Posts

Meet ADAM: A Laser System that Protects Our Troops from Bad Guy Missiles

ADAMPoster1_PRINT_2.16

I can’t get over how crazy the development of military laser technology has been lately.  There’s been a real push to create a competitor for projectile weapons.  For example, earlier this week I talked about the new German Phalanx-style laser weapon that kills drones and little metal balls from the sky.  At one time before it was abandoned, the US Air Force was working on something called the YAL-1, which was a 747 mounted with a chemical laser that was designed to kill nuclear ICBMs from a long, long distance.  I thought it was actually pretty cool, but I can understand why it was scrapped; my assumption is that they’re holding out for a more multi-burst solid state laser instead of a single-shot, highly dangerous chemical laser.

ADAM_Area_Defense_Anti-Munitions_laser_weapon_system_Lockheed_Martin_American_defense_industry_military_technology_002

I have to say that at one point in my life I was pretty frustrated that more money goes into military laser tech than goes into scientific research and development, or even medical laser development.  However, what I realized was that as this technology becomes more readily available via all of this defense money solving big problems up front, less than death uses and systems will “come out in the wash,” as an old colleague usually says.  Just like anything else that we steal from military technology (cable bundling, for example), at some point laser technology from military development will make its way to the civilian and private sector development.

One such system is something that Lockheed Martin calls ADAMArea Defense Anti-Munitions.  This system is designed to be towed into a hostile area where the US has set up a Forward Operating Base, or FOB, in enemy territory.  While our guys sleep and stand guard and all of those things, ADAM is watching over the area, blanketing it with radar that’s watching out for munitions coming into the area from enemy forces — mortar shells, shoulder-fired missiles, etcetera — and destroys the incoming round with a laser.  Check this out, this is a prototype test of a rocket being fired at the ADAM:

Ok, that is insane.  So right now, a system exists that can detect incoming enemy rockets and shells to a base.  Can you imagine what would happen if you were to deploy a handful of these systems across a battlefield?  That sounds like it would be a pretty awesome sight.  From a press release at Lockheed Martin’s website, they’ve also tested the ADAM against drones (UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and small caliber shells:

Since August, the ADAM system has successfully engaged an unmanned aerial system target in flight at a range of approximately 1.5 kilometers (0.9 miles) and has destroyed four small-caliber rocket targets in simulated flight at a range of approximately 2 kilometers (1.2 miles).

“Lockheed Martin has invested in the development of the ADAM system because of the enormous potential effectiveness of high-energy lasers,” said Doug Graham, Lockheed Martin’s vice president of advanced programs for Strategic and Missile Defense Systems. “We are committed to supporting the transition of directed energy’s revolutionary capability to the war fighter.”

Designed for short-range defense of high-value areas including forward operating bases, the ADAM system’s 10-kilowatt fiber laser is engineered to destroy targets up to 2 kilometers (1.2 miles) away. The system precisely tracks targets in cluttered optical environments and has a tracking range of more than 5 kilometers (3.1 miles). The system has been designed to be flexible enough to operate against rockets as a standalone system and to engage unmanned aerial systems with an external radar cue. The ADAM system’s modular architecture combines commercial hardware components with the company’s proprietary software in an integrated and easy-to-operate system.

Here’s a video of the test they’re talking about, where ADAM shoots down a drone:

I for one am pretty excited to see what happens next.  This could lead to some amazing advancements in light.

Laserweaponsprototype

Thanks Business Insider, Army Recognition!

What? Someone Thought It Would Be A Good Idea for Police to Have Laser Dazzlers

What?

Hmm.

Here’s what I know:  a large majority of police offers are good people.  What is “a large majority?”  50%?  60%?  75%?  I have no idea.  What I also know is that there are a large majority of videos of police personnel misusing their Taser weapons on civilians, let alone people who are actually guilty of a crime.  I guess a Taser is better than a bullet in the back, right?

Perhaps people need to be reminded of the BART shooting back on New Years’ Day, 2009.  This was the case when the defense argued that BART officer Johannes Mehserle thought he was reaching for his Taser weapon when he shot Oscar Grant in the back, inevitably leading to Grant’s death.  The officer claimed that he was pulling his Taser, a non-lethal method of defense, instead of his Sig .40.  I’m calling BS on that, as many have already – a loaded .40 weighs about twice to three times as much as a Taser.

