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Toys United States

Contractor Proposes Laser Rifles for US Military 758

The Fryar writes "Well, folks, it looks like the future really is now! It seems the Defense Review has uncovered a submission by Stavatti, a sort of "free market" defense contractor, to the military for a laser rifle. The submission comes in response to the Army's LFLAN requirement - the quest to provide "Light Fighter Lethality After Next" technology, or lasers/phasers/sabers/advanced weapons for use some 20 years down the road. Needless to say, I also considered the category "Star Wars Prequels" for this article."
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Contractor Proposes Laser Rifles for US Military

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  • You mean... (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:16AM (#5643879)
    Now attach them to shark's heads.
    • by swordboy ( 472941 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @11:43AM (#5644547) Journal
      Or you could use them to play a prank on a corrupt college professor - use the laser to fill his house with popcorn!

      Oh.. wait...
    • by TheLastUser ( 550621 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:05PM (#5645118)
      Axis of Evil Wannabees
      by John Cleese

      Bitter after being snubbed for membership in the "Axis of Evil", Libya,
      China and Syria today announced that they had formed the "Axis of Just as
      Evil", which they said would be more evil than that stupid Iran-Iraq-North
      Korea axis President Bush warned of in his State of the Union address.

      Axis of Evil members, however, immediately dismissed the new Axis as
      having, for starters, a really dumb name. Right. They are just as
      evil...in their dreams!" declared North Korean leader Kim Jong-il.
      "Everybody knows we're the best evils . . best at being evil . .we're the

      Diplomats from Syria denied they were jealous over being excluded,
      although they conceded they did ask if they could join the Axis of Evil.
      "They told us it was full," said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. "An
      axis can't have more than three countries", explained Iraqi President
      Saddam Hussien.

      "This is not my rule, it's tradition. In World War II you had
      Germany,Italy and Japan in the evil Axis. So, you can only have three, and
      a secret hand shake. Ours is wickedly cool."

      International reaction to Bush's Axis of Evil declaration was swift, as
      within minutes, France surrendered. Elsewhere, peer-conscious nations
      rushed to gain triumvirate status in what has become a game of
      geopolitical chairs.

      Cuba, Sudan and Serbia announced that they had formed the "Axis of
      Somewhat Evil", forcing Somalia to join with Uganda and Myanmar in the
      "Axis of Occasionally Evil", while Bulgaria, Indonesia and Russia
      established the "Axis of Not So Much Evil Really as Just Generally

      With the criteria suddenly expanded and all the desirable clubs filling
      up, Sierra Leone, El Salvador, and Rwanda applied to be called the Axis of
      Countries That Aren't the Worst But Certainly Won't Be Asked to Host the

      Canada, Mexico and Australia formed the "Axis of Nations That Are Actually
      Quite Nice But Secretly Have Some Nasty Thoughts About America", while
      Scotland, New Zealand and Spain established the "Axis of Countries That
      Want Sheep to Wear Lipstick". "That's not a threat, really, just something
      we like to do", said Scottish Executive First Minister Jack McConnell.

      While wondering if the other nations of the world weren't perhaps making
      fun of him, a cautious Bush granted approval for most axes, although he
      rejected the establishment of the "Axis of Countries Whose Names End in
      'Guay", accusing one of its members of filing a false application.
      Officials from Paraguay, Uruguay, and Chadguay denied the charges.

      Israel, meanwhile, insisted it didn't want to join any Axis, but privately
      world leaders said that's only because no one asked them.
      • Not Cleese (Score:5, Informative)

        by phriedom ( 561200 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @02:04PM (#5645595)
        I does sound like something Cleese would write, but it was written by Andrew Marlatt [satirewire.com].
      • by maquina ( 229173 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @02:07PM (#5645619) Homepage
        Get your sources straight, from SatireWire [satirewire.com] the original writer:

        "Strangely enow, this SatireWire story lately has been zipping around the 'Net attributed to John Cleese. That's flattering and funny and all, but now I'm getting so many emails asking who "really" wrote it that it will make my life easier to nip it here. I apologize for any disappoinment, but the story was written by Andrew Marlatt. It first appeared on SatireWire on Feb. 1, 2002, and was subsequently published in several major newspapers, including this version still available at The Washington Post. So that's the deal. All the best -- Andrew"

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Fire the "laser"!
  • WOW (Score:5, Funny)

    by WestieDog ( 592175 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:16AM (#5643882) Homepage
    I also here that the BFG isn't far behind...
    • Re:WOW (Score:5, Funny)

      by robbo ( 4388 ) <slashdot@simra. n e t> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:52AM (#5644170)
      I was thinking more along the lines of a Doomsday Device, or perhaps a method for clearing planets to make way for an interstallar bypass. :-)
  • Woohoo! (Score:4, Funny)

    by Saint Mitchell ( 144618 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:18AM (#5643889)
    I'm with it as long as the use Red for one side and Blue for the other just like they did in the GI Joe cartoons. After all, you have to be able to tell who is shooting at you.

