Attack Helicopters with Frickin Laser Beams Under Their Wings: US Army Tests High Energy Laser Weapon on AH-64 Apache

Raytheon image of the AH-64 Apache test aircraft, with while high energy laser mounted under the leftmost pylon.

“…Not until they invent handheld laser beams or something” – maybe you’ve heard this tacked on the end of an argument about how small arms are at their peak, and unlikely to change very much anytime soon. Well, the day when Star Wars-style blasters become a reality may be sooner than some think: Military technology giant Raytheon has conducted the first comprehensive flight test of a helicopter-borne high energy laser weapon capable of blasting drones out of the sky.

According to Raytheon’s press release, the laser was mounted to the AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, which took off and then conducted targeting and firing tests in multiple flight regimes, airspeeds, and altitudes, and signaled a major milestone in proving the feasibility of helicopter-mounted laser weapons. The company also released a brief video of the test:

Veteran website Task & Purpose shed more light on the program, and the decision to use the Apache for testing:

Raytheon has been working with the Army’s Apache Program Management Office on the Apache integration since at least May 2016. Speaking at an industry conference then, SOCOM Rotary Wing program chief Col. John Vannoy characterized the directed energy weapons initiative as a relatively inexpensive alternative to guided missiles and other munitions, a program that fits with Air Force Special Operations Command’s plans to outfit an AC-130J Ghostrider with an integrated laser system.

“We’re not at the point where we’ve laid out a business case to advance it,” Col. Vannoy said of aircraft-integrated laser systems. “We really want to understand the environment on the wing, the beam quality we can get off the wing and the ability to beam steer and keep power on a target.” Why the Army and SOCOM went with the Apache for such testing is unclear, especially given that, as Popular Mechanics points out, the command doesn’t typically utilize Apaches.

For special operations forces’ needs, slapping a bunch of laser cannons on an attack copter may prove more instructive than raining down an energy beam from a fixed-wing gunship high above the battlefield. The rotary-wing aircraft typically employed by SOCOM tend to engage targets within close range, cutting down on the factors — required energy, atmospheric dispersion, and the interference of dust and sand that can wreak havoc on laser-guided munitions — that could render a laser weapon ineffective.

I recommend our readers click through and read the entire article, as it contains a lot of additional detail.

Perhaps the most stubborn challenge in designing mobile laser weapons is the power source. By weight and volume, electrical energy sources like batteries are far, far less potent than chemical sources like gasoline or nitrocellulose smokeless powder, restricting the mobility of powerful lasers for now. However, as technology improves, it seems almost inevitable that some day handheld high energy lasers will be feasible weapons, even if it’s not any time soon. As this Raytheon test demonstrates, though, strides in this are are being made more quickly than many might think. Could infantry lasers be possible before the end of this century, or even sooner? It seems unlikely now, but who knows what advances the next 80+ years will bring.

Thanks to Ramlaen for the tip!



Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at nathaniel.f@staff.thefirearmblog.com.


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  • DW

    Good news for ones sexually identified as Apache Helicoptors I guess…

    • valorius

      That’d be me. 🙂

  • Major Tom

    Pew Pew Pew!

  • Brett baker

    “We were success fully engaging the enemy, when a random shot from an insurgent with a Lebel totaled the laser.

    • Phillip Cooper

      WTF is a “lebel”?

      • Yuki Mikazuki

        A very old French rifle.

      • Major Tom

        The “Fusil Lebel Modele 1886” was the standard issue bolt action rifle of the French Army in World War One. Tubular magazine, heavy and long, 1500+ meter area target range with 8+1 capacity. First military rifle to use smokeless powder.

      • valorius

        it’s a rifle.

    • Joshua

      You realize if this truly happened it would be small and more integrated into the body of Apache.

    • Sand

      or it’ll get sabotaged by Val Kilmer and pop a bunch of popcorn instead

  • Vitor Roma

    I’m glad my favorite gender is getting a nice upgrade.

  • TechnoTriticale

    No mention of power source, which is the other half of the challenge with directed energy weapons (the primary one being energy density on target, and dwell time required for effect).

