The Bhutto story got me wondering about lasers. The following information is what’s fit for public consumption, and it’s damning enough. Just use your imagination to surmise what kinds of “black ops” weapons have been developed in this time frame.
Information about the damage such lasers could inflict is classified. But in general, experts say, a 25-kilowatt laser could blind an enemy sensor several hundred miles away. It also could put a hole through a sheet of metal from a distance of several miles.
…A laser’s beam would not by itself cause a target to explode. But it could slice through the outer casing of a missile, disabling the guidance system or causing the missile’s propellant to explode.
Lasers do have one big drawback. The beam is not very effective in inclement weather and requires greater levels of energy to pierce thick clouds.
…Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “is hot on … the notion of zapping people,” Pike said. “Lasers are in line with Rumsfeld’s idea of transforming the military, which is to come up with wonder-weapons that other countries can’t emulate.”
Apparently the chemical laser technology proved to be unwieldy, so the scientists focused on the solid-state lasers. From 2006:
So the Department of Defense is now pinning its hopes on solid-state lasers, which can be powered by electricity rather than chemical fuel. These lasers have also been years in development, but last month prototype system designs from two competing US contractors, Northrop Grumman of Los Angeles and Textron Systems of Wilmington, Massachusetts, passed the Pentagon’s preliminary review. The companies now have until the end of 2008 to demonstrate that their devices can fire a 100-kilowatt beam - enough to take down a high-speed rocket - for 300 seconds in a simulated battle. The teams are already well on their way: late last year Northrop Grumman set a new record when its laser fired a 27-kilowatt beam for 350 seconds.
…“Lasers are highly precise and cause negligible damage to surrounding areas,” says Mike McVey of Northrop Grumman. “They are also much safer to people in the vicinity of the threat.” A solid-state laser of less than 100 kilowatts could hit the engine of a vehicle, disabling it and bringing the vehicle to a halt without harming the people inside, he claims.
…In comparison, solid-state lasers can be powered by electricity. The type used for military applications essentially involves applying a voltage across a semiconductor diode made of gallium, aluminium and arsenic, which converts the electrical energy into light. Such semiconductor lasers are very good at generating raw power, but their beams are not suitable for destroying a target. So the light from many diodes is then directed onto a separate sheet of transparent material, where it excites neodymium atoms within the material, producing a single beam of laser light. By passing this light through a series of sheets, the beam’s power can be increased.
… Solid-state lasers may not need to be as powerful as their chemical cousins, says Neice. This is because the devices emit light at wavelengths of close to 1 micrometre, in the infrared range, compared to 4 micrometres for chemical lasers like THEL. As a result, the beams tend to propagate more easily through the atmosphere, meaning more energy will reach the target than with chemical laser beams.
It’s important to note that at least two distinct types of technologies are being pursued. The military seems willing to let us know that they want big lasers powerful enough to knock missiles out of the sky. Feel safe, kids. These large weapons require trucks or truck-sized buildings full of chemical fuel. Click here to see pictures. However, having multiple technologies makes it easier for people to muddy the waters about what is possible. It’s easy to deflect questions and suspicions by pointing to the big, unwieldy technology fit for public consumption and say, “That’s ridiculous to say we did X (small job) with a laser. Look at these lasers. They are big and unwieldy. They can’t do small jobs. You are being paranoid.” This deflection does nothing to answer what other technologies may exist and what their capabilities are.
Do not suffer from a failure of imagination. We had a failure of imagination on 911, and then we had another failure of imagination about who caused 911, and so forth. It’s really a mistake to take anything off the table, to use one of Their favorite phrases. Power-hungry, blood-thirsty bastards will not restrain themselves from finding exciting new ways to kill people and get away with it.
Check out the gushing excitement from this 2002 JINSA (The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs) article.
If all goes according to current plans, the United States military will soon field a number of new weapons systems seemingly more at home in science fiction than the battlefield. Known as directed energy weapons (DEW), they will soon make a transition from highly-classified research programs to fielded systems - new additions to the growing arsenal of high-tech weapons at the disposal of the United States and her allies.
Currently, two major types of DEWs are under evaluation for operational capability: laser weapons and high-power microwave (HPM) devices, the latter of which will likely see service first, though both are probably less than five years away.
A quick calculation on my fingers here tells me that these weapons are probably in use now.
High-power microwave weapons use broad beams of microwave radiation, similar to radar beams, in short bursts to affect their targets. At low settings, HPM could, theoretically, be used as a non-lethal dispersion weapon intended to break-up mobs and groups of enemy soldiers by heating the water in living cells to create an uncomfortable sensation. No research data exists on the long-term effects of exposure, but it is generally believed to be harmless, in the long-term.
Well, geez Wally, while you’re doing all that research about the weapons, do you suppose you could find out about the effects on people?
Ideally, HPM will be used in place of precision-guided munitions to disable high-value targets or installations located in populated areas, in an effort to reduce civilian casualties. Mike Booen, head of Raytheon Electronic Systems’ directed energy weapons program, explained to Aviation Week & Space Technology, “We want to replace high explosives with directed energy weapons. Any munitions or platforms that carry high explosives, we want to replace with DEW. We want to enable new missions where high explosives [are called for but cannot be used] because of problems of collateral damage or the need for a facility after the conflict.”
These weapons guys are pretty thoughtful, you have to admit.
Current plans are to field the first high-power microwave systems onboard expendable, single-use platforms, such as the Tomahawk cruise missile, the Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM), and the fighter-launched BQM-145A unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It is believed that the United States is developing and manufacturing HPM modules for the current inventory of these systems in anticipation of their use in the ongoing ‘global war on terrorism’ or against Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, in the event of another conflict with Iraq.
Laser weapons, though currently lagging behind HPM in regards to initial operational readiness, are far more likely to be installed aboard manned aircraft. Lasers would be used, in place of precision-guided smart-bombs to destroy ground targets. Though most effective against vehicles, storage dumps and non-hardened structures, lasers could be used for a variety of missions which call for precision strikes with minimal damage to surrounding areas and structures. Moreover, lasers may see use as an addition to the side-firing artillery cannons and gatling guns installed on Air Force AC-130 gunships. Unlike high-power microwave beams, lasers, operating at a lower-frequency, would require a pulse two to four seconds long in order to inflict damage at longer ranges.
Lasers possess the inherent advantage of a virtually inexhaustable ammunition supply and a firing rate limited only by the need to cool components. Additionally, lasers employed as a strike weapon also have the advantage of being largely undetectable. Their use, therefore, would not only cause damage, but chaos and confusion within enemy forces and commanders. “There’s no huge explosion associated with its employment,” a Lockheed Martin official told Aviation Week & Space Technology. “There are no pieces and parts left behind that someone can analyze to say, ‘This came from the U.S.’ The damage is very localized, and it’s hard to tell where it came from and when it happened. It’s all pretty mysterious.”
Mysterious indeed. It’s also mysterious how freaking fast the ‘Bhutto was killed by a laser‘ story went down the memory hole if you ask me.
h/t usexpatriote & friends