    • Re:Woohoo! (Score:2, Funny)

      by Marco_polo ( 160898 )
      dammit! you beat me as well! that's the first thing I thought of!

      Then again, if you put a blue hood over Saddam's head.. his 'republican guard' could be COBRA. And GW could be Duke.. yeah yeah.. and Rumsfeld could put on a mask and be snake eyes.. woot!
    • Re:Woohoo! (Score:4, Funny)

      by aghman ( 303312 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:29AM (#5643996) Homepage
      Then nobody would die, and only vehicles would explode! And whenever something bad was going to happen to you, one of the Joe's would come around and teach you how to stay safe! Oh what a wonderful world.
      "And now I know...and knowing is half the battle!"
    • Re:Woohoo! (Score:5, Funny)

      by gmuslera ( 3436 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:51AM (#5644162) Homepage Journal
      Those lasers will follow the RFC 3514 convention, so evil people will turn on the evil bit to have a laser in red color, and good ones will have it turned off.

      That will be used unless the evil ones are really evils, and turn off the bit disregarding RFC and Geneva conventions, in that case the good ones will change the bit to look different.

      Fortunatelly they will not be used in the Iraq war, because invaders (the ones that you traditionally call evils) and iraqis (the evil ones according to US) will use the same color.

    • Re:Woohoo! (Score:5, Funny)

      by jareth780 ( 176411 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @11:20AM (#5644392)
      "Before a weapon like the TIS-1 could be adopted, a number of technichal hurdles would have to be successfully negotiated, such as..."

      1. Getting the guns to make that "Peww!" sound whenever they shoot.

      2. Making the lasers shoot at a slow enough velocity so that you can actually watch it travel from the end of the barrel to the target in no less than 0.4 seconds. This way massive hallway gun-fights involving garbage-shoot-getaways look that much cooler.

      Personally, I'm with it just as long as they make one that looks like a broomhandle mauser.
  • How do you power a weapon like this?
    It must demand huge amounts of electricity, or am I wrong?
    • RTFA.

      It says in the article that this is proposed under the LFLAN thingie, which basically means the actual device won't be implemented for another 15-20 years. Then they go on to list some of the technical hurdles needed to complete this thing, one of which is is a sufficient energy source.
    • by watchful.babbler ( 621535 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:59AM (#5644237) Homepage Journal
      They propose using polonium-210, which is a strong alpha emitter that can be used as a strong heat source (.5 grams of po-210 can reach 500 degrees Celsius -- nearly a thousand degrees Farenheit!). Frank Spedding proposed using po-210 to power aircraft back in the 1940s and '50s.

      Four problems: First, po-210 is rare; in the early days, tons of pitchblende had to be refined to get microgram amounts. Today, we let bismuth-210 beta-decay, which lets us get milligram amounts reasonably cost-effectively, but we're a long way from getting the thousands of kilos that would be needed to power these rifles. It might be cheaper just to build that army of giant robot samurai Bechtel's got on the drawing board.

      Second, polonium is toxic, really toxic. Imagine ensuring safety at every point in a battlefield logistics chain, no mean feat -- and now consider what you'd do with all this toxic, radioactive waste after the 60-day powerspan cited in the article.

      Third, of course, is the heat issue: how do you effectively shield the troops from the massive heat source sitting literally in their hands? One of the things that scotched the radioisotope-powered plane was the necessity of constantly ducting away waste energy.

      Fourth is the terrific intensity of the alpha emissions of po-210. Alpha radiation is, of course, low-hazard, but po-210 is powerful enough to degrade virtually all materials it comes into proximity to -- you can work around that when designing a power system for a satellite, but I'm not sure what the ramifications would be for a handheld weapon.

      In short, the contractor basically has proposed a weapons system that works great, except for all these massive technical hurdles that have to be dealt with first. I think we're a long way from Star Wars here.