Do a search anywhere on the web for Taser abuse of power articles.  What you’ll find is a very ridiculously large list of articles of police officers accused of misusing their Tasers in situations that did not call for it.  For example:

I don’t need to go on, right?  You get the point?

This post is not about Tasers.  It is about this new “non-lethal” device for Police and Military, this laser confusion device called the Dazer Lazer.  However, the Taser device is not supposed to be a weapon that police use in order to force the public into compliance, like a whip or a stick.  IT IS SUPPOSED TO BE USED AS AN ALTERNATIVE TO THEIR FIREARM, not A CONTROL DEVICE.  So, in the case of the Dazer Laser, which would render someone being lased in the FACE and EYES, how would its use be ANY DIFFERENT?  If our law officers cannot handle a taser, why would we give them a device that creates total incapacitation and confusion made of light that can damage their eyes permanently?

People do die when tased by police.  Also, maybe without a slice of irony, taser manufacturers have started suing coroners who have called out death by taser.  It’s amazing to hear stories about a police officer tasing someone for 30-55 seconds, especially since their training says five second bursts.  What on Earth causes a human being to inflict that kind of pain onto another person?  Also, if it’s happening with Tasers, what’s stopping angry law officers to hold a Dazer Laser a foot in front of someone’s face and burn the vision out of their eyes for 30-55 seconds?

I worry about this topic.  Look, I’m not naive, I understand that someone being lased or tased is most likely better than handing their family a death letter.  Also, it could be worse, I understand, it could be a baseball bat or a club or something.  But this is light.  I know light.  I also know lasers, and you shouldn’t point them into a person’s eyes, ever, unless it’s an eye doctor who is trained and certified and using them for medical purposes.

I’m not singling out any one company – I’m sure I’d love to have one of these, but I wouldn’t be shining it into someone’s eyes.  I just believe that we should be using light for better ends.  What do you think?

Boeing’s High-Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator Gets A New Truck

HELTD-logo

Charming logo.

As we all know from my somewhat sarcastic-but-still-truthful ramblings on the military’s high-energy laser program, the government spends more money on defense than they do on a pretty large percentage of anything else.  Some new information on Boeing’s High-Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) was just released, and apparently it’s still on and being funded.

Boeing was granted a $36 million dollar contract to develop the HEL TD program back in August 2008 – you might remember such other programs in this stream of laser-based weapons that the government is currently investing in like the YAL-1.

A press release on Boeing’s website tells of the new progress of the the HEL TD program – a company called Oshkosh Defense (no relation to the B’Gosh people that I can find) is making trucks that the US military uses in combat.  This company has created a new truck that Boeing is going to mount some of its HEL TD laser gear to and drive out into the desert.  From the press release:

“This demonstration program has successfully transitioned from the design phase to the fabrication phase,” said Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Missile Defense Systems’ Directed Energy Systems unit. “This transformational, solid-state laser weapon capability will provide speed-of-light, ultra-precision capability that will dramatically improve warfighters’ ability to counter rocket, artillery and mortar projectiles.”

The eight-wheel, 500-horsepower HEMTT A4, a widely used military tactical vehicle, will be shipped to Boeing’s facility in Huntsville this spring for integration with the laser’s rugged beam control system (BCS). The program has already begun receiving BCS components from suppliers.

The fact that the system will use lasers to blow up “enemy” projectiles and such is pretty cool to me, actually, and at some point I will accept what I cannot change. What really sucks to me is that I often wonder things like “will we have flying cars in my lifetime?” and “will we have light sources that last for decades for real in my lifetime?”  Every time I read about the wars that are ongoing, every time I report on some new military laser project that is ongoing, the question “will I ever experience peace in my lifetime?” gets more and more faded.

boeing-oshkosh-laser-truck

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!

I Guess We’re Going to Spend $3 Mil On OLEDs for Military Equipment

A company called eMagin has gotten more millions to work on some OLED technology.  It’s not going into illumination for buildings, medical technology, or anything like that – it’s going to make some new night vision goggles for the military.  Oh well, I guess we’ll advance the OLED technology somehow.  We borrow all kinds of technology from the military, so I suppose getting OLED research kicking by pouring cash into military spending is better than not spending the money on OLEDs at all, right?

