bought the US into dominance in the latter half of the twentieth century was is diplomacy and trade. Given the enormous advantage the US had by being untouched by the war the US focused its energy into strengthening alliances and trading with partners which gave the US money to expand both its military services and civilian infrastructure as well as invest in greater educational and scientific facilities. Even when manufacturing moved to Asia the US still found a strong economy in high tech arenas.

            Perhaps you are familiar with the old saying, "he who lives by the sword dies by the sword" and history has proven this time and time again. No militaristic power (Huns, Mongols, Third Reich) has ever succeeded for very long, and nowhere near as long as cultural (Roman Empire) or Economic powers (British Empire). The most successful empires did have large armies but did not use them as a first resort and placed much more emphasis on diplomacy and trade. Going back to my example of the Soviet Union, who faced multiple rebellions due to the harsh conditions which had to be put down by force was eventually undone by untrained and ill-equipped Afghans, the Soviet military power was never able to rebuild as they didnt have the civilian and scientific power to do so, their only diplomatic card was their army which they used at every occasion and when they withdrew from Afghanistan they lost all diplomatic power.

            This will not be the case with the withdrawal from Iraq, provided it is not put off to too long. The strength of the US has always been her trade and diplomacy, despite the idiotic actions of your current leader the US is still held in relatively high esteem with her major allies (European and Pacific) and if military funding was not increased it would not reflect badly as the US's significant partners would still trade with and bolster her.

            and the russian bear awakes again

            so listen to me now, or wait until death and destruction visits europe again before you pick up a gun

            Not going to happen and is not necessary. The old Soviet Union fell after their direct first military defeat, this is because they had no other strenghts apart from their military. The new Russian Federation is different, it is depended on export to (shock horror) Western Europe to maintain its economy, primarily energy exports and their military is a shadow of its former power. Russia is no threat to Europe and Russia stands to lose more by losing favour amongst Europeans.

            Even if Putin launched and invasion today, they would be hard pressed to get past the first wave of EU defenders. Germany and Britain have two of the worlds best militarys, in addition to France, Turkey, Sweeden and were not even counting European Allies such as Japan, Australia/New Zealand, Canada and the US. Add to this that Russia does not have current generation equipment equivalent to Challenger2/Lepoard2/Abrams Tanks, Eurofighter/F22/F35 aircraft, modern assault rifles, UAV's, guided missiles, so on and so forth, in addition to this most of their military equipment is mothballed and poorly maintained. But the biggest one of all is,

    • You got fighter aircraft that can cruise at Mach 2 and still are stealthy, a new kind of submarine, a new kind of aircraft carrier, rail gun battleships are suddenly on the table and lasers blasting all over the place. If the USA can recover from some of its fiscal problems and keep up the pace of military research, it should be well in charge of its destiny for the next 50-100 years.

    • by unassimilatible (225662) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:33PM (#25107157) Journal
      For off, calling the USA "warmongers" should be modded flamebait.

      And your history and math are wrong. Ike warned of the military industrial complex, not on the use of the military, which he obviously supported, you know, having led the largest invasion in world history. But anti-military types just love to misquote Ike.

      The US spends *much less* of its GDP than it did in Ike's time, much less.

      The left should be pleased that defense spending as a percentage of the federal budget has steadily declined during the past decades. In the early 1960s the Department of Defense constituted 45 percent of federal spending, whereas this year it will constitute an estimated 17 percent, according to the Office of Management and Budget. Source [csmonitor.com]

      As the article points out, the real scandal is the ever-increasing entitlement pending that is going to bankrupt America.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Zordak (123132)

      it's sucking the taxpayer dry, and it's out of control.

      Actually, FDR's socialist programs are sucking us dry. Two-thirds of our federal budget is spent artificially propping up failed entitlement programs.

  • Nothing new here... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Koreantoast (527520) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:13PM (#25106785)
    This should hardly be a surprise to anyone; the United States government already has functioning platforms. Just this month, the Boeing Company test fired a fully working prototype of its Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL), a C-130 with a high-energy chemical laser on a rotating turret mounted on the belly of the plane. I don't know if it was a full powered shot, but the press releases indicate that it successfully hit a ground target. Then there's the larger Airborne Laser (ABL), an even bigger laser mounted on a 747 used to shoot down ballistic missiles.
    • by giorgiofr (887762)
      Now correct me if I am wrong, but wouldn't a laser be much easier to target and wouldn't it hit much more often than conventional weapons where there is a noticeable lag between firing and the bullet/whatever hitting the target? I would imagine laser moves at the speed of light, so there would be virtually no lag at all. Also, how much energy would such a weapon require to punch through armor and the likes?
  • by megamerican (1073936) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:14PM (#25106799)
  • I wonder if you could make a missle defense system that basically is many wide lasers shooting in cross-hatch, dual-rows. Of course, the power needed for something like this would require a huge store of anti-matter and dilithium crystals...

  • by Tmack (593755) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:16PM (#25106857) Homepage Journal
    TFA even states congress is BOOSTING funding, and lists projects that have been in the works for YEARS. This [wired.com] project has been around for a few years, and had a "live" test a couple months ago. It listed several other projects that have been in active research and dev for years, and explicitly states funding for such projects got a boost (though some might get cut). US Congress funding lasers: not news, boost to that fundng: maybe news. At least it gives a peek at some of the laser projects in the works, though misses some by a mile.