    Power sourcing would appear to have these levels of difficulty:
    ☼ Terrestrial permanent site: easy
    ☼ Ship: easy, although maybe not as retro-fit
    ☼ Terrestrial vehicle: see the trailer
    ☼ Large aircraft: demonstrated and mothballed
    ☼ Helicopter: no visible means of support
    ☼ Man-portable: it’s gonna be a while

    This all is either within technological reach, or the whole scheme is actually to get adversaries to blow even more money on it than the US.

    • roguetechie

      Techno,

      Actually mounting this on the Apache specifically is the ONE and only thing I agree with / approve of in this whole goat rope!

      Why?

      Because if what I’ve read is correct / schedules hold the new turboshaft engines slated to be installed on Apache will be the first engine from the NGATE development program to hit mass production and the Apache will be the first priority to get the new turboshaft engines in that size / output bracket with the other platforms that use that engine only starting to get a trickle of the production after well over 50% of the regular army Apaches get theirs!

      With a pair of these new turboshafts powering them, Apaches will have zero problems providing the needed power, even flying high hot with all its other hard points hung with ordnance and a FULL ammunition load for it’s 30mm chaingun to boot!

      These new engines are beasts man!

      They’re also considerably less thirsty even with the very substantial jump in usable shaft horsepower per engine and the EXPLOSIVE growth in power generation capacity to power all the other systems and stuff like lasers!

      The engines will also apparently be smaller in diameter length weight and total turbine stages…

      How they managed this? Don’t ask me…

      But DAMN IS IT COOL

    • valorius

      The Apache is powered by twin turbine engines. They should provide plenty of power for a low output laser unit.

    • The Brigadier

      The Navy already has rail gun cannons and laser beams on some of their newest frigates. You can see these on YouTube. The Air Force mount large ruby lasers on two C-141 powered by a small naval sub reactor in back of the plane. The Air Force also developed a particle ray beam weapon and mounted it in the belly of a cargo plane about twenty years ago. On cloudless days it burned a nice three foot trail on the ground from 10,000 feet up. The problem with the beam is it is easily defeated by clouds and thick smoke that diffuse the beam.

      The problems with hand held beam weapons and rail guns are two fold. The first is power and they are getting closer with small power and lightweight generators carried in back packs. The second problem is heat. Beam weapon and the capacitors on rail guns generate a LOT of heat. You might kill the enemy, but right now it would suicidal for you do so until they can lick this heat problem

    • Secundius

      Probably the Gas Turbines of the Helicopter, which are sufficient to produce ~1,500-kW each. US Air force is apply 4 Lasers to a C-130J with 4 Roll-Royce AF2100D3 Turbo-Props rated at ~3,458-kW each. And Lockheed-Martin is Trying to Build a “Portable” Fusion Reactor. Only problem being “Portable” is about the size of a FEU (Forty-foot Equivalent Unit) Shipping Container and Just as Heavy…

  • Phillip Cooper

    *ahem*
    “The (Formerly Firearms, now) Frickin’-laser Blog”??

    • GaryOlson

      Let’s not be so polarized, it reflects poorly on us

      • NArnold48

        One of the most crafty puns I’ve seen in a while!

      • Major Tom

        That pun was beaming.

      • Phillip Cooper

        Nicely done!

      • camosoul

        So many internets won by this comment…

  • TheNotoriousIUD

    A bigger tank could hold more lazor fluid.

  • Joe

    How does it perform against a target vehicle with smoke grenade launchers? If particulates interfere with the beam, would smoke negate its effects?

    • Phillip Cooper

      Well, is smoke composed of particulates?

      (Answer: yes).

      • Joe

        So, set a couple of oil wells on fire and the weapon system is ineffective. Neat technology demonstrator, but I fail to see the added value over standard weapons.

        • Jimboecv

          So we need chaff, flares and talc-powder dispensers? A new acronym like TPoD? ToPD?

        • Phillip Cooper

          That’s the least of the problems with this.

        • valorius

          It’s just a step toward an eventual viable laser weapon.

  • Lazerbeems

    => frigging MIRROR TANK`s!

    • Jimboecv

      Yes.