*sigh*

Here’s a press release from Mid-Hudson News on the story:

WASHINGTON – Congressman John Hall says the House approved of $3 million in additional funding for development of next-generation night vision goggles for American troops.  The money has been placed in the 2010 Defense Appropriations bill, which now must win Senate approval.

The technology is being developed by eMagin Corporation in the IBM East Fishkill campus.

The project has previously received $2.4 million, which Hall secured in 2007.

eMagin Corporation will use the federal money to continue to develop Organic Light Emitting Diode (OLED) technology, towards the goal of a more powerful OLED micro-display device to replace currently used night vision goggles that require bulky equipment.

“eMagin is developing technology that will provide radically better night vision equipment for our troops. This is cutting-edge defense technology that will be made right here in the Hudson Valley,” said Hall. “Continuing federal assistance to this project will provide lifesaving new equipment to our troops overseas, while helping create and maintain high tech jobs in the region.”

Is there any way to create some high tech jobs in the region in something other than military technology? Anyone?  Congressman Hall, just out of curiosity, do you stand to benefit from this at all, besides your district getting some gigs?  I’m just curious.  I mean, besides – politics is always about the people, right?

Thanks for the heads up on this, OLED-Info.

Raytheon Set to Sell The First Pain Ray

A company called Raytheon (ever heard of a Phalanx gatling gun?) is about to start selling what they’re calling the Active Denial System, or ADS.  It is apparently a non-lethal energy ray that penetrates the skin about 1/64th of an inch causing excruciating temporary pain.  In case you’re wondering, yes – this is a functioning pain ray.  Raytheon has been marketing this system as a non lethal deterrent system, and it is a huge device that looks like it should be mounted on a truck or ship or something:

raytheon painray ADS

It’s being called the Silent Guardian.  There are two models of the ray system – a 30,000W version (effective up to 250 meters) and a 100,000W version (effective up to 750 meters).  Raytheon recently gave a presentation to NATO about anti-pirate measures and the Active-Denial System, and produced this PDF document – Raytheon has been studying this technology since before they unveiled a version of it in 2001.  Think about this for a moment:  a point focus microwave generator that produces an excruciating feeling when directed at someone from a minimum of 250 meters.  As far as protecting cargo and container ships, I think this is a pretty interesting non-lethal weapon.  Raytheon seems to be pointing this towards non-military applications too – like law enforcement and security.  No offense to either of these industries, but quite frankly I wonder what kinds of news stories I’ll be writing about when this thing hits the market.  I think it’s great that we might have a non-lethal weapon that could protect whatever needs protecting from actual threats, but why don’t you go search Google News for the words “police” and “taser.”

I hate to sound like a broken record, but if we can’t even trust people with taser guns, what makes this joystick-controlled hurt beam any different?  What about the possibility of this thing being used in “questioning” situations?

pain ray

I like hearing about things that deal with light and energy, and even though the realistic part of my brain tells me differently, I am going to hope for the best here.  Let’s hope that we don’t read about some overzealous agent using this on a detainee or some militant law enforcement group just unleashing this onto a group of demonstrators without need or license.

From the PDF presentation:

painray3

painray ADS

Thanks, Danger Room!

Free Electron Laser 1, Cure for Cancer 0

fel1

I follow a lot of medical technology blogs, and for every one med blog I read, I read three National Defense blogs.  Why?  Mostly because there is so much more going on with lasers and high energy light sources in killing people and things than there is with killing cancer and other undesirables.  For example…

The Department of Defense is giving Boeing and a company called Raytheon about $6,900,000 and change to develop something called a free-electron laser.  The free-electron laser, or FEL, uses electrons that move around the speed of light (relativistic particles) to generate a high speed beam.  From DefenseLink:

Raytheon Co., Integrated Defense Systems, Tewksbury, Mass., is being awarded a $6,928,056 Task Order 0001 Phase 1A under a cost plus fixed fee, indefinite delivery indefinite quantity order contract for the preliminary design of a 100-kw class Free Electron Laser (FEL) device which can be used to demonstrate scalability of the necessary FEL physics and engineering for an eventual MW class Free Electron Laser device. The Office of Naval Research is the contracting activity (N00014-09-D-0353).

