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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Laser Cannons are in the very near future!

Army Moves Ahead With Mobile Laser Cannon
By Noah Shachtman

The Army is moving ahead with plans to mount a laser cannon on a massive, 35-ton-plus truck.

The service just handed Boeing a $36 million contract to "continue developing a truck-mounted, high-energy laser weapon system that will destroy rockets, artillery shells and mortar rounds," according to a company statement.

Under the High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) Phase II contract, awarded Aug. 15, Boeing will complete the design of, then build, test and evaluate, a rugged beam control system on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck. Boeing also will develop the system-engineering requirements for the entire HEL TD laser weapon system.

Low power demonstrations are scheduled for 2010, with battlefield-strength laser tests to follow in 2013.

About a year ago, the Army asked Boeing and Northrop Grumman to work up preliminary designs for the HEL beam control system -- and promised to choose a winning model by 2009. So the program appears to be on track. And it's one of a number of energy weapon projects that have been picking up steam, after decades of unfulfilled promise. Relatively easy-to-deploy electric lasers have just about worked their way up to weapons-grade. Boeing recently test-fired the real-life ray gun on its Advanced Tactical Laser -- a blaster-equipped gunship. Raytheon has worked up a prototype of its Phalanx mortar-shooter that uses fiber lasers, instead of traditional ammo, to knock down targets. Even the eternally-delayed Airborne Laser -- a modified 747, designed to zap ballistic missiles -- may finally get a long-awaited flight test.

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