Boeing’s Advanced Tactical Laser Shoots Cars in the Hood

The HOOD, not the ‘hood.  The government would never go into the ‘hood and light up cars with a drone mounted laser.  Right?

So, as of June, the Boeing Corporation had been testing its new 25kW thin-disk laser system, which is apparently “weapons-grade” now.  From the press release at Boeing:

“Solid-state lasers will revolutionize the battlefield by giving the warfighter an ultra-precision engagement capability that can dramatically reduce collateral damage,” said Scott Fancher, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. “These successful tests show that Boeing has made solid progress toward making this revolutionary capability a reality.”

The thin-disk laser is an initiative to demonstrate that solid-state laser technologies are now ready to move out of the laboratory and into full development as weapon systems. Solid-state lasers are powered by electricity, making them highly mobile and supportable on the battlefield. The Boeing laser represents the most electrically efficient solid-state laser technology known. The system is designed to meet the rapid-fire, rapid-retargeting requirements of area-defense, anti-missile and anti-mortar tactical high-energy laser systems. It is also ideal for non-lethal, ultra-precision strike missions urgently needed by warfighters in war zones.

This is what you’re about to see – the laser in action from an actual C-130 Hercules:

This video shows the effect of the high-energy laser beam from the Boeing Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL), fired at a stationary truck from a US Air Force NC-130H flying over White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, on August 30, 2009. The ATL is a chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL), and is a scaled-down version of the megawatt-class high-energy laser in the Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser (ABL). ABL and ATL are both technology demonstration programs.

This is an actual flyby.  This laser is mounted on an actual plane.  This car’s hood is actually getting a hole burned in it.

A couple of questions come to mind here:

  • Why is Boeing still trying to develop the COIL laser technology?  This is the same technology that requires lots of deadly chemicals, lasts for a few seconds, and then burns out?  It’s the equivalent of dropping a bomb – once the payload (the chemicals in this case) are used up, the plane must reload.  Aren’t there solid state alternatives that can me researched to make a multi-shot laser technology?  I would think that, since we’re not using this energy and time to develop something that could actually cure cancer or AIDS or something of the like, shouldn’t it at least be as efficient as possible?
  • Why aren’t we directing this research money into curing cancer or AIDS?

Well, I’ll never know.  I guess I am just that naive.  You could say I’m a dreamer.

Thanks, Geekologie!