  • ARCNA442

    I’m just waiting for the first news article on a laser weapon that doesn’t mention a Sci-Fi franchise.

  • I’m not suggesting that a Prius and an Apache should interact in any other way than a target/shooter relationship, but has anyone studied hybrid power sources for vehicle-mounted lasers? If you could mount an off-the-shelf APU on the back of a laser weapons pod and have it spinning to charge a capacitor as the aircraft travels to the target area, it could be powering itself essentially for free (aside from parasitic drag on the aircraft, not that that’s much of a concern for a helicopter). On a ground vehicle, off-the-shelf hybrid engines are, well… right there on the shelf.

    • GaryOlson

      Sure, you could use the hybrid engine for the initial laser impulse given sufficient advance notice of combat. Hybrid power sources are usually slow charge slow discharge. Higher power lasers have a high discharge high impulse requirement. You could hot wire your hybrid system for large impulse and large power draw — once. Fire extinguishers suggested.

      • The Brigadier

        Yes indeed!

  • Stuki Moi

    Now why would you even want a laser for supposedly close range engagements? Against comparatively slow moving drones? For long engagement ranges, against fast moving targets, they may just make enough sense to overcome their drawbacks. But on an Apache??? Talk about waste of opportunity to employ a perfectly fine minigun.

    • valorius

      This is just a baby step in the right direction.

  • Cap’n Mike

    Cool
    They need to mount it on a Shark next.

  • Sermon 7.62

    The Russians, in the meantime, have been launching laser-cannon satellites. If a war starts, these are supposed to take down all NATO communications in a couple of weeks. Search:

    Western Space Agencies Are Tracking What Could Be A Russian Satellite Killer

    • CommonSense23

      Wait are you saying the Russians are finally catching up to the 1980s USA anti satellite capabilities. Wow.

      • Sermon 7.62

        No!

        The Russians are taking it to the next level.

        • Uniform223

          “The Russians are taking it to the next level.”

          > Like the Russians and their PAKFA?
          I’m not sorry that I can’t take that comment seriously without laughing a little…

          • Sermon 7.62

            More like the first intercontinental missile, first satellite, first human in space, first spacewalk, first unmanned lunar landing, first space rover, and first space station.

            “Further notable records included the first interplanetary probes: Venera 1 and Mars 1 to fly by Venus and Mars, respectively, Venera 3 and Mars 2 to impact the respective planet surface, and Venera 7 and Mars 3 to make soft landings on these planets.”

            Surprised?

    • HobgoblinTruth

      No, they haven’t launched any “laser cannon satellites”. You aren’t at same level as yanks… get used to it.

      • Sermon 7.62

        The Russians are not on the same level? In what, I’d like to know. The amount of McDonalds restaurants?

        “It could have a number of functions, some civilian and some military,” space security expert Patricia Lewis told the Financial Times.

        One of the possible military uses was the launch of “kinetic pellets which shoot out at another satellite,” Lewis said. In wars of the future, it might be advantageous — though very publicly hostile — to take out a rival nation’s eyes.

        Killing satellites is something both the US and the Soviet Union tested in the 1980s but had let go until testing by China led to the US doing the same (and making the report).

        The difference here, of course, is that Russia’s experiment could involve an asset with more longevity, rather than a missile used just once. If it is indeed a weapon, it could lend new urgency to the previously tentative race to weaponize not just air, land, and sea, but space as well.

        • Brett baker

          A laser-aimed cannon isn’t the same thing as a laser cannon. Space Corps will figure out how to kill it.

          • Sermon 7.62

            Recommended reading:

            PUTIN’S TERMINATOR – Russian military leaders unveil terrifying robot army including battle-ready android gunslinger

            : )

    • Edward Franklin

      Wow, an article full of if and maybes. Clearly an array of laser armed satellites and not just a cluster of spy vehicles or testbeds.
      Besides a full orbital laser worth a hill of beans was sorta launched in the late 1980’s by the USSR. If it hadn’t been programmed wrong the Polyus was the real deal and not a Vatnik fantasy.

      • Sermon 7.62

        The North American Aerospace Defense Command is a Vatnik, too?