      • Inevitably a soldier's laser rifle will get blown up (most likely by friendly fire, judging by the current state of things). There would suddenly be an invisible radioactive hotspot on the battlefield and drifting plumes of radioactive particles. Would all soldiers be forced to carry geiger counters? Would medics refuse to treat contaminated soldiers? Will chem/bio/rad suits become the permanent uniform of our fighting forces?
  • by ekarak ( 212152 )
    which humanitarian war will this weapon see the light...
  • yeah, right (Score:4, Funny)

    by archeopterix ( 594938 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:21AM (#5643922) Journal
    From the article:
    Before a weapon like the TIS-1 could be adopted, a number of technichal hurdles would have to be successfully negotiated, such as...
    a viable power source that could provide long-term and adequate power, heat containment/shielding, and forward recoil mitigation.
    Next on Slashdot: If we had the technology for transforming potato chips into silicon chips, we'd gladly do it!
    • Re:yeah, right (Score:5, Interesting)

      by zeus_tfc ( 222250 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:40AM (#5644071) Homepage Journal
      Recoil mitigation? On a Laser weapon? I don't get it, where does the recoil come from.

      Really, I don't see a need for this kind of weapon. I don't see it being as effective as our current rifles, unless this is intended as an anti-vehicular weapon as opposed to an anti-personel weapon.

      Admittedly, I don't really know anything about what the weapon will do, or what kind of testing they have done that they think this will be a viable weapon, but how much call will there be for a weapon that causes small, cauterized holes in people? Isn't that what Lasers would do, or am I mistaken?

      The only use for this I see, would be a no-recoil sniper weapon, using precise shots to the head or heart. But then there's that odd "recoil mitigation" hurdle that I still don't understand the cause of.

      I guess it comes down to the fact that there is too much we don't know about what the weapon will do.
      • One advantage (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Sergeant Beavis ( 558225 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @11:20AM (#5644390) Homepage
        ....that I see with this weapon is better shooting. With a ballistic rifle (aka: the M-16) you have to account for the arch of the round you are firing. The soldier firing would still have to rely on firing basics, breathing and trigger squeeze for instance, but not having to account for a bullets arch would be helpful.

        One disadvantage to a system like this would be laying down cover fire. The adoption of the M-16, by the Army, made it easier for a soldier to lay down cover fire so that fellow troops could move into a better position to engage the target. This weapon system, IMO, wouldn't make a visible or audible cover fire that would force enemy troops to seek cover. That can be a good or a bad thing depending on the tactical situation.

        • First, that's arc, or more correctly, trajectory.

          Second, here is the non-vaporware tool that allows large groups of American minorities to protect multinational corporation's profits, err, I mean American's fundamentaly liberties: the XM29 [globalsecurity.org].

          It'll be on Adnan Khasoggi's wishlist for the year 2008, when the Spiders Invade a la "Starship Troopers!"
  • by gearheadsmp ( 569823 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:21AM (#5643923)
    This [interplay.com] Laser Rifle? I got one of these stored away with my Power Armor Mk II.
  • Weapons != toys (Score:4, Insightful)

    by CptSkydrop ( 577286 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:21AM (#5643924) Homepage
    Call me a peace loving hippy but I don't think the prospeect of a weapon thats designed to kill and injure should be put under a category that is about fun and enterntainment (toys).
  • by guacamolefoo ( 577448 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:21AM (#5643926) Homepage Journal
    Alrighty. Lasers as weapons. Sure...I believe that one. I bet they've also got an evil bit to tell you whether the beam should be red or blue/green.

  • by xtal ( 49134 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:22AM (#5643933)
    This is a money pit for the government. The problem is the energy.. there's just no way to have that much energy mobile in any form other than chemical (explosive) as it is now. Nuclear would work, but they don't make those in standard NATO cartridges. Yet. I played around with building devices like these, but they didn't make it off the table because of the energy requirements.

    The only effective laser rifles are those designed to burn out the retinas of enemy troops, and are easily defended against by regular forces. Nevermind that they're against the geneva convention, but that doesn't stop anyone these days, haha.

    Hard to beat plain 'ol hot inertia at mach 5.
  • Hmm. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Omkar ( 618823 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:22AM (#5643935) Homepage Journal
    Would mirrors be effective?
  • Two quotes from Austin Powers immediately come to mind.

    Of course; "Fire the giant freakin laser!"

    But as to the likelyhood... "Riiight..."