The Boeing Co.,. Directed Energy Systems, West Hills, Calif., is being awarded a $6,922,312 Task Order 0001 Phase 1A under a cost plus fixed fee, indefinite delivery indefinite, quantity order contract for the preliminary design of a 100-kw Class Free Electron Laser device which can be used to demonstrate scalability of the necessary FEL physics and engineering for an eventual MW class Free Electron Laser device. The Office of Naval Research is the contracting activity (N00014-09-D-0354).

What?

Okay, real quick – relativistic means essentially “kinda like the speed of light,” or near the speed of light.  These FELs use a series of magnets with reversed poles to get that beam moving.  When you were a kid, did you ever do that experiment where you had a bar magnet on a turntable-type device, and used another bar magnet to propel the turntable in a circle by putting like poles to like poles, this repeling the magnet on the turntable?  Well, it’s kinda like that, but not really anything like that at all.  But now you have a frame of reference – and now I sit here cracking myself up at my paragraph-long description.

This free-electron laser is miraculous for several reasons:

  • It never runs out of shots
  • It doesn’t use crystals, chemicals, or other nasty stuff to excite the electrons in its beam
  • It’s relatively impervious to atmospheric changes
  • It’s got a alternating magnetic field generator is called a Wiggler

and other reasons involving complex mathematics.  One of the coolest things about the free-electron laser is the fact that atmospheric conditions like storms, thunder, humidity, etc.  The FEL can sort-of regulate and recalibrate itself to slice through different kinds of air and conditions – perfect for sea-based weapons.  Due to this pretty interesting and amazing trait, it’s considered perfect for putting on ships to combat missiles, planes, and other stuff made for destroying ships.  The FEL laser would be about 7-8 times more powerful than other lasers in that class, and reaching weapons-grade, or 100 kilowatts.

fel1

But back to the original point – FELs are being developed by Boeing and Raytheon to replace the Phalanx CIWS (close-in weapons system) on Navy ships.  Since the FEL laser would have “unlimited ammunition,” per se, it seems as though it’s a perfect replacement for the Phalanx system.  Oh yeah, what’s the Phalanx system, right?  Well, it’s a rapid-fire 20mm gun system with seeking and searching radar that looks for stuff that will possibly kill the ship, and it kills it.  Like this – watch how quickly this thing moves and fires:

Funny enough, the same company that makes the Phalanx is Raytheon. We’ll see how this FEL laser system goes – I keep hoping that somehow this military technology will spawn some medical technology and help rid the world of stuff inside us that wipes us out.

Thanks, Danger Room!

SteriPen – De-Deathify Water On The Go

My good friend Carla just emailed me to tell me about some of her trip to India.  I think in total she spent about three weeks there, and during the whole time she said she never bought a bottle of water, and drank water from the tap in a bottle she got there.  For a moment I thought that she must have the most stainless steel constitution in the whole world, because the rumor is that tap water and gringos visiting India don’t go well together.  I’ve been to some places in the United States that had water that didn’t “agree” with me, per se, for lack of a better phrase.

Again, I gotta chock up a win for the ninja of light, ultraviolet light.  Do you think that UV light’s ninja suit is indigo colored, or traditional black?

Carla told me about the SteriPen – a device that uses ultraviolet light to kick the butts of nasty, nasty life screwer-uppers like Botulism, Cholera, Dysentary and Typhoid from water.  Have you ever seen what Cholera does to someone’s insides?  I’ve only seen video, but holy crap.  Carla’s no BS artist, so I gotta believe it worked for her.  I believe they had some rural locations in their India trip – they visited Delhi, Rishikesh, Kankal, Varanasi, and Haridwar – some of these locations have awful pollution problems with their water.  Hydro-Photon, the company that makes and sells the SteriPen, recommends it for emergency situations, military folk, people traveling, camping folk, and anyone else who needs to make nasty water drinkable.

protector

The SteriPen sits for about a minute and a half in your water bottle – and there are three flavors of the pen.  The UV lamp is rated at 8,000 hours, and there’s even a solar case for charging the batteries if you choose to get that option.  I’ve done a lot of back country camping where it wasn’t too advantageous to take extra water – and I think those water purifier tablets and drops that supposedly kill protozoa and microbes taste like crap.  SteriPen is taste and smell-less, which is already a big plus.  It’s small, with is another plus, because I’ve usually got enough beef jerky and Cheetos in my camping pack for a weekend outside.

