This news article, from The Guardian:
Wow, half a century after the invention of the laser, our military has FINALLY done what we all assumed they had done decades ago. The real joke is this (emphasis added):
Raytheon developed the system after buying six off-the-shelf commercial lasers from the car industry and joining them to make a single, powerful beam guided by the Phalanx’s radars. Unlike other tests which have been conducted on aircraft it uses a solid state laser rather than a chemical generated beam.
So, from this, we are to understand that they have been spinning their wheels since around 1960 on “chemical generated” lasers, while industry has been using solid state lasers now for more than two decades?
Raytheon was able to BUY them from a catalog? That is what “off-the-shelf” means, for anyone who doesn’t know.
If you are wondering how much money Raytheon and other military contractors have been paid over the last 50 years, you are with me. It is virtually certain that the military saw the potential for lasers as weapons within hours or days – if not minutes – of first hearing of what lasers do. That is what the military mind does, after all.
In Goldfinger, in 1964, James Bond ran into the first industrial laser. By 1971, in Diamonds Are Forever, Hollywood had its first peek at lasers as weapons. It is simply not in the realm of belief that the military wasn’t trying to develop this technology as a weapon before either of these film moments showed lasers’ potential to all the rest of us.
And of course they were. By 1970 they had developed gasdynamic lasers of a then whopping 135 kilowatts. They took up most of a large room.
Now, all these many years later (more than my entire working career), how does the military FINALLY, FINALLY get around to doing what we all had assumed they were doing in the 1970s?
They opened up an industrial catalog and buy half a dozen (probably metal-cutting) industrial lasers, then hooked them all up together.
It probably cost them about $250,000 each, tops. That is $1,500,000 total. It kind of conjures up visions of Austin Powers‘ Dr Evil, doesn’t it? It probably cost them all of another let’s say $5,000,000 of super brain top-secret scientists to figure out which plug went where. (In reality, it would have been an installation man in coveralls from the industrial laser manufacturer, billing at about $2,000 a day for about 2 months – about $80,000.)
The scientists would have been hovering around, trying to ascertain what energy was doing in different parts of the assembly – something the manufacturers’ R&D men had already done years before. But the scientists had to be there to give it their stamp of approval.
So, all of this would have been accomplished in about, say, a year – including time to produce the six lasers and then ship them to the super-secret facility. What an oxymoronic scene that must have been – guards keeping the public away from seeing these off-the-shelf lasers wheeled out onto the tarmac. The tires on the trailer they were mounted on is probably the most secret part of the entire contraption.
The scariest part of this – WOW, is there a scariest part of this? EVERYTHING about this is scary! – may be that now they have told the world that industrial lasers can be used to make weapons that can shoot down airplanes.
It is bad enough that hundreds of millions of dollars of OUR money have been spent on them spinning their wheels FOR FOUR FREAKING DECADES.
And now, with the demise of American manufacturing, in my mind the scariest thing is that there are perfectly serviceable used industrial lasers out there, on sale at close-out bankruptcy auctions, available from Joe Main Street steel fabricators – maybe from YOUR town – without any controls over who buys them. Preventing those from getting in the hands of nasties out there, anywhere in the world, should now add to our worries about flying.
They don’t even need to export them. All they need to do is assemble them somewhere under the flight path of any commercial airline, then aim them and pull a Lockerbie on an airliner. There is no rocket. There is no evidence, other than a spike in electrical usage. It could be done from inside a building ANYWHERE, merely by opening up the roof a bit or having a hatch through which to fire. With the number of hard-up industrial property owners out there, the nasties could lease a place under assumed names and move out to another leased facility in a matter of days, if not hours. Or they could simply leave it all in place, as a message to the FBI/CIA/NSA/CID/Pentagon that they can strike anytime, anywhere.
Nice going, people!
This has to rate with IBM in 1979 deciding that the operating system in their proposed personal computers wasn’t important enough to own. Only this one can kill people and keep on killing them.
Another thing this does is make it possible for line-of-site shooting down of stealth aircraft. No longer do they need to track them or be able to “lead” the aircraft properly – just point and shoot. It may not be possible NOW, but rest assured, it is coming.