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Subject: and now, R2D2 gets a laser
doggtag    2/3/2009 3:26:18 PM
White Sands testing new laser weapon system WHITE SANDS MISSILE RANGE, N.M. (Army News Service, Jan.30, 2009) - White Sands Missile Range is testing a new weapon system known as the Laser Centurion Demonstrator. The system, developed by Raytheon, combines proven radar and threat-detection technology with the latest in laser weapons. This demonstration model is intended to prove the capabilities and effectiveness of the new laser weapon as part of the Laser Area Defense Systems program, officials said. The new laser system is designed to replace the 20mm cannon on the Navy's Phalanx system and the Army's Centurion system, according to Raytheon's Web site. The integration of an advanced directed energy weapon into an existing conventional weapon system helps keep the system's costs down as well as allowing an easier transition from one system to another, officials said. The Phalanx is an air and missile-defense system used on nearly every ship in the fleet. Converted to be transported and fired from a trailer, it is also used by the Army under the name Centurion to provide defense from air and missile threats as well as defense against mortar and artillery attacks. As an upgrade to the Phalanx and Centurion, the laser system is a program that is jointly funded by the Navy and Army. Other services are also interested in the laser itself for possible integration into other weapon systems. "Directed energy is getting more and more prevalent in weapon systems," said Col. Bruce Lewis, White Sands Test Center commander. Initial tests with the demonstrator have been positive. The laser has proven capable of rapidly penetrating armor plating even when not at full power, and system setup has been very easy. "We are excited to be testing system capabilities by shooting down mortar rounds in the coming weeks," said Sal Rodriguez, senior flight test engineer with the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division, Sands Missile Range detachment. Rodriguez also thanked all the members of Team White Sands who have supported the program while it prepares to test the system. The Laser Centurion will fill the same role as the conventional cannon-equipped version while providing a commander with more options and capabilities, officials said. The laser-based system will still be able to engage targets like mortars, rockets, and missiles, but without the drawbacks of limited ammunition. Also, since the laser does not use any kind of solid shot like the cannon, it can be used to better defend populated areas without the fear of the "20mm shower" that conventional air-defense guns cause when their bullets fall back to earth. Since it is also able to be used against small surface targets, the laser will be able to be used in peacekeeping and anti-piracy missions without drawing the kind of attention a cannon would. "At (short range) it's a nice deterrent, and without the big bang of a gun," said Lt. Shawn Mitchell, assistant officer in charge of the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division's WSMR detachment. Unlike previous laser systems of this kind that used chemical reactions to generate the necessary power for the laser, the Laser Centurion uses a solid-state laser that can run off any appropriately powerful source of electricity. "It's like the difference between an electric car and a gas-burning car... this is a very green system," said Dan McMaster, a program manager from Raytheon. This makes the Laser Centurion a very flexible weapon system as it will be able to run off land-based generators and power supplies just as well as it will off of a ship's reactor. (Drew Hamilton writes for the Missile Ranger newspaper at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.)
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doggtag       2/3/2009 3:33:08 PM
US Army link is here." width="600" border="0" />
Photo credit Drew Hamilton

Raytheon technicians show the Laser Centurion Demonstrator to members of White Sands Missile Range Navy and Test Center leadership. The system mounts a high-powered laser onto a Centurion weapons platform to provide area defense against artillery, missile and other aerial threats.
...solid state, not chemical laser.
No mention on the power requirements and output of the system.
Will have to watch Raytheon's website for more info there...
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VelocityVector       2/3/2009 3:51:29 PM
I hope these things are robust enough to survive missile exhaust, sea spray, ice, sand, fuel mist, lost tools, flying fish etc.  CRAM/RAM appear to, and you tend to want that attribute for your innermost layer of protection.  Does somebody know whether the emitter is field-serviceable?

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WarNerd       2/4/2009 3:26:48 AM
Just wait until the press starts calling it a death ray and the political types panic.
Then the 'human rights' people will declare it to be an incendiary weapon (correct) and demand that it's use against any target that might conceivably have people in or around it be outlawed.
And so it goes ...
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doggtag       2/4/2009 11:24:05 AM

I hope these things are robust enough to survive missile exhaust, sea spray, ice, sand, fuel mist, lost tools, flying fish etc.  CRAM/RAM appear to, and you tend to want that attribute for your innermost layer of protection.  Does somebody know whether the emitter is field-serviceable?


Any of our frequent folk here ever been to White Sands? (Arty Engineer would be my first guess.)
Is thae American Southwest as dirty (sandstorm environment) as the Middle East?
That would be my first question, as it seems they're implying it as a C-RAM system first (Centurion) with a follow-on navalized variant that would certainly have to be materially-constructed a bit differently considering the maritime environment.
As to being field-serviceable?
My guess would be: sure, as long as the government ponies up the big bucks for the support contract (provided exclusively by the vendor)!
Coming from Raytheon though, as a rule we don't generally hear of Raytheon projects ballooning way beyond original cost estimates or lagging far behind the expected contract dates, and they seem to be having fewer reliability issues (better engineers?) than we hear coming from the bigger defense industry giants like Boeing, LockMart, or NorthropGrumman, or even GDLS.
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doggtag    the human rights aspect of it...   2/4/2009 11:40:25 AM
""You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out...."
-William Tecumseh Sherman
Technically speaking, the whole "death ray" approach could, with the right marketting people behind it, be pushed forward as a more humane means to wage war: it's less messy (on the outside), with no bits and pieces of corpses blown all over the neighborhood, no sprays of blood all over hapless bystanders, and having no "bullet drop", depending on how far, how lethal, and how focused the beam can be made, there is so much less a risk of collateral damage to unintended targets.
There will never be a perpetual peace among mankind, not as long as there are differing nationalities and borders and ideologies and belief systems.
Men have always, too easily, found it's simpler to destroy a non-agreeing antagonist than to continually kowtow and sacrifice to appease him.
So no matter what these peacenik hippie freaks think of war, it's not going to go away anytime soon.
And even if the US and others among the more, ahem, "civilized" nations do ratify a treaty that the use of such directed energy weapons is seen as too inhumane, that's no guarantee someone else won't come along later who'll hold to the same treaties and ideals of DEW use: it's already been pointed out that china uses non-eyesafe blinding lasers (I'm sorry, they prefer the term "dazzle", not blind) mounted on war vehicles, yet where are the peaceniks dragging china before the World Courts to demand they cease-and-desist using such inhumane weapons that are intentionally used to maim rather than to kill?
A clean-killing DEW with no risk of over-penetration or ricocheting into a schoolyard or hospital sounds more humane to me than any bullets or bombs that rely on sheer physical shock damage to destroy flesh and bone by ripping them violently apart.
(IMHO, I think all those peacenik types need to be America's, or any supposed "peace-loving" nation's, first line of defense: they go in first against any new enemy, and once that adversary wipes them away by refusing to concede to hippie logic and reasoning ("make love not war!" and "can't we all just get along?"), then let the real military folk solve it the only way those advrsaries understand: by physical destruction.)
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