    Did you vote? [linuxsurveys.com]
  • You have to wonder how many shots you will get per charge? I can see it now in the not too distant future, soliders on the battle field firing laser at each other for 5 minutes. Suddenly stopping. Having to spend an hour charging the weapons and then another 5 minutes of fighting :)

  • Just make sure that the U.S. lasers are 'blue' and the enemy's lasers are 'red'
  • Why? Won't we all be dead at that point?

    But hell why not, let's try arming the post-nuclear apocolaypse cockroaches and see what happens.
  • Forward recoil? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by 1337_h4x0r ( 643377 )
    Anybody else think thats a little strange? Also, what happens when there's a dust cloud and enemies hiding behind it? Wouldn't that tend to disperse the beam? How lethal would this be? Could enemies protect themselves from it by wearing reflective clothing?
    • Re:Forward recoil? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Brown ( 36659 )
      The recoil may be due to the movement of the CO2N2He gas during the lasing reaction - mean velocity of 1998 m/s. If this is moving backwards, ther will be a recoil forwards (by Newton's 3rd law).

      Reflective clothing will not help significantly against lasers; the material wouldn't be able to reflect the majority of the energy. Mirrors are only about 90% reflective, and the remainder will blast through the material in no time.

      Dust clouds would be a problem, but this is an infantry weapon; you have to be abl
  • Say what? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Otter ( 3800 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:24AM (#5643960) Journal
    Stavatti, a sort of "free market" defense contractor

    That term doesn't appear in the article, doesn't show up in a Google search and is completely incomprehensible to me.

    • Re:Say what? (Score:5, Insightful)

      by ratamacue ( 593855 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @11:05AM (#5644285)
      The term "free market" here is misleading. Free market economics (i.e. capitalism) is the philosophy of voluntary association: Nobody forces anyone to sell anything (or not sell anything), and nobody forces anyone to buy anything (or not buy anything) -- it is the complete absence of force in the market. Under a free market system, every transaction is done on a voluntary basis. Government contracts, on the other hand, represent the exact opposite of free market economics. Government contracting does not represent voluntary association but coercion: The consumer (you and I) do not choose for ourselves whether or not to patronize these businesses. We choose between paying our taxes, leaving the country, or going to jail. This is not market decision but a threat, and hence, the defense contractor does is not a true competitor in the free market. Their market share is not acquired through persuasion, voluntary association, and fair competition. Their market share is aquired through force. Therefore, to label a government contractor "free market" is completely wrong and backwards, and serves only to blur the distinction between free market economics and socialism.
      • by anonymous loser ( 58627 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:54PM (#5645531)
        contracts, on the other hand, represent the exact opposite of free market economics. Government contracting does not represent voluntary association but coercion: The consumer (you and I) do not choose for ourselves whether or not to patronize these businesses.

        In this case, the customer is the government. That's why they are called government contractors, and not citizen contractors. And, yes the government contracting market (by law) is pretty damned free. Anyone is free to bid on upcoming contracts. If you have a small company, there are a number of SBIR [nasa.gov] (Small Business Innovation Research) contracts available every year, from every department related to the government. The linked SBIR page is about NASA's SBIRs, but there are literally a total of thousands available from DoT, DoD, NIH, NIST, NIMA, etc. If you're a big company, then you go through a similar, yet more formal process to bid on contracts. As is the case with most government-related things, there's more paperwork to complete, and in some cases due to the sensitive nature of the contract, you might be required to have some level of security clearance before you can bid, but other than that it is really wide open. I happen to know of a few recent large contracts that have been competitively bid on by very small companies, so small businesses are not just limited to SBIRs (which are capped at $1M, I believe).

        In relation to your statement:

        consumer (you and I) do not choose for ourselves whether or not to patronize these businesses. We choose between paying our taxes, leaving the country, or going to jail.

        You clearly don't remember history class in high school, or maybe you didn't take it yet. We live in a republic. We elect representatives to make key decisions for us...that's the whole point of a republic. If you don't like the decisions being made, well, that's the citizen's fault for electing a bad decision maker. You are perfectly free to vote, write letters to your representatives, write articles in the newspaper, put up a blog, participate in protests and rallies, and bitch and moan on /. to express your opinion. But please don't complain that you are being coerced and that you have no choice, because you do.

  • by Flounder ( 42112 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:24AM (#5643962)
    until they equip the US Army in white Stormtrooper outfits and send them back into Iraq with dewbacks, scout bikes, and blaster rifles.

