Boeing's 12,000lb chemical laser set to fry targets from aircraft

aerial laser

Boeing this week said completed work on and installed a 12,000-pound chemical laser in a C-130H aircraft and will now test the weapon, which will fire through a rotating turret that extends through the aircraft's belly, until an official demonstration set for 2008.

Boeing's Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) which is being developed for the Department of Defense, will destroy, damage or disable targets with little to no collateral damage, supporting missions on the battlefield and in urban operations, Boeing said.

The ATL team includes L-3 Communications/Brashear, which made the laser turret, and Hytec which made various structural elements of the weapon system, Boeing said.

The ATL is complementary to the Airborne Laser (ABL), which Boeing is developing for the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to destroy airborne ballistic missiles. The ABL consists of a megawatt-class chemical laser mounted on a Boeing 747-400 freighter aircraft. According to Boeing the C-130H transport, which belongs to the U.S. Air Force's 46th Test Wing, will be modified to carry the high-energy chemical laser and battle management and beam control subsystems.

Both systems employ a Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser (COIL) that is made by combining a bunch of nasty chemicals - potassium, peroxide, chlorine, iodine and other stuff and then fired at supersonic speeds. According to as post on Wikipedia, each COIL burst produces enough energy in a five-second burst to power a typical American household for more than one hour. The system doesn't so much evaporate its target as melts or damages it rendering it useless. In the case of using it against missiles, the missle is typically weakened and then explodes, experts said.

"The installation of the high-energy laser shows that the ATL program continues to make tremendous progress toward giving the war fighter a speed-of-light, precision engagement capability that will dramatically reduce collateral damage," said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "Next year, we will fire the laser at ground targets, demonstrating the military utility of this transformational directed energy weapon."

Boeing said in a statement that the program "achieved two other major milestones earlier this year. 'Low-power' flight tests were completed in June at Kirtland; the ATL aircraft used its flight demonstration hardware and a low-power laser to find and track moving and stationary ground targets. .... The low-power laser, a surrogate for the high-energy laser, hit its intended target in each of more than a dozen tests. "

The Navy has also been hard at work on laser weapons. The company that makes what it calls directed energy weapons, Ionatron, earlier this year said it had won an almost $10 million contract from the U.S. Navy to continue developing of its Laser Induced Plasma Channel (LIPC) technology. According to the company's Website, a short pulse laser that can be directed at a target with ferocious intensity. The company also notes that the gun is available in lethal and non-lethal versions.

The Department of Defense is also testing the Active Denial System (ADS), which fires pain-inducing beams of 95-GHz radio waves, for deployment on ground vehicles. (By comparison, microwave ovens operate at around 2.5 GHz.) The Active Denial System is being adapted for possible use as a battlefield weapon and as a security measure for nuclear facilities. The ADS heats a target's skin, producing a sensation similar to having a light bulb pressed against flesh.

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