  • gunsandrockets

    Electrically powered lasers are rapidly becoming practical weapon systems for vehicle mounted applications.

    A podded system like demonstrated on the Apache would fit just as well under the wing of the A-10.

    Too bad there is so much desire from the USAF to retire the A-10, since the basic airframe design is very good and the A-10 should be able to soldier on as well as the B-52 which are slated for service into the 2030’s!

    Because all that weight and volume the A-10 now dedicates to its huge 30mm cannon system would be a perfect place for installing a combined APU and laser weapon system.

    • valorius

      “Because all that weight and volume the A-10 now dedicates to its huge
      30mm cannon system would be a perfect place for installing a combined
      APU and laser weapon system.”

      Blasphemy.

      • DW

        Gatling laser is OK I guess.

    • The Brigadier

      The Air Force has a really crappy replacement in mind for the Warthog and lot of AF pilots are very dismayed. The Warthog has been lauded by almost every military in the world as the best close support aircraft ever developed and procurement people are going to screw the pooch again unless the Trump people can stop this. They need to keep on building the A-10 and simple keep it upgraded as they have for the last forty five years. Six Maverick missiles, six Hellfire missiles, small rocket pods on the edge of both wings, two Sidewinder heat seeking missiles to use against fast movers and a 60 mm cannon with a 100 round magazine. We need this aircraft and I hope that someone in the Trump administration reads this blog.

  • iksnilol

    They definitely need to improve the aesthetics.

  • Ryfyle

    Really got my doubts on hand held lasers being a decent weapon. The moment you got fog, dust, or rain you’r going to have some excessive bloom. A Moist Nugget and a smartphone could out range it.

    • Whitechapel Charlie

      Yep. Watch the Shoddycast video about fallout laser rifles.

      • Ryfyle

        They could have recoil due to the insta-heated air in front of the beam emitter. Watching that slow drone burn really turned me off from defense lasers.

    • Wow!

      I think lasers or energy weapons in general would be really great supports as LL crowd control or area denial. Especially if the laser is able to cook up an area, an enemy in a full loadout even with armor would be severely hampered when entering the beam. As a replacement for small arms, as you say, I don’t think lasers will be the choice.

      • Ryfyle

        Laser make really good industrial tools but are seldom the greatest stand-alone platform. Now if we were to make Laser detonated primers or explosives we might see some cool stuff. Also Electro-lasers might make for better drone cooking.

        • Wow!

          Lasers would be good for RC which would be fast moving and fragile. Especially if you can get a powerful enough laser where it can create a cone of damage rather than a single point.

          What is the advantage of laser detonated primers? I would think that transferring heat is slower than kinetic energy, and would increase lock time. Is it to make more stable and cheaper primer compounds without the friction components?

          • Ryfyle

            Supersonic detonation of a primer on a blasting cap. Make the primary explosive material photosensitive and safer to manufacture.

          • Wow!

            Wouldn’t that be kind of risky though? Like an enemy could set off the train before you are ready or something from a distance. Modern explosives seem pretty plug and play as is, and aren’t really too expensive.

          • Ryfyle

            I was thinking more in the lines of Space related applications.

      • The Brigadier

        My money is on hand held rail guns. Small steel darts with tungsten cores and sharp tungsten points that can fire from 5 to 10 kilometers a second. It will hole most anything and will absolutely be a one shot kill system. Battlefields will be ruled by marksmen.

        • Secundius

          There already available!/? Problem is Power and Range. Eats through Stored Battery Power faster than a Discharged Bullet and Range is Limited to about 50-meters…

        • Wow!

          The only reason I am skeptical about railguns is that while it could potentially help us get past the 3000-4000FPS velocity limits (Due to pressure concerns) with firearms, Light projectiles loose energy fast and the proportion lost is even more rapid the faster the initial velocity was. Maybe a conventional bullet design with a lead core, tungsten penetrator and a steel jacket may work. The other issue is trying to get spin stabilization at those velocities which could shear rifling pretty well.

          Still, who knows.

