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  1. #1
    USMG Beer & Boob Judge
    River_Rat_459's Avatar
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    Aug 2009
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    Paging Dr. Evil...

    NOTE: Related video is here -

    Naval laser test blasts drones from the sky
    By Dan Vergano, USA TODAY
    Just like Dr. Evil of Austin Powers fame, most of us surely wish to see " sharks with frickin' laserbeams attached to their heads."

    Well, we're not quite there yet, but death rays are making some interesting strides. In a series of tests in the last week of May, for example, lasers took on unmanned aircraft in a test off San Nicolas Island, the naval weapons proving ground off the coast of California.

    "The targets came in over the ocean, and it was a good day for lasers, bad day for drones," says Mike Booen of Raytheon in Tucson. Lasers: 4, and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV's): 0, was the score, and in pretty dramatic fashion too, if you see the video provided by the defense giant.

    In a few seconds, six fiber-optic lasers with a combined 32 kilowatts of power fried up the drones in the tests. (A coffee-maker is about a one kilowatt appliance for comparison purposes, according to the Energy Department.) The range distance of the tests lasers is a Navy secret, but Defense Industry Daily in 2007 reported their reach would be three times farther than the 20-millimeter "Gatling" guns now mounted on Navy ships to defend against airborne threats.

    "One of the Navy's problems is that the bad guys have UAV's now, they can give away ship's positions," Booen says. "So we wanted to do a more real-world test of the laser over water."

    Theodore Maiman made the first working laser 50 years ago at the Hughes Research Laboratory, Raytheon's predecessor. Even before his invention, laser weapons were a staple of the comics pages since Flash Gordon first fired his ray gun in the 1930's. Lasers guide bombs and air targeting already, but any number of laser weapons have been in development in the last few decades. Most famously they're used in missile defense, but increasingly, and with more success, in small-scale operations, such as knocking down incoming mortars, a use for solid-state lasers tested in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The drone-shooting laser is a hybrid of the ship-defense "Phalanx" guns guidance system and lasers, Booen says. Rather than developing a new targeting system, they just adapted the laser to the system.

    The solid-state lasers championed by Navy researchers (Raytheon developed the test laser with Navy scientists at the service's Dahlgren Laboratory and elsewhere) appear the more useful ones over chemical lasers used in some missile-defense tests, says former Air Force chief scientist Mark Lewis, now at the University of Maryland. The Defense Department's funding of two competing laser technologies was an interesting example of technology policymaking, letting two innovations duke it out over the last two decades, rather than picking one and hoping for the best.

    Lasers offer a few advantages over bullets: They travel faster, "about Mach 1 million," Booen jokes, and for an electronic solid-state laser, you never run out of ammunition as long as you have power. But Lewis and others have cautioned that they have disadvantages, such as costs exceeding rifles and bullets, and even face legal restrictions under treaties.

    "A lot of people are talking about lasers now. It's a sexy technology," Booen says. "I think if we focus on real-world problems, we will prove what lasers can do."

    So, Austin Powers can breathe easy on the laser-equipped sharks for now, but a staple of science fiction may be on its way.

    Indecision may or may not be my problem.

  2. #2
    USMG [Retired Staff] Member
    jack's Avatar
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    Oct 2009

    Re: Paging Dr. Evil...

    I'm gonna get you Austin Powers! It's frickin' freezing in here, Mr. Bigglesworth

    "It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their own selfish purposes".- Andrew Jackson

  3. #3
    Registered User
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    Jan 2010
    North Carolina

    Re: Paging Dr. Evil...

    That's pretty damned awsome. I am really in awe with some of the new technology that keeps coming out.

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