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Shark The Military Technology

Laser Takes Out Truck Engine From a Mile Away 274

MutualFun (1730480) writes Aerospace company Lockheed Martin has used a laser to obliterate the engine of a small truck from more than a mile away. (Finally, Star Wars is making a comeback!) The company says, "The demonstration marked the first field testing of an integrated 30-kilowatt, single-mode fiber laser weapon system prototype. Through a technique called spectral beam combining, multiple fiber laser modules form a single, powerful, high-quality beam that provides greater efficiency and lethality than multiple individual 10-kilowatt lasers used in other systems."
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Laser Takes Out Truck Engine From a Mile Away

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  • by danbert8 ( 1024253 ) on Friday March 06, 2015 @02:50PM (#49198927)

    But can they be mounted on sharks? That is the real question...

  • how much it took (Score:4, Insightful)

    by cachimaster ( 127194 ) on Friday March 06, 2015 @02:55PM (#49198995)

    Maybe it took a week to make a small hole, that's an important detail.

    • Maybe it took a week to make a small hole, that's an important detail.

      And what did it cost compared to firing a single armor piercing bullet?

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by itzly ( 3699663 )

        0.1% of the kill rate of an A10 Warthog, for only 1000 times the cost. But hey, somebody's making a lot of money here, so we can't complain.

        • Don't forget the uranium in the bullets it sprays all over the place.

        • Re:how much it took (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Rich0 ( 548339 ) on Friday March 06, 2015 @04:53PM (#49200197) Homepage

          0.1% of the kill rate of an A10 Warthog, for only 1000 times the cost. But hey, somebody's making a lot of money here, so we can't complain.

          Speed-of-light weapons that have virtually linear trajectories certainly have the potential to change warfare though.

          Put it this way - if you pointed that A10 cannon upwards at an aircraft at 70k feet, you'd be hard-pressed to hit it at all. On the other hand, a laser would have relatively little difficulty hitting the aircraft even if it were in geosync orbit, or even on the surface of the moon.

          Stick something like this on a plane and you could use it to shoot down incoming missiles, shoot artillery shells in mid-flight, shoot aircraft, and so on.

          Sure, the technology is immature, but it certainly is a capability that is valuable for a military to posses.

          • A geo synch orbit is about a tenth of a light second away (actually a bit more).
            The object in such an orbit is moving with ~3km/sec, that is over 300m in the time a laser beam needs from the ground towards it.
            So: hitting it with a laser without artificial aiming/tracking aids is impossible.

        • Re:how much it took (Score:5, Interesting)

          by nehumanuscrede ( 624750 ) on Friday March 06, 2015 @04:57PM (#49200227)
          You're limiting your thinking to the short term. Expand it out a decade or two and try to picture what the tech can evolve into.

          Imagine a satellite ( or something like the ISS ) based weapon that will fire an invisible high-kilowatt ( or even megawatt ) beam on any target it can see from orbit. Maybe combine a few of these satellites onto the same target for even more power output.

          Then realize you can pretty much incinerate any human target on the planet, instantly. From orbit. Crank the power output up enough and you can do the same with aircraft, other satellites, light vehicles, ICBM's, etc. The puppet you installed during your regime change a decade ago giving you shit ? No problem. Hope they remember to wear their SPF-10000 today . . . . :| Those pesky whistleblowers taking refuge in a non-extradition country ? Pffft. No problem. Start some wildfires, disable power grids, use your imagination.

          On the ground, the target will just heat up, catch fire and die horribly. No collateral damage, nor explanation as to wtf just happened.

          Is the tech clumsy today ? Sure it is. All tech starts that way. Compare computers from 20-30 years ago with what is common today if you want to see tech evolution in action.
          • by vux984 ( 928602 )

            Imagine a satellite ( or something like the ISS ) based weapon that will fire an invisible high-kilowatt ( or even megawatt ) beam on any target it can see from orbit. Maybe combine a few of these satellites onto the same target for even more power output.

            If any nation had one and started using it in the ways you suggest, how long before opposed nations would knock it down.

            After all, what is its defense against a ground based laser shooting back at it?

        • If it scales, certainly you can put an orbital weapon system in space, right?

          An assassin in space kills at the speed of light?

    • Re:how much it took (Score:4, Informative)

      by pr0fessor ( 1940368 ) on Friday March 06, 2015 @03:10PM (#49199139)

      The article said "The ground-based laser prototype burned through the engine manifold of a mounted truck in mere seconds." so at least two seconds and less than a minute, but you are correct the longer it takes the less practical it would be to use it against a moving target.