          • Secundius

            The 64-MJ “Quaker Telephone Poles” made by Generally Atonic (General Atomics) are destined to be Cancelled, and Replaced by a 10-MJ Rail Gun. BAe have Three Rail Gun models in Near Production: 64MJ, 32MJ and 20MJ. US Army is looking for a 256MJ and 128MJ Rail Guns as Replacements for the 155mm Howitzers…

          • Wow!

            Using rail guns for artillery actually makes a lot of sense. You probably would save a lot of cost from shipping munitions full of propellant around, which probably means each gun can fire more rounds improving the probability of hit. Plus the guns themselves could probably be a lot lighter save for the power source, but pulling around two lighter objects is probably better than one heavy object.

          • Secundius

            The XM2000/2001 “Crusader” was Cancelled in 2000 by SecDef Donald Rumsfeld as a Long-Range 155mm Howitzer. But Vehicle Chassis would be Prefect for Rail Gun Platform and Articulated Magazine Vehicle for Power and Rail Gun Ammunition Storage. Actual Rail Gun Projectile is less than 40mm in diameter and weighs less than 30-pounds. In the cases of ALL the Rail Guns mentioned 256MJ, 128MJ, 64MJ, 32MJ, 20MJ and 10MJ. Projectiles are ALL the Same Size and Weight, with the Except of “Smart Projectiles” still in development…

          • The Brigadier

            Tungsten is very very heavy and dense. The dart will travel down the rail and won’t begin spinning until free of it. The darts fins will be slightly offset to generate the spin. The speed will be unbelievably fast and there will be sonic booms with each shot. The Navy has a short range rail gun on small ships, and on larger test ships they now have a large rail gun that can fire a thirty pound projectile almost three hundred miles in under ninety seconds. The Kinetic energy is so great that if it hits the enemy amidships it will blow the ship in half. Like I said it is a one shot kill system for everyone and it will be a game changer.

          • Wow!

            Oh, you are saying an entire projectile made of tungsten. I don’t know about that. Tungsten is very expensive and difficult to work with. The reason naval railguns work effectively is because it has a lot of mass working with the projectile. Something like a small arm will not have the benefit of that much mass and at a smaller caliber is even more affected by the atmosphere. I don’t think tungsten alone is magnetic either. I imagine the fins would also create a lot of drag as well as having to be made with precision to impart the correct spin. In contrast to a barrel which is is only one part that needs to be made with precision.

          • Secundius

            Not exactly!/? Tungsten Carbide…

          • Wow!

            Tungsten itself isn’t magnetic I think. You can add a metal binder to make it a carbide, but that does affect the materials hardness and density. To me it would be better to make a projectile out of different metals than to make one homogeneous projectile.

          • Secundius

            Probably True!/? But what the Trajectory of the Projectile. In 1994 the PRC conducted a Series of Tests using Titanium. And concluded that a Flat Trajectory Projectile made of Titanium, Vaporized within 3,000-meters at Hypersonic Velocities and 5,000-meters at Supersonic Velocities at Near Sea-Level Altitude…

          • Secundius

            Tungsten Carbide has at least 10% Cobalt in its Composition. But there’s a Protective Shroud that Protects the Projectile as it’s being Fired. Composition of the Shroud is Unknown, but I suspect something Magnetic. Because Cobalt is only “Slightly” Magnetic, and not enough of it for the Magnetic Field to “Hold-On Too”

          • The Brigadier

            No that is not what I said. I said a dart with an outer shell of steel and an inner core of heavy tungsten. First of all rail guns work by pushing and pulling ferric materials. Tungsten isn’t ferric so it needs the iron in the steel to be pushed and pulled. The inner core provides the heavy weight and that relates to the kinetic energy related to such projectiles. Rail guns don’t have barrels. They have four rods that are connected by rings and the capacitors are placed all along the rails that are not ferric. The dart doesn’t begin spinning until it leaves the end of the rails in micro seconds about four or five times faster than the fastest bullets now in use. The dart’s fins that are the same height as the front of the darts body are slightly off center and the give the dart the spin once its clear of the rails. Yes it will slow down eventually very far away, but up to five miles away it will still have an enormous amount of speed with an enormous amount of concurrent kinetic energy.