I found a few videos on the pen – here’s a decent one:

There are three different models of the SteriPen, ranging from about 70 bucks to about a hundred.  There’s the Classic model (the basic package), the Protector model (marketed towards military personnel), and the Journey model (which seems to be geared towards outdoorsy use).  There’s also an Adventurer model, which is about half the size of the Classic.  The best prices I’ve found have been at Amazon, $69.95 for the Classic, $79.95 for the Adventurer, $99.00 for the Journey, and $75.95 for the Protector.  Several package deals exist too – with a solar charger, several carrying case and accessories deals, and a few others – check out the line of products here.

I’m going to pick one of these up soon – if you already have one and use it, please post in the comments!  I really want to hear your stories of the device.

classic

Northrop Grumman Makes A 100kW Laser

3-22-09-northrop-laser-system

Defense contractor Northrop Grumman just recently released information that they’ve created a solid state laser that fired over 100kW in a beam – 105.5kW, to be relatively exact.  This mile marker is apparently a big deal, because now Northrop Grumman has entered the weaponized laser market.  This is also significant, as they’ve now created the most powerful ray from an electric laser, ever.  Northrop is part of something called the JHPSSL – The Joint High Power Solid State Laser program, which is dedicated to creating a weaponized laser system, obviously solid state.

Remember the big flying plane laser and the truck laser that shoots down planes?  Those are chemical lasers – the COIL variety (Chemical Oxygen Iodine Laser), at least in the case of the jumbo jet laser.  Chemical lasers are apparently noxious, and freaking huge.  Solid-state lasers are much more compact – but still a little too big to send into battle quite yet.

The method for reaching over 100kW of power from their laser is pretty interesting – a series of laser amplifiers were added together in such a way to increase power with each block.  From Northrop Grumman:

For building blocks, the company utilizes “laser amplifier chains,” each producing approximately 15kW of power in a high-quality beam. Seven laser chains were combined to produce a single beam of 105.5 kW. The seven-chain JHPSSL laser demonstrator ran for more than five minutes, achieved electro-optical efficiency of 19.3 percent, reaching full power in less than 0.6 seconds, all with beam quality of better than 3.0.

100kW is apparently the “proof of principle” used in creating weapons like this – but experts say that 25kW-50kW can also make an effective weapon.  Solid State lasers are preferred in some of these packages because of the compact nature of solid-state.  Chemical lasers depend on the chemical being lased in the chemical devices, and are much more space-consuming.  Even though solid state technology is more compact, it’s still not quite small enough yet.  I bet it won’t take much longer.

I did find a video on this subject, from the LA Times:

northrop2_270x378

Thanks, LA Times and CNET!

Truck Mounted Spy Drone Killing Laser

trucklaser

More military uses of light, again in the form of laser light.  First I heard about the big jumbo jet that could kill missiles in flight – and now exists a humvee-mounted laser cannon that actually shot a spy drone out of the sky.  From the article at New Scientist:

The Laser Avenger is an infrared laser with power levels somewhere in the tens of kilowatts range mounted on a Humvee off-road vehicle. It is designed to take down the smaller variety of UAV, which are hardest for conventional air-defence weapons to target.

The power of its laser has been doubled since 2007, when it was shown off destroying a stationary improvised bomb. Now it has tracked three small UAVs – the exact model has not been given – and shot one of them down. The laser tracks an object and holds fire until the target is close enough for it to cause burning with a single blast.

So now we have another use of laser light for defense.  I wonder how we’re doing with lasers in the “let’s cure cancer” industry?

Again, from the article:

Surface to air missiles designed to target normal-sized aircraft struggle to lock onto small, light, UAVs sometimes made from plastics rather than metal, Nick Brown, editor-in-chief of the journal International Defence Review told New Scientist. “Lasers are a natural extension of their capability.”

Firing a laser multiple times would also be cheaper than firing many missiles, and could continue as long as power can be supplied.

However, Brown’s colleague Peter Felstead, editor of Jane’s Defence Weekly, says the first battlefield lasers will not have UAVs in their sights. “Laser weapons are more likely to be fielded first to counter rockets and mortars, and that capability is not that far away,” he says.