    Granted, let's hope they'll be better shots and not as prone to suggestions from old men in robes.

  • Advantages? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by BWJones ( 18351 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:24AM (#5643963) Homepage Journal
    Call me conservative here, but what exactly are the advantages of a laser weapon over more traditional methods or advancements to traditional ballistic weapons like caseless cartridges? I suppose that lasers *might* be silent and tuneable to different spectral frequencies, but the ballistic method is cheap, portable and quite effective over long distances that most light infantry will be engaged at (100-800 yds).

    • One biggie (as described in the white paper) is that the power cell would provide 60 days' worth of use before you need to "reload".

      Little side benefit of this: unless you have the infrastructure for reloading/developing Polonium power cells, your stolen/black market rifle becomes a Very Expensive Paperweight.

  • The Army has some weird ideas. From COO [chuckbaldwinlive.com] to the MOLLE replacement [usmc.mil] that the Marine Corps is fielding since the Molle gear is worthless. Seriously, combat gear that you need a video and a book to put together? The M-16 works. We should keep the M-16 and save our money for training and maybe even better benefits for servicemen.
    • by The Evil Couch ( 621105 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @11:43AM (#5644551) Homepage
      ok, speaking as an actual active duty infantry soldier and not some armchair general, the molle's actually pretty good. it's just not that much better than the gear we've got now to make changing over worth it.

      the molle has a book and a video to put it together and wear it, but you're an idiot if you can't figure it out by yourself. it's really pretty easy to put together and configure.

      as far as new weapons, I'm all for having a weapon that I don't have to carry a shitload of ammunition for. if all it needs is a radioactive power cell and it's good to go for longer than I'll be in contact with the enemy, fucking awesome.

      the first gripe of any soldier about new equipment is weight. no ammo means less weight. a lot of soldiers will be happy with that shit. the M-16 has its weaknesses and I wasn't sorry to say goodbye to it and get my hands on my first M4.

      the reason the military has a large budget is so we can continue to improve things by testing new ideas. we've made big jumps with gear. if this laser rifle isn't a good idea, we'll figure it out. we don't need someone that hasn't crawled in the mud and put bullets downrange second guessing new technology or telling us that the M-16 is fine as it is.
      • OK, speaking as an active duty Marine Corps grunt, the MOLLE sucks. The chest harness/load carrying gear is alright but MOLLE violates the most important rule-KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid). I don't know how many broken MOLLE packframes I've seen and the amount of little straps and pouches I've seen lost or torn is unbelievable. YOU may like MOLLE gear but I don't and my organisation; the United States Marine Corps doesn't like it especially after the ops in Afghanistan when the MOLLE system failed miser
  • It wasn't long ago that I read laser rifles were only at the stage of being able to produce a slight warmth in the area around the dot.

    Although they are looking at this for 20 years down the track, a _lot_ has to be improved to get to the point that this could be a weapon. Besides, any funding to a product that far away is purely speculative about its potential anyway.


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  • by defile ( 1059 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:28AM (#5643992) Homepage Journal

    Nah! That shit's boring! Lets focus our resources on developing more efficient ways of killing people!

    Someone really needs to start an extra-American hyper technology-driven society with some priorities besides war-war-war. Brotherhood. Unity. Peace. Peace through power! One vision one purpose!

    • Someone really needs to start an extra-American hyper technology-driven society with some priorities besides war-war-war. Brotherhood. Unity. Peace. Peace through power! One vision one purpose!

      Feel free. Just don't expect anyone to sign a mutual defense treaty with you for when the bad guys show up at your doorstep.

    • Warfare has been one of the most significant driving forces behind technological advancement since the beginning of time.
    • Depending on the specifics, this thing could also be used to help feed the hungry. A slightly scaled down version could be made for hunting deer or other animals that can be fed to the hungry. Vension is tastey! I also would eat any meat if I was hungry.

      Technology advances for the military don't always include killing people. One such example.....velcro. Also, your sending your message on one now....the Internet. It would not be here if it was not for the military needing a fast, efficient way to sen
    • by cyberlync ( 450786 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @11:11AM (#5644326)

      Someone really needs to start an extra-American hyper technology-driven society with some priorities besides war-war-war. Brotherhood. Unity. Peace. Peace through power! One vision one purpose!