      • by meta-monkey ( 321000 ) on Friday March 06, 2015 @03:16PM (#49199233) Journal

        They should do some tests to see how many seconds a 120mm shell fired from an M1A1 at ~1700m/s needs to be in contact with the truck to disable it.

        • They should do some tests to see how many seconds a 120mm shell fired from an M1A1 at ~1700m/s needs to be in contact with the truck to disable it.

          It'd be much like comparing a musket loading firing line to guys with long bows and seeing who had a better firing and kill rate. You could get off a lot more arrows for a long time before guns were improved to the point that the bow was only valuable when you couldn't get your hands on a gun.

          If lasers can be improved to parity in damage, they will be immeasurably more useful when attached to something a like a naval nuke. You get a firing rate only limited by your cooldown, and never need ammo for the year

          • by cdrudge ( 68377 )

            If lasers can be improved to parity in damage, they will be immeasurably more useful when attached to something a like a naval nuke.

            Finally naval warships will be able to attack and defend itself from the armadas of pickup trucks that might attack it on the high seas...

          • Lasers aren't quite as infinite as you make them out to be. There's still the matter of upkeep (all that supporting hardware is much more delicate and complex than a big gun), and often the optics and/or bits of the cooling system are expected to be replaced as wear items.
        • There are two real questions to ask here:
          1) is if the laser is in visible light or not. If you can't see the red dot source a mile off, you can't evade it.
          2) what is the range of the weapon. The range matters mostly inside the atmostphere. This weapon mounted on a spacecraft (satellite, etc) would have almost unlimited range, since the density of space is so minimal. Inside the atmosphere is another issue.

          Let x = number of seconds to disable a target.
          Let x > 2.
          Let y = range of laser in miles.
          l

          • I should have noted, that these lasers would make a suitable defensive grid against ICBMs, which reach into space (at least according to unclassified knowledge). Effectively neutralizing trillions of dollars and ruples of the US and Russian military equipment.
        • by Rich0 ( 548339 )

          They should do some tests to see how many seconds a 120mm shell fired from an M1A1 at ~1700m/s needs to be in contact with the truck to disable it.

          Perhaps a more important question is how long the laser has to be pointed at the 120mm shell in-flight from the M1A1 at 1700m/s before the shell does nothing on contact with the target.

          Blowing up targets sitting still on a range has been a solved problem for centuries. That doesn't mean that an Aegis air defense system has no more value than a medieval cannon.

      • ... the longer it takes the less practical it would be to use it against a moving target.

        Certainly true, but given that light is (near as makes no difference) instantaneous in this case, having the target in your sights and hitting it are the same thing. If the range is increased enough, I suspect that this would be a much easier weapon to use than, say, projectiles, as there's no possibility of evasion.

        • by itzly ( 3699663 )

          It's not going to be easy to keep a target in sight, when both yourself and the target are moving and vibrating. And by the looks of the burn marks on car, the laser spot is less than a few inches wide, so you'd need to be really accurate. And while the laser is near instantaneous, your targeting system still needs some time to identify the movement and compensate for it.

        • Re:how much it took (Score:4, Interesting)

          by Entropius ( 188861 ) on Friday March 06, 2015 @03:45PM (#49199563)

          It took "mere seconds" to burn through the engine manifold.

          Paint it white (specifically, something with high albedo in whatever frequency range the attacker favors) and you can probably increase that time by a factor of ten. Paint it with that retroreflective paint that they make street markings out of and you've blinded anyone near the firing station.

          Laser weapons look effective now because nobody's taking rudimentary countermeasures against them (because they don't need to). But if these things start appearing on battlefields, there are some simple countermeasures that will make their life a lot more difficult.

          • Re:how much it took (Score:5, Informative)

            by amicusNYCL ( 1538833 ) on Friday March 06, 2015 @04:41PM (#49200093)

            Paint it white (specifically, something with high albedo in whatever frequency range the attacker favors) and you can probably increase that time by a factor of ten.

            Well won't you be embarrassed when you actually click on the article and note the color of the target vehicle.

          • Re:how much it took (Score:4, Informative)

            by afidel ( 530433 ) on Friday March 06, 2015 @04:53PM (#49200195)

            Even near perfect mirroring makes damn near zero difference to a cutting laser so I doubt this attack laser would be any different.

            • Because plasma doesn't mirror very well ... but if you have say a rotating rocket this effect is going to be much reduced with a continuous wave laser, you probably won't get to the evaporation temperature necessary to really get the ball rolling.