    Tm

  • Japanese Begin Working On Space Elevator AND US Congress Funds Laser Weapons...

    Well, there's an easy joke in there but I could also ask if it isn't time for the USA to think about their investments.

    You could ask what's in it for me but then I would tell you that any country that gets too advanced militarily will tend to bully the rest of the world. On the other hand, being advanced in other fields will make the country financially superior through commerce.

    Think about it.

    • by Xeth (614132)

      Indeed. The U.S. hasn't been pursuing space elevators at all [space.com]

      Perhaps by "easy" you meant "facile".

      • by Bragador (1036480)

        Well, to be fair, I never said they never researched the subject. All I wanted to say is that most of the money tends to go for military research. Also, I know that no science is worthless.

        As for the space elevator, the small prizes given in the USA are nothing compared to what the japanese government is giving away for that field.

        • by Xeth (614132)

          How much are the Japanese actually putting into that endeavor? I mean, they've estimated the cost at a trillion yen, but I'm pretty sure they haven't actually budgeted that money out.

          Also, I'd be careful in demarcating military research to strongly. As I said in another post, building these things would require a great deal of high-tech American manufacturing, which I can hardly view as a bad thing. And I'm sure someone will come up with something to do with cheap lasers (I hear there's some promising fusio

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by IanHurst (979275)
          "All I wanted to say is that most of the money tends to go for military research."

          Do you have a reference for that by chance? I read this claim all over but whenever I go looking for numbers I can't find them. My impression is military research gets more _direct_ funding, but by funding the US university system, the amount of non-military research indirectly funded is higher. But again, I can't find the numbers either way.

          Also, I know you hear it a lot, but a lot of the technology that makes the modern
  • Whatever the hell it is, just blast it out of the frikkin sky!!!
  • Invest in ill-tempered sea bass NOW!
  • I thought Boeing made planes.. shouldn't they concentrate on building stuff that stays UP in the air instead of shooting things down? :)

    Seriously, let's face it, It's all good in theory, you know, being able to pinpoint your target, improve accuracy, scalable and controllable damage control, etc...

    But hey, it's the future coming to us, let's face it, so much sci-fi, is becoming reality, it is scary what we can dream up only to make it happen uh?

    What I'm surprised is that this information is available in the

  • by tjstork (137384) <todd...bandrowsky@@@gmail...com> on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:34PM (#25107181) Homepage Journal

    The emergence of the laser is certainly going to make the long standing Democratic argument against missile defense suddenly seem pretty silly. Missile defense any more has gone from intercepting everything from ballistic missiles to shells in flight. Question to either candidate is, whose going to fund and field laser research at the current breakneck Bush pace? Will McCain have the patience for this technology or will he call it a taxpayer boondoggle and cut it? Will Obama remain starry eyed about diplomacy or will he retain a pragmatic strategic edge? Which candidate, too, will have the honesty to admit that the USA's own strategic nuclear delivery systems will need to be upgraded when its own defenses make it obsolete?

  • "enable precision ground attack to minimize collateral damage in urban conflicts."

    The precision claim comes from the fact that lasers are coherent beams of light. We've all seen laser pointers. You point them at something, and they mark it with a very compact spot of light. That is where "precise" comes from. Therefore, the thinking goes, if you make a laser weapon, it too will be "precise," right? Yes and no. Yes, it will hit whatever you point it at, but it will do so with the precision of the pointing

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by CompMD (522020)

      "The "precision" argument is Pentagon bullshit. "

      No, the bullshit is what you are spewing.

      1) The size and weight of laser weapon systems on the drawing boards right now are meant for C-130s and F-35s. Not helicopters. The size and weight are prohibitive.
      2) Beam precision is are defined by the optics. In the case of the laser weapons being produced, that is accomplished by deformable mirrors.
      3) A laser weapon is not "on" for very long. They are pulsed lasers with target dwell times on the order of a coup

  • Hopefully this will become obsolete by an even bigger laser and then I could buy it cheaply from a surplus dealer or auction.

    I've been in very bad need of a giant freakin laser for a long time and the current ones on the market really do not cut it.
  • $11 Trillion in debt, but the spigots are open wide for more military funding.

  • by gabrieltss (64078) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:53PM (#25107553)

    This is old news not new. The military (Air Force) was testing pulse lasers back in the 1980's. They mounted them inside the back of a C-130 aircraft. They could only get about 5 - 6 shots before the battery packs would be drained. As soon as they had their first sucessful tests, suddenly the Air Force said they were shutting down their development because they said the pulse lasers tended to blind the enemy. Hmmm contradictory to this story on the vision thing.... But this is fact not fiction, they had these things in the 1980's.. This is first hand knowledge....

  • by kellyb9 (954229) on Monday September 22, 2008 @01:57PM (#25107643)
    Even if its just for show, I hope they have a "stun" setting.
  • by SkOink (212592) on Monday September 22, 2008 @02:09PM (#25107865) Homepage

    As a kid, I always wondered - light moves so fast that it's (for all intents and purposes) not really affected by gravity at all. It would seem like this means that things 50-100 miles away from a battlefield could be hit by all of the missed laser shots before the earth curved away enough that they passed into space. And as they left orbit, what sorts of guarantees do we have that they wouldn't hit planes or low-orbit satellites? Since light moves very quickly, nobody would be able to see or dodge the laser before it hit them.

    I can see the application of air-to-ground laser strikes, but it seems like the potential for collateral damage with any other form of laser weapons is huge.

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