      You will never find it. America's priority is not killing people, you can do that with very simple technologies (gas chamber, etc). The priority here is defense (or perhaps offense according to your persuasion). These means that we look 20 and 30 years into the future so that we can guarantee that we have the capability to defend ourselves and carry out our national policies.

      Every nation on earth is doing this, with the constrictions of thier resources. Do you think France and Germany are sitting on thier butts and not worring about developing new military technology? No way, if they weren't they wouldn't be around in the next few decades and they know it.

      Like it or not we are Human and that means that as a species we like to kill each other and take each others resources by force, etc, etc. If you have a problem with that talk to the evolution gods. Untill you do though, we will continue spending money to make sure we are not the next Carthage, Phonecia, Ottoman Empire, etc.
      • Human Evolution consists of at least 5 million years (from the moment there were appe like creatures that started to try to walk upright).

        One of the most common traits during the history of humanity is cooperation. Cooperation between human groups is what gave us huge advantages: the young taking care of the old, and that way preserving knowledge for longer, the childless protecting the childs of others increasing the chances of the species as a whole, you name it, you are human so you can find more exampl
    • Kill, kill, kill (Score:5, Insightful)

      by hey ( 83763 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @11:34AM (#5644488) Journal
      The more the U.S. kills people around the world the more enemies it makes. It needs to kill those new enemies. Better make better guns so you can kill more of those enemies...creating more enemies.
  • Oh shit (Score:3, Funny)

    by Epistax ( 544591 ) <epistax@@@gmail...com> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:31AM (#5644015) Journal
    If this is at all like the movies, we wont be able to hit ANYONE with them. And they'll travel slower than bullets. And be about a half a foot wide and red. And they'll make a noise when going through the air. And they'll cause explosions and sparks whenever they hit anything. And we'll wear big clunky white armor which doesn't even defend against rocks let alone lasers which restrict our movement and cause us to act all stupid and that will be the end of us as they will fly a suicide bomber into the heart of our deathstar and blow us up and it will suck but make a killing at the box office.
  • by MongooseCN ( 139203 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:32AM (#5644022) Homepage
    Research plasma cannons. I wonder if Saddam is hiding some Elerium 115 with his weapons of mass destruction.
  • by eric2hill ( 33085 ) <eric.ijack@net> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:32AM (#5644026) Homepage

    Lasers can be created by several things, most commonly electricity passing through certain types of gasses. The primary problem with this design is power - we don't have a portable nuclear power pack yet, and I sure don't want to carry one around and get shot at.

    Since you can also get laser power from chemical sources, is it possible to make laser "bullets" that are basically chemical sources with an electronic trigger? Firing them from the gun passes a small trigger charge into the bullet, which lases (is that even a word?) the chemicals inside the bullet all at once - ejecting a large light pulse out the end of the gun at one time.

    The bullet is then ejected and a new one from the magazine is loaded into the chamber.

    Does anyone know how much power you can get in a short chemical laser burst like this? How large would the bullet have to be to have adequate power?

    Any chemical laser specialists out there?

    • I don't know about chemical bullets persay, but my initial thinking on this is they should get together with Toshiba [bbc.co.uk].

      A fuel-cell laser weapon might very well be the future. Given that this technology is currently being perfected for automobiles as well, it seems like this is a near-ideal springboard for military applications.
  • by wazzzup ( 172351 ) <astromac AT fastmail DOT fm> on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:37AM (#5644053)
    I see my grandson reading Slashdot and he clicks on a post titled "Contractor Proposes Death Star for US Military" from the that's-no-moon dept.

    He's reading it....he clicks to enter a post...he posts a link to goatse. Damn. My grandson is a troll.
  • TOTALLY ILLEGIAL (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cheshiremackat ( 618044 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:39AM (#5644065)
    The only problems with Laser weapons are that they are illegial under the Geneva conventions, as are any weapons that are designed to permanently blind a person. While it may be possible to skirt the issue by using a non-visable wavelength, targeting becomes an issue... even low power lasers for targeting would be potentially illegial as they could/would be intense enough to harm the vision, OR if they are sufficiently low power, they probably disperse so greatly as to give away the position of the 'shooter'.

    Now this is not free bait for trolling, so please do not reply with stupid comments about the U.S. not following the convention as is... this is not about Iraq or GitMo.