              I think for use against rockets you're going at the very least need a hybrid pulse/continuous system ... with the pulses doing only superficial damage but destroying the mirroring properties of the metal shell so the power from the continuous laser will actually be

          • Paint it white (specifically, something with high albedo in whatever frequency range the attacker favors) and you can probably increase that time by

            Basically nothing.

            Paint it with that retroreflective paint that they make street markings out of and

            Basically nothing special will happen.

      • The article said "The ground-based laser prototype burned through the engine manifold of a mounted truck in mere seconds." so at least two seconds and less than a minute, but you are correct the longer it takes the less practical it would be to use it against a moving target.

        ...until they develop an equally impressive tracking and targeting system...

        ...unless they already have...(yes, this would likely be the classified part you're not supposed to be thinking of)

      • Its effectiveness against a moving target depends entirely upon how quickly it aims itself. And... you know, whether it aims itself.
    • the Navy is interested in this because they would really like to get out of the carrying and storing lots of explosive ammunition on warships in hostile areas business. If all they need is bigger generators and this device to have essentially unlimited shots, and not carry ammunition, some reduced capability of the individual shots is likely acceptable.
  • Retro-mirrors anyone? Then it bounces off me and sticks to you!
    • Rather: overheats, stops functioning as a mirror, and burns like everything else.
      • by itzly ( 3699663 )

        But it will take longer... it's already taking seconds. If you reflect 95% of the incoming beam, it's going to take a minute of careful aim.

        • Which is why the target power for most military lasers is orders of magnitude higher than this. This is a research milestone, not a finished project.
          • by itzly ( 3699663 )

            The laser defense systems aren't finished yet either. Mirrors can be stacked and cooled.

        • Probably not.

          First of all, the target wasn't matte black, so it was already reflecting a good bit of the incoming beam. I don't know what the IR reflectivity of the hood paint and underlying steel was at the laser's wavelength, so I don't know how much.

          Second of all, while a mirror layer would be more reflective, it would also be thinner and less durable than a truck's sheet-metal. So, even if it's absorbing less energy, it's also less able to dissipate it.

          It is interesting to consider the conflicting deman

          • by itzly ( 3699663 )

            Second of all, while a mirror layer would be more reflective, it would also be thinner and less durable than a truck's sheet-metal.

            If people are going to design anti-laser mirrors, they're not going to make them super thin.

      • Yes, but they're very cheap. They'll melt eventually but, in the meantime, should deliver enough power back to the attacker to screw up eyeballs and sensors.

    • by Leuf ( 918654 )
      Covering yourself with reflectors is a very good way to make sure you are always the one who is detected first. The one who gets detected first is usually the one who is dead.
    • Retro-mirrors anyone? Then it bounces off me and sticks to you!

      How about covering the vehicle with laser rated photovoltaics? Use that energy to your advantage.

  • by es330td ( 964170 ) on Friday March 06, 2015 @03:00PM (#49199045)
    Affix one of these to a police helicopter and that will be the end of police chases. Pinpointing the hood of fleeing vehicle for take out will be trivial.
    • "The truck was mounted on a test platform with its engine and drive train running to simulate an operationally-relevant test scenario."

      Doubt cars are going to stay still....
    • by hawguy ( 1600213 )

      Affix one of these to a police helicopter and that will be the end of police chases. Pinpointing the hood of fleeing vehicle for take out will be trivial.

      Put one of these in the hands of criminals, and it'll be the end of police helicopters -- it's got to be easier to take down a lightweight fiberglass clad helicopter than a car.

    • Helicopters would have insufficient power generation capability without becoming too heavy to take off. So far these laser systems are being loaded up things as bug as 747's or warships where coming up with a few megawatts is not on insurmountable hurdle.

  • Vid or STFU (Score:4, Funny)

    by richy freeway ( 623503 ) on Friday March 06, 2015 @03:00PM (#49199049)

    Words are cheap, we wanna see shit BURN!

  • You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
  • by MagickalMyst ( 1003128 ) on Friday March 06, 2015 @03:08PM (#49199131)
    I think that an important question here is how does one defend oneself against this?

    Of course, I don't expect to have the local police or military shooting at me (although we do seem to be moving towards a police state); but thugs and gangsters are always able to get their hands on powerful, illegal weapons.

    What can the average person do if some whackjob starts running around the city or a shopping mall with one of these things targeting innocent people?

    Do we start wearing fire-resistant foil suits? [nbfire.com]
    • by itzly ( 3699663 )

      I don't think you have to worry about people wielding such powerful lasers. One little mistake where you aim the laser at something reflective, and you'd blind yourself.

