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Laser shoots down drone

  1. Jul 21, 2010 #1
    So the US Navy has shot down a drone with a Laser.... 30 second video is here:


    Can anyone identify the major obstacles in such an effort. Seems like tracking/radar type software would be very similar to conventional weapons...conventional weapons shells go through clouds, rain, fog,snow and so forth..how about laser beams??
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 5, 2010 #2
  4. Aug 5, 2010 #3


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    Big, no problem fitting one to a ship but pretty useless otherwise.
    Uses lots of power and/or some very unpleasant chemicals

    You can destroy a drone with a well aimed half-brick.

    Impressive would be hitting a sea-skimming missile at mach3, 10m above the water in the fraction of a second between it coming over the horizon and hitting you.
  5. Aug 5, 2010 #4


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    Yes. The test may have been of the "sitting duck" type in which the drone was particularly susceptible to damage by the laser. It may not be too difficult to "harden" missiles to laser attack, in which case, it would be reckless and wasteful to pursue further development of the laser weapon until such concerns are addressed and dealt with. Of course, such information will be classified, meaning that we have to trust our weapons-developers, military overseers, etc to be honest with us and tell us if the system has serious weaknesses. Any takers on that bet?
  6. Aug 5, 2010 #5

    Andy Resnick

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    I worked on two similar systems three lifetimes ago; my information may not be up to date. I worked on the ABL (Boeing) and MTHEL (joint US/Isreali) systems:


    http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/military/abl/index.html [Broken]

    Both of those lasers were near-IR chemical lasers:


    Out of the numerous technical issues, there were two main classes I worked on: beam shaping/aiming (the lenses and mirrors and tracking movements) and propagation effects (transmission, atmospheric scattering, etc).

    Obviously, the main difference is the time to target- that made the tracking easier. The atmospheric scattering placed severe requirements on the optical corrections and initial pulse energy, and how 'pristine' the pulse had to be when it left the 'gun' in order to put sufficient power onto the target.

    Then of course, there's countermeasures- just make your missile highly reflective, like I dunno... *unpainted metal*?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  7. Aug 5, 2010 #6


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    The ABL still has some issues, like it needs a 747 to carry it around in, it's run by a chemical laser that redefines HAZMAT (one rumor is that the 747 isn't allowed back into California - it breaks so many OSHA rules).

    It was also designed to hit an ICBM just after launch = nice thin metal tubes highly pressurized with explosive fuel and moving in a nice well defined parabolic path.

    This thing is intended to defeat the Russian Sizzler sea-skimming missile which is doing Mach3 at 10m above the waves. Even if you hit the thing you have to totally vaporise it or you simply exchange being hit by a missile for being hit by a mach3 lump of metal + explosive + solid rocket propellant!
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