  • Sniping (Score:3, Insightful)

    by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:49AM (#5644135) Homepage
    Such a system will probably be initially implemented for long-range sniper teams. Such a team using this particular weapon could move into an abandoned house nearly 3 times as far away as current sniper rifle's maximum range, could fire more quietly, and hopefully would have the distance and confusion to get away. In addition, this weapon prototype is tuned to replace the m-16 as a rapid-fire battlefield meat and potatoes weapon... lazers are more likely to begin its life as a stationary or semi-stationary weapon like machine guns in WW1 or grenade launchers. As an assassination tool, tuned to fire once but be hidden in a pair of guitar cases, it could be quite effective and available quite soon.

    Replacing the M-16 seems like the wrong way to begin down the technology curve... More specialized applications like a cartridge-based sniper rifle, truck-mounted anti-aircraft lazers, or bridge / encampment defense lazer positions seem like a more useful... use. Their strength lies in distance, not power, and that is what they should be used for.

  • by kinnell ( 607819 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:51AM (#5644163)
    The vast majority of bullets used in infantry combat are used to keep the enemy's heads down until someone can get close enough to kill them. This means you need loud bangs and puffs of dust, so the enemy knows it's dangerous. The only soldier's who rely on sharp-shooting to kill are snipers. On the other hand, I look forward to seeing parading in their mirror suits - it'll be oh so pretty. What baffles me is why they're proposing this as an infantry weapon, and not a large scale version for fighter aircraft and the like, which have they're own power source and integrated targetting systems. This would be lethal in dogfights.
  • Power Source.. (Score:5, Interesting)

    by dracken ( 453199 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:52AM (#5644166) Homepage
    Of the laser gun is Po-210. A milligram of Polonium 210 [lanl.gov] emits as much alpha radiation as 5g of radium.

    To quote LANL Polonium-210 is very dangerous to handle in even milligram or microgram amounts, and special equipment and strict control is necessary. Damage arises from the complete absorption of the energy of the alpha particle into tissue.

    The maximum permissible body burden for ingested polonium is only 0.03 microcuries, which represents a particle weighing only 6.8 x 10-12 g. Weight for weight it is about 2.5 x 1011 times as toxic as hydrocyanic acid. The maximum allowable concentration for soluble polonium compounds in air is about 2 x 10-11 microcuries/cm3.

    Also polonium 210 is very rare in nature. It is usually produced by bombarding Bismuth 209 with neutrons (typically in a nuclear reactor). In the current form, this weapon is an invitation for radioactive contamination disaster.
  • Interesting link (Score:4, Informative)

    by pclminion ( 145572 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @10:52AM (#5644171)
    Googling around for stuff on gasdynamic lasers, I found a publication from 1988 on the tactical military uses of various laser weapons:

    Lasers And Their Potential For Tactical Military Use [globalsecurity.org]

    These weapons have been long under research and development. Interestingly, this paper seems critical of the gasdynamic laser. The paper is nontechnical and relatively brief.

  • by Goldenhawk ( 242867 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @11:01AM (#5644258) Homepage
    A few salient details should convince you this is as close to an April Fools joke as it's possible to get on April 2. If it hadn't been posted on DefenseReview I'd have completely ignored this.

    The polonium source is always hot, whether or not it is being used. The article states that "while the weapon is in a storage mode, in essence the system produces 104KW of heat energy." Imagine a bin of these replacement cartridges - it could run a small town. And when in use, each burst (of which you can fire 170 per minute) has an internal energy dissipation of 16.4KW. No kidding. You'd need several inches of shuttle thermal tile just to hold this thing.

    The article states "Currently Polonium-210 is only produced in microgram quantities for research purposes at facilities such as Oak Ridge National Laboratory." Yep, THAT'S likely to change soon.

    It specs a recoil force of 90 (yep, NINETY) pounds in the forward direction - enough to rip it out of the hands of a soldier. And it claims to be able to sustain 170 bursts per minute, at 0.35s per burst. That's about 59.5 seconds per minute, yanking at 90 lb on a soldier. No human could handle this thing for long.

    The article states "Stavatti has not previously, nor is currently involved in an effort to develop a qualified small arm weapon system ..." like this one. Yep, that makes it likely this could ever work.

    Finally, the article is full of spelling and grammar errors.

    Just in case you missed the pun, it's a carbon dioxide / nitrogen gas laser - hence the term "vaporware"...

    BTW, their web page about this thing is here:
    http://www.stavatti.com/armament_systems.ht ml

    I think Defense Review got hoaxed.
    • That's about 59.5 seconds per minute...