      • Plus, carrying around the house sized power supplies would make you a bit conspicuous.

      • One little mistake where you aim the laser at something reflective, and you'd blind yourself.

        One little mistake where you hit something reflective, and you'd kill yourself. A 50 KW laser may take seconds to burn through a iron engine block but will burn through soft flesh and bone MUCH faster. TFTFY

    • by pla ( 258480 )
      I think that an important question here is how does one defend oneself against this?

      Ordinary mirrors just don't work against that sort of power - they still absorb a small fraction of the energy of the light hitting them, which at 30KW would vaporize anything wearable in milliseconds.

      Realistically, you'd need some sort of ablative armor, but anything you could actually carry would only buy you a few seconds at best - And keep in mind that whole "equal and opposite reaction" thing - Blocking a 30KW lase
      • There's something called smoke? Smoke grenades, or simply injecting diesel into hot gas streams like exhausts, pump it forward and smoke particles absorb a tiny bit of energy each but since you're pumping out tons of it this doesn't matter as the smoke particles are replaced with more smoke particles pretty much instantly. Most tanks even from WWII can create smoke via exhaust injection.
    • Of course, I don't expect to have the local police or military shooting at me (although we do seem to be moving towards a police state); but thugs and gangsters are always able to get their hands on powerful, illegal weapons.

      So when's the last time you were pinned down by machine gun fire from a thug/gangster? How much body armor do you wear for that?

      How about a drone attack with a Hellfire missile? 155m artillery round? 500 pound bombs from an aircraft? Battleship 16" shell?

    • What can the average person do if some whackjob starts running around the city or a shopping mall with one of these things targeting innocent people?

      Probably the same damn thing you're going to do if some whackjob starts running around shooting an AR-15 rifle.

      Duck and run.

      Sorry, but even most bulletproof vests don't stop high-powered rifle rounds, so you've no more defense today against a 40-year old AR-15 platform than you do this brand-new thing.

    • by Adriax ( 746043 )

      Right...

      *bad mobster accent" "No sir officer, nothing illegal here. We're just three guys going for an afternoon drive in our truck.
      Oh, the trailer? The one with the 30kw laser assembly and diesel generator to power it? The 30 foot long double wide trailer that weighs 20 tons? Oh, that's my grandma's. We're just delivering it for her. Why, is a tail light out?"

    • What can the average person do if some whackjob starts running around the city or a shopping mall with one of these things targeting innocent people?

      Absolutely nothing. That guy is a goddamned superman, and he could crush you into a thin paste with his bare hands. Make peace with your maker, you're coming to meet him.

  • by tekrat ( 242117 ) on Friday March 06, 2015 @03:19PM (#49199267) Homepage Journal

    Terminator: Phased plasma rifle in the 50-watt range.
    Owner: Hey, just what you see here pal!
    Terminator : Uzi 9 millimeter
    Owner: You really know your guns, this baby is perfect for home defense....

  • The regular lead bullets from even a small caliber short barrel weapon is too fast for eyes to see. But the speed of light phasers being fired by the storm troopers leave a neat clean visible tracer lines. That leads straight back to the location of the gun which helps Harrison Ford ample time to find good spot to dive into, no antique plane needed.
    • Actually phasers leave a trail so moviegoers can follow the action in battles.

    • Farscape did this best:

      Crichton: "Don't move! Or I'll fill you full of....little yellow bolts of light!"

    • The regular lead bullets from even a small caliber short barrel weapon is too fast for eyes to see. But the speed of light phasers being fired by the storm troopers leave a neat clean visible tracer lines. That leads straight back to the location of the gun which helps Harrison Ford ample time to find good spot to dive into, no antique plane needed.

      I can't believe I'm replying to a joke post but... (a) you're mixing your movies, phasers are Star Trek and blasters are Star Wars. (b) Blasters supposedly shoot charged plasma - you fill them with gas, they excite it to a plasma somehow, and the glowing plasma is what's shot at the targets. Don't ask me about turbo lasers on capital ships.

      (Cue a follow-on stream of comments correcting mistakes I've made, lol.)

  • What they don't tell you is it doesn't work in the rain, fog, or basically anything else. Luckily most people we'd fire it at are in a nice, thin-aired desert.
  • How many civilians will it blind from the scatter?
  • [Provided our enemies accommodate us by propping their vehicles up at the optimal 45-degree angle.]
  • "Through a technique called spectral beam combining, multiple fiber laser modules form a single, powerful, high-quality beam"

    this sounds really familiar [wordpress.com]

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