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Next-gen US drone: now equipped with ‘death ray’ laser

News | 11.12.2012 | 13:39

The next generation of military drones, unveiled by a leading US manufacturer, will not just carry a limited supply of rockets – but will likely be fitted with an ultra-light laser, capable of repeatedly destroying objects at the speed of light.

“It would give us an unlimited magazine,” a person close to the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) program told Time magazine.

Over the past four years, the Defense Advance Research Project Agency (DARPA) has given contractor General Atomics over $60 million to develop and then scale HELLADS – a powerful 150 kW ray with a difference.

Current lasers of that strength – enough to destroy an incoming rocket or plane – are bulky, which means they can only be placed on stationary defense systems.

HELLADS, which DARPA says is in the “final development stage,” is radically lighter. It will weigh only 750 kilograms – less than a very small car.

This vastly opens up its potential uses.

A key application of HELLADS is in the new generation of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), better known as drones.

In a digital video advertising its own Predator C Avenger drone, General Atomics shows a formation of UAVs annihilating a shower of ground-launched interceptor missiles in a split second, before making them an offensive weapon and targeting objects on the ground.

The capacity of the laser is likely to be multiplied by the capability of the Predator itself. General Atomics believes the most efficient use of the relatively cheap, high-speed drones will be as a large “swarm” of integrated units that can overcome even a large defense network, at the expense of a small amount mechanical casualties.

The bold claims have to be weighed against several reservations.

Neither the UAV nor the laser have reached mass production stage, and although it is evident that the US Air Force sees drones as crucial to its future, the success of the Predator is not yet guaranteed.

Another is the natural limitation of the laser. While it can be easily recharged and work for hours on end, unlike a conventional missile, a laser weapon cannot easily penetrate clouds or smoke with its rays. Essentially, HELLADS will have to see its target before it can shoot it, making its use most likely against missiles and enemy planes, rather than ground-based targets.

Proponents of the new generation of lasers say that despite their nickname of “death rays,” lasers will help to reduce collateral damage with their precision, and mute the ethical criticism that has dogged drones since they have become the preferred method for picking out specific US targets.

Russia, Israel and other leading arms manufacturers say they are working on their own versions of similar portable lasers, though the US developments appear to be at a more advanced stage.



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    Nikolai BOBKIN

Does US Have Role in Anti-ISIS Fight?

Europe is facing uncontrolled flows of refugees, terrorist threat and public discontent. People begin to ask questions. Russia is taking independent actions in Syria. Perhaps, it could offer better solutions to these problems than Washington...

Aeroflot AFISMA African Union Africom AIIB AIPAC Al Qaeda Al Shabaab Al-Jazeera ALBA Amnesty International Anonymous Ansar Allah APEC Arab League ASEAN ATAKA Atomstroyexport Bank for International Settlements Bank of America Barclays Basel Committee BBC Bilderberg Club Black Bloc BlackRock Blackwater Boco Haram BP BRICS CARICOM CELAC Center for Responsive Politics CEPAL Chatham House Chevron CIA CICA CIS Citigroup CNN Committee of 147 Committee of 300 Council of Europe Council on Foreign Relations Crescent Crescent Petroleum CSTO Customs Union CyberBerkut DARPA Davos DEA Defense Intelligence Agency DIA Dragon Family E.ON Eager Lion ECOWAS EDA ELNET Enbridge Pipelines ETA EU EULEX EurAsEc Eurasian Union European Commission European Court of Human Rights European Union Exxon Mobil Facebook FAO FARC FATAH FBI FDA Federal Reserve FIFA Financial Action Task Force Financial Stability Board Fitch FIVE EYES Franklin Templeton Freedom House FRS FSB FTA FUEN G-4 G20 G7 G8 GATA Gazprom GCHQ GECF Gladio Glonass Goldman Sachs Google Green Group Greenpeace GUAM Guardian Gulf Cooperation Council Hague Tribunal HAMAS Heritage Foundation Hezbollah Hizb ut-Tahrir Hollywood HSBC Human Rights Watch IAEA IEA IHRC IMF International Criminal Court Interpol IOC ISAF Islamic jihad Islamic Revolution Guards Corps ITERA Jamestown Jobbik JP Morgan Jundullah KFOR KLA Ku Klux Klan Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam Lukoil Massachusetts Institute of Technology Mercosur Microsoft Missile defense Missile Defense Agency Monsanto Moody's Morgan Stanley Mossad Most-Favoured Nation Mujahedin-e Khalq Muslim Brotherhood Nabucco NAFTA Naftogaz NASA Nation of Islam National Security Agency NATO NDAA NDI NED Non-aligned Movement NORAD Nord Stream NORTHCOM Northern Distribution Network NSA OECD Oerlikon OIC OPCW OPEC Open Government Partnership Organization of American States OSCE OTW movement OUN / UPA PACE PACOM Pan-Europa movement Pegida Pentagon PJAK PKK Podemos PRISM PYD Red Cross Renova Republican Party Rosatom Roscosmos Rosneft Rosoboronexport Ruhrgas RusAl RWE SABSA Scientology Shanghai Cooperation Organization Shell Siemens South Stream Southern Command Standard & Poor's Statoil Strategic Nuclear Forces Stratfor SWF SWIFT Syrian National Council SYRIZA Taliban Tamarod TAPI TeleSur TNK-BP Total Trans-Pacific Partnership Transneft TTIP TTP Turkish Stream Twitter UN UN International Court UNASUR UNESCO UNICEF USAID Valdai Club Visegrad Group Wall Street Westinghouse WHO Wikileaks World Bank WTO Yukos “Mass Atrocity Response Operations”

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