            Go on Youtube and look at the Navy’s new small rail cannon. The shoot a projectile through ten thick steel plates demonstrating the speed and the concurrent kinetic energy.

          • Wow!

            Okay, that makes a lot more sense. I still think the fins would be pretty difficult to machine accurately and that kind of precision work should be moved to the gun rather than the ammo so you only have to do it once. Everything else sounds good.

            If we are making a self propelled kind of gun I agree it will be great but as a small arm I don’t think it would work as well. The Naval gun works because it has a lot of mass to work with, a small arm cannot carry that much mass. Air resistance will affect the maximum range rapidly due to this (relatively) light weight projectile that even if you exceed our current maximum muzzle velocity of 3000-4000, its range still will be only a few hundred yards over our current capabilities. Then there is the factor of recoil which while we dont have muzzle blast working against us, if you are firing a heavy enough payload it will still rock you. Recoilless launchers work because all the gasses are expelled back, but I imagine the rail gun itself is taking all the opposite forces used during firing. Maybe a high impulse system like that hand held mortar prototype that went around in 2007 would work?

            You also still would probably need rapid firing models for things like grazing fire since the big issue with most kinds of combat is still finding and fixing the enemy in the first place.

          • Secundius

            The Economist-Technology Quarterly, dated 8 March 2014 discusses a DARPA funded Coilgun-Mortar of ~2,500m/sec. being researched by BOTH the University of Texas-Austin by Harry Fair and by the Sandia National Laboratories. But nothing New to report on about any progress in the Conception…

          • Wow!

            I really like the idea of a coilgun mortar or artillery. It makes a lot of sense IMO.

          • Secundius

            I’m trying to visualize a Squad Served Portable Field Mortar, but keep coming up short on its Practical Usage. Especially when Factoring In its 2,500m/sec Muzzle Velocity…

          • Wow!

            Lighter ammo so you can carry more, and further range (2500m/s is pretty nice (although I haven’t checked on the weight of the projectile they tested) considering most 60mm mortars are around under 300m/s at the muzzle. Of course all this is hypothetical since how efficient we can get the guns and the power source basically determines if it will make or break their intended uses.

          • Secundius

            Percussion Mortars Ballistic Trajectories are about 500-feet. a Coilgun-Mortar with a Muzzle Velocity of ~2,500m/sec. would be several thousands of feet, which would Restrict ANY Air Support Element in the Area. Which sort of defeats the purpose of any mission…

          • Wow!

            Are coil guns all or nothing? I was under the impression you could reduce the wattage on command. Say if you want a steeper angle due to obstructions, reduce power to get a sharper trajectory. If you want range, raise power and decrease the angle of muzzle. If that isn’t the case you are probably right. Still, you do have air traffic control and considering the standoff you would get from the range of the mortar, it still might have application. Worst case scenario you could make a heck of a direct fire option.

          • Secundius

            Well not really?/! If you’re reducing the Voltage to Limit the Range, then the Mortar Projectile is no more effective than a Standard Mortar Round. And the Same Ballistic Trajectory applies to IT as it does with a standard mortar round. Even a Standard Percussion Mortar will Fire “Smart Projectiles”. The Smallest Smart Projectile to date was only 13mm in diameter and ~6.6-inches long…

          • Wow!

            That is a shame that the coil gun is fixed in power. That really kind of kills nearly all the practical applications for it. I’m surprised you can’t reduce power by reducing activity of some of whatever functional units the coil gun uses or something like that. I guess I’ll go back to my original assessment that the future of energy weapons is best served in wave based area denial and LL options like lasers.

          • The Brigadier

            You are still comparing the darts to bullets. The darts are longer and about the thickness of a .50 BMG. They are not weighted in grains, or grams, but in ounces. The speed is so fast that it will be miles away in under a second. You have to change your way of thinking with this tech. Its a whole new class of speed and power.

            Yes they have already fixed the rapid firing need using a braided tube and backup magazine, much like that Russian hand held machine gun that came out last year. The nomenclature of that machine gun escapes me. Fitted with powerful optics, railgun marksmen and sharpshooters will provide overwatch without any danger of an enemy shooting them, like that near miss on the Kurdish woman sniper a couple of weeks ago. ISIS snipers or anyone else’s won’t see ours and will die ignorant.