      Yep, definitely vaporware. I don't forsee them changing a minute from 60 seconds to 59.5 anytime soon either.
    • It specs a recoil force of 90 (yep, NINETY) pounds in the forward direction

      I have read that in other posts as well, and I just don't get it. The gun throws a bunch of photons in the forward direction, and (presumably) nothing in the reverse direction. Why should the recoil be in the reverse direction? Is this another case of something I missed when I fell asleep in Physics lecture?

  • by swb ( 14022 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @11:03AM (#5644275)
    Like caseless ammunition for infantry weapons -- loads of resources and weight are lost to shell casings. If the shell casing represents 15% of the shell mass, then eliminating it should allow for 15% more ammunition to be carried. More ammunition means less resources devoted to supply lines and more resources devoted to fighting power.

    Better targeting systems. One thing that gave us huge advantages over Afghani forces was our guys actually can aim their rifles -- lots of irregular forces just kind of spray and run, which wastes ammo. An infantry targeting system that could combine small, instantaneous adjustments to windage and elevation to compensate for motion, wind or other ballistic effects on aiming would go a long way towards improving the hit ratio. More hits, less ammo, less supplies.

    It'd be great, too, to shrink the kinds of ammo available for the 25mm Bushmaster to be usable in rifles as well. High explosive, incindiery or other types of ammo while larger than standard .223 rifle rounds would pack a better punch against hardened targets (buildings, bunkers, vehicles, helicopters).

  • Kinda joking.... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by kramer ( 19951 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @11:32AM (#5644469) Homepage
    Does anyone else see a problem with using a weapon that can be blocked by the shiny side of tin-foil?

    I'm sure some here have read ringworld. There's a brief discussion of the difficulties of using a laser against someone wearing clothes of the same color as the laser.

    When something is a certain color, what does that mean? It means it reflects light of that wavelength. If the US army were to use it you know it would have a standard color... what's to keep an enemy force from charging wearing surplus santa suits? "AIM FOR WHITE FRINGE! THAT'S THEIR VULNERABLE PART!"
  • by saddino ( 183491 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @12:08PM (#5644718)
    Now all we need is someone to develop shiny white plastic armor that looks cool, but is disturbingly inadequate for stopping a laser blast.
  • by istartedi ( 132515 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @12:11PM (#5644749) Journal

    I half expected to see airborne lasers used for boost-phase antimissile defense [airbornelaser.com] in the current war. I guess it's still too experimental. Then again, maybe they were trying to use it as the primary defense and didn't tell us. It seems like a smart approach to combine this with something like the Patriot missile. If the laser fails, then try the missile.

    Also, it's probably not a visible laser, but if you really want to burst your enemy's bubble, there'd be nothing like having him launch his most sophisticated missile, and then seeing a friggin laser come out of the sky and shoot it down.

  • Considerations... (Score:5, Informative)

    by dark-br ( 473115 ) on Wednesday April 02, 2003 @01:11PM (#5645174) Homepage
    While the physics is generally sane there are a number of practical problems heer that are not sufficiently covered in the article:

    boron nitride is still regarded as slightly exotic, using this in harsh environment might be OK but mass production of large scale items are not

    storage problems are glossed over, for instance bringing a large number of radioactive items close together requires strict handling rules

    environmental damage when a laser rifle breaks is not even mentioned, also militaries are strict about such things. For instance the US navy has stricter environmental rules than the British merchant navy...

    reloading the powercell must be reasonably easy when you only have a half life of 138 days.

    pressure is immense and boron nitride is not just hard, it is brittle. Protecting against shattering requires a bit more than a little injection moulded plastic. When this high pressure hot gas breaks free it is a good idea to stay away.

    wavelangth is 10.6um which means it will be eaten up by the CO2 in the air so useful range becomes limited. This is not described properly.

    the large wavelength makes for more diffraction but the opening aperture is not stated.

    this wavelength chouce makes locating a shooter relativgely simple, just look for massive re-radiation in the CO2 band.

    of course the massive constant power flux from the Po source makes for nice thermal targets too.

    this wavelength is not eye safe. No, this is not a joke. The snag is that it can then be construed to be a violation of various convensions of war.

    thrust is said to be big, yet recompression is said to be part of the plan in which case most of the recoil should be possible to compensated for. Why is this not mentioned?

    and compression takes a lot of power, where does this come from?

    the gas expansion is likely to cause a hideous noise and makes for even more simple location.

    And so on. I could go on at lengths.

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas