Great News! Military to Get Star Trek Style Phaser Cannons!

Laser.jpgOk… they’re not actually phasers, but we are going to be seeing some seriously big honking lasers. Northrop Grumman has apparently broken one of the technological barriers to development and built a laser with more than 100 kW output which should pretty much fry anything in its sights.

Huge news for real-life ray guns: Electric lasers have hit battlefield strength for the first time — paving the way for energy weapons to go to war.

In recent test-blasts, Pentagon-researchers at Northrop Grumman managed to get its 105 kilowatts of power out of their laser — past the “100kW threshold [that] has been viewed traditionally as a proof of principle for ‘weapons grade’ power levels for high-energy lasers,” Northrop’s vice president of directed energy systems, Dan Wildt, said in a statement.

Those of you who have been following this story will remember that the key advancement which got us here was a switch from chemical lasers to electric lasers. The chemical lasers were extremely powerful, but in terms of battlefield use they were somewhat impractical since it could take up to five railroad cars full of chemicals to fire them once. The electrical laser just requires a sufficiently powerful generator to fire continuously.

So is this really “great news” for us? Opponents of military force may not think so, but lasers should have some distinct advantages in combat. Even for pacifists, one of the chief complaints regarding combat operations is the potential for collateral damage. (Read as: blowing up civilians) The general goal has been for “laser accuracy” with smart munitions. Well, here you have it. There’s nothing more laser accurate than an actual laser. Burning a hole in a target should generally produce less unintended consequences than blowing something up.

Now we just need to finish up work on the photon torpedoes. I mean, I realize that we’re probably never going to get the flying cars they promised us back in the seventies, but the least they can do is cough up a functional photon torpedo.

9 Comments

  1. Ah, but Photon Torpedoes are an explosive device, capable of generating collateral damage! That is a 'no-no'.

    All future military weapons must at most kill only military targets, but perhaps even that will not be good enough. They may need to be designed to only stun the enemy, or perhaps even just make them 'feel bad'.

    Of course, there will have to be counter-acting 'self-esteem re-enahancement' munitions for use after the military objective has been met.

  2. Now all we need is getting the other side to wear red sweaters, and the whole war thing can be done on paper. Whichever side has less red sweaters wins, because we know those guys always die.

  3. Only if their name is Ensign Smith!

  4. Well that's just peachy. Yet another advancement for the nation that conditions its youth for violence…and has strong, overriding adoration, for all things 'force projection'.

  5. I hope you all get your morning afternoon woodies on over this one. These weapons are somewhat accurate, but their efficiency is the deciding factor over costs.
    http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/smart/lgb.htm

    Laser Guided Bombs

    “In World War II it could take 9,000 bombs to hit a target the size of an aircraft shelter. In Vietnam, 300. Today we can do it with one laser-guided munition from an F-117.”
    USAF, Reaching Globally, Reaching Powerfully: The United States Air Force in the Gulf War (Sept. 1991), p. 55.

    9000 versus 1!!!
    The standard of accuracy is CEP, and that is just 50%. While the tighter accuracies are RMS and 2DRMS. The Youtube of LGB going down chimneys in Iraq are just spin.

  6. Speaking of collateral damage, how far does a laser go after it makes its first intended hole (assuming things go well)?

    By the way, they had laser weapons from space years ago. I saw them in the movie Real Genius. Turns out they are great for making lots of popcorn.

  7. I thought the red shirt guys were all named Ensign Ricky

  8. We can finally clean up the nasty Klingons orbiting Uranus.

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