          • Wow!

            That is the thing in most situations I would rather have infantry carrying a lot of rounds than less than hundred or so powerful rounds. Infantry has to be flexible because they are kind of like the seekers. If they spot the enemy at a distance that is great, but often they won’t be spotting the enemy until they are well within their effective range. To me that kind of ranged power is best left with artillery like self propelled guns which can have more rounds at their disposal and with a much larger impact.

            Optics are an issue too because past 600 yards or so mirage often makes it so blurry that you can’t ID anything anyways and if you can’t ID a target you often can’t shoot except in cases of total warfare. Thermal IR would be good, but again the issue with ID. But that is just my perspective and the future could become any of our ideas or none at all.

    • Ben Pottinger

      This. Most people get their laser “info” from TV and movies, and we all know how reliable that is. The serious problem with infantry based laser weapons is bloom and reflection. Let’s just look at a high power laser you can buy online capable of popping a black balloon or lighting a match. Typically it’s going to be a red green or blue laser between 1 and 4 watts (though I’ve seen higher). These are barely enough to burn skin yet the bloom or worse yet, direct reflections from one can cause immediate eye injury and possibly blindness. Now imagine an IR laser that’s not visible (which is far more likely to be used for a weapon) and your eye won’t even try to protect itself from reflections. Troops wouldn’t even be able to fire the weapon without googles that turn day into night. A “miss” that hits something reflective has the real possibility of being lethal to someone way out of the line of fire, even if their wearing goggles to protect their eyes.

      I could possibly see a laser weapon being used by specialty troops but I just don’t see them being feasible for general troops ever really. At least not terrestrially, i guess maybe in a vacuum.

      Now mass driver style weapons might actually work, especially with power systems that would allow aan portable lethal laser system.

      • Secundius

        A 5-Watt Laser will Cut Bone!/? The Geneva Convention say that you can’t Intentionally Blind someone with a Laser. But Says Nothing about Killing someone with an Laser. In December 2014 the US Navy outfitted the AFSB(I)-15, USS Ponce with a 50-Kilowatt LaWS (Laser Weapon System). Aperture (Bore Diameter) of LaWS Laser is ~660mm (~25.984-inches). And have been Testing SAID Laser in the Persian Gulf, Next set of Tests is to “Up Gun” to a 150-Kilowatt LaWS laser. Eventually an 500-Kilowatt Laser is to be deployed…

        • Ben Pottinger

          I’m confused, are you responding to me? No one needs to “intentionally” blind anyone, the reflections alone from a even a reasonably low power lethal laser are going to be extremely dangerous. I just don’t see them being a practical infantry weapon for that reason alone.

          I’m not sure if 5w will cut bone, will it?

          • Secundius

            Those Firing the LaWS are going to be Deep in the Belly of the Beast where LaWS is Mounted On. Those on Deck will probably be wearing Laser Glasses, unless the Laser is an Infrared Laser. Surgical Lasers are Rated at 5-Watts…

          • Ben Pottinger

            I’m talking about man portable lethal lasers. It’s why I keep saying man portable lethal lasers…

            And you mention they would wear glasses “unless it’s an infrared laser”. You do realize infrared lasers are a bigger eye hazard, at much lower power, then visible lasers? Because your eye won’t respond and defend itself it makes infrared lasers a far bigger eye risk.

          • Secundius

            Boeing has been Field Testing a Man Portable 10-kilowatt Pulse Fiber (LED) Laser since 2014. It comes in Three Components and can be set up by a Squad of 8-men in as little as 15-minutes. Total System weighs ~650-pounds and has a ~22-kilometer range

          • Ben Pottinger

            Neat?

          • The Brigadier

            Only if you are the shooter.

      • Aperture lemon

        Even indirect reflections from some laser pointers (like pointing it at a regular wall close by) can damage people’s eyes, the laser dot is very bright like a wilding arc.

        • Ben Pottinger

          And something most people don’t understand is the same applies to a IR laser. It will be dangerously “bright” yet you won’t see it at all. Given a powerful enough laser you could potentially stare at a white wall and go blind in a few moments from the reflection without ever “seeing” anything to blind you!

      • The Brigadier

        As to eyes, mirrored face plates would deflect the beams, but would give off a lot of light to give away your position. Night fighting might be the solution.

        • Secundius

          Don’t count on it!/? To date “Nobody” has EVER created a 100% Reflective Mirror. ALL Mirrors have Flaws in their Design. Deflecting a 0.2mW Laser Pointer is One Thing, but a 150KW or 300KW Laser. Don’t push your luck…

  • No one

    Pfft, I won’t be convinced of its unproven effectiveness until it can pass the FBI penetration test!

    • wetcorps

      If the gel block melts, does it still count as penetration?

      • Matt Taylor

        Not to the tacticool mall ninjas… they’ll still be swearing that their 9mm/40/45 has better capacity/allaroundgreatness/stopping power compared to the lazerz.

  • valorius

    Any idea how many kilowatts the laser is?

  • Edward Forney

    That was a VERY short demonstration !!

  • Iggy

    It’s kinda weird that my main takeaway from a laser weapon demonstration is that gasmasks are going to become alot more necessary on the battlefield as soon as lasers become viable. Because there is going to be all kinds of aerosol and smoke crap being pumped out to negate the lasers and regardless of assurances that can’t be good for your lungs.

    • The Brigadier

      The problem with smoke is you can’t generate it constantly while moving across miles of terrain because it will give your position away. Then conventional artillery shells can kill you. You will generate smoke once you begin taking fire and if they target all of you with lasers, there will be few survivors to generate the smoke. Death will be instantaneous as your organs are holed and cooked. Both lasers and powerful rail guns are going to be game changers in every war theater.

  • Jim_Macklin

    IRON MAN is coming, before I’m 100 years old.

  • …what a time to be alive

    • camosoul

      …and get killed.

  • The first link is included in the article text…

  • LCON

    Set Phasers on stun.

  • Whitechapel Charlie

    ISIS Dude : الحصول على مرآة !!!! (Get the mirror!!!!)

  • camosoul

    I want a lazor potato(e).

  • Richard Lutz

    I hear they will also be using it for targetted assassinations whereby they explode the target’s head due to the massive rise in temperature in a second or so.

  • Capn Stefano

    Wake up and smell the coffee, guys. We are BANNED from possessing these types of weapons and when hand held high powered lasers (etc) are developed, YOU won’t be “allowed” to possess them, only government will. Our liberties have been seriously infringed and unless we get off our arses and retake them, one of these days the goobermint will in fact finally have weapons (AI terminators) with lasers that will cut right through your AR500 plates and take you out at beyond firearm distance. When that happens, the 2nd Amendment is DOA

  • Secundius

    Boeing has been Testing a 10-Kilowatt Pulse Fiber (LED) Laser since 2014 that’s Man Portable. Come in 3 Containers, and can be Set Up by a Squad of 8 in ~15-minutes. Total System weighs ~650-pounds and has a ~22-kilometer range. Gives new meaning to the Phrase, “Death by a thousand cuts”…

  • The Brigadier

    Handheld lasers and rail guns will be coming to your store much earlier than you can imagine.

    • Secundius

      I doubt it?/! The FIRST Practical Laser Revolver was invented in 1984 by the Soviet Union. It was based on a Flash Bulb design, with an 8-round (Self Contained Pyrotechnic Flash Bulbs). And was Range Limited to just 20-meters. It’s usefulness as a Killing Weapon was in doubt…

      • The Brigadier

        The hand held lasers will have a large power supply in a backpack and the range will probably be a thousand yards. Power supplies are getting close. Heat is a problem and replacement rubies that can rapidly be changed by ham handed infantryman who need to collimate the beams for both efficiency and accuracy are another. These are the current hurdles. Like most things they will be addressed sooner then later.

        • Secundius

          You and I WON’T be Alive to see a Laser Weapon or Rail Gun coming to Our Nearest Gun Store, IF EVER…