Directed-energy weapon

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This article is about real uses of directed energy weapons. For fictional uses, see Raygun.
Humvee with Active Denial System mounted
Humvee with Active Denial System mounted

A directed-energy weapon (DEW) emits highly focused energy, transferring that energy to a target to damage it.

Potential applications of this technology include anti-personnel weapon systems, potential missile defense system, and the disabling of lightly armored vehicles such as cars, drones, jet skis, and electronic devices such as mobile phones.[1][2]

The energy can come in various forms:

Operational advantages[edit]

General[edit]

DEWs can be used discreetly without anyone knowing as radiation used in ranges such as RF (Radio Frequency=3 kHz to 300 GHz) is invisible and can pass through walls.[3][4]

Other[edit]

Laser weapons could have several main advantages over conventional weaponry:

Modern ballistic weapons commonly feature systems to counter many of the undesirable side-effects mentioned above.

Types[edit]

Microwave weapons[edit]

Although some devices are labelled as Microwave Weapons, the microwave range is commonly defined as being between 300 MHz and 300 GHz which is within the RF range.[5] Some examples of weapons which have been publicized by the military are as follows:

General information on lasers[edit]

A USAF Boeing YAL-1 airborne laser

Lasers are often used for sighting, ranging and targeting for guns; in these cases the laser beam is not the source of the weapon's firepower.

Laser weapons usually generate brief high-energy pulses. A one megajoule laser pulse delivers roughly the same energy as 200 grams of high explosive, and has the same basic effect on a target. The primary damage mechanism is mechanical shear, caused by reaction when the surface of the target is explosively evaporated.[citation needed]

Most existing weaponized lasers are gas dynamic lasers. Fuel, or a powerful turbine, pushes the lasing media through a circuit or series of orifices. The high-pressures and heating cause the medium to form a plasma and lase. A major difficulty with these systems is preserving the high-precision mirrors and windows of the laser resonating cavity. Most systems use a low-powered "oscillator" laser to generate a coherent wave, and then amplify it. Some experimental laser amplifiers do not use windows or mirrors, but have open orifices, which cannot be destroyed by high energies.[citation needed]

Some lasers are used as non-lethal weapons, such as dazzlers which are designed to temporarily blind or distract people or sensors.

Electrolaser[edit]

Main article: Electrolaser

An electrolaser lets blooming occur, and then sends a powerful electric current down the conducting ionized track of plasma so formed, somewhat like lightning. It functions as a giant high energy long-distance version of the Taser or stun gun.

Ion Weapons[edit]

Pulsed Energy Projectile[edit]

Pulsed Energy Projectile or PEP systems emit an infrared laser pulse which creates rapidly expanding plasma at the target. The resulting sound, shock and electromagnetic waves stun the target and cause pain and temporary paralysis. The weapon is under development and is intended as a non-lethal weapon in crowd control.

Examples[edit]

Problems and ethical considerations[edit]

Existing methods of storing, conducting, transforming, and directing energy are inadequate to produce a convenient hand-held weapon. Existing lasers waste much energy as heat, requiring still-bulky cooling equipment to avoid overheating damage. Air cooling can yield an unacceptable delay between shots. These problems, which severely limit laser weapon practicality at present, might be offset by:

Chemical lasers use energy from a suitable chemical reaction instead of electricity. Chemical oxygen iodine laser (hydrogen peroxide with iodine) and deuterium fluoride laser (atomic fluorine reacting with deuterium) are two laser types capable of megawatt-range continuous beam output. Managing chemical fuel presents its own problems, and issues with cooling and overall inefficiency remain.

These problems could be lessened if the weapon were mounted either at a defensive position near a power plant, or on board a large, possibly nuclear powered, water-going ship, as it would have the advantage of plentiful water for cooling.

Blooming[edit]

Laser beams begin to cause plasma breakdown in the atmosphere at energy densities of around one megajoule per cubic centimetre. This effect, called "blooming," causes the laser to defocus and disperse energy into the surrounding air. Blooming can be more severe if there is fog, smoke, or dust in the air.

Techniques that may reduce these effects include:

Evaporated target material[edit]

Another problem with weaponized lasers is that the evaporated material from the target's surface begins to shade the beam. There are several approaches to this problem:

Beam absorption[edit]

A laser beam or particle beam passing through air can be absorbed or scattered by rain, snow, dust, fog, smoke, or similar visual obstructions that a bullet would easily penetrate. This effect adds to blooming problems and makes the dissipation of energy into the atmosphere worse.

The wasted energy can disrupt cloud development since the impact wave creates a "tunneling effect". Engineers from MIT and the U.S. Army are looking into using this effect for precipitation management.

Lack of indirect fire capabilities[edit]

Indirect fire, as used in artillery warfare, can reach a target behind a hill, but is not feasible with line-of-sight DEWs. Possible alternatives are to mount the lasers (or perhaps just reflectors) on airborne or space-based platforms.

Countermeasures[edit]

The Chinese People's Liberation Army has invested in the development of coatings that can deflect beams fired by U.S. military lasers. Lasers are composed of light that can deflected, reflected, or absorbed by manipulating physical and chemical properties of materials. Artificial coatings can counter certain specific types of lasers, but if a different type was used than the coating was designed to handle it would be able to burn through it. Available information on a system's size, power consumption, major components, and laser generation methods can determine the type of laser beam and which type of coating. The coatings are made of several different substances including low-cost metals, rare earths, carbon fiber, silver, and diamonds that have been processed to fine sheens and tailored against specific laser weapon systems. China is developing anti-laser defenses because protection against them is considered far cheaper than creating competing laser weapons themselves; China is some 10 to 20 years behind the United States in development of laser weapons due to energy generation and storage problems.[30]

Particle-beam weapons[edit]

Main article: Particle-beam weapon

Particle-beam weapons can use charged or neutral particles, and can be either endoatmospheric or exoatmospheric. Particle beams as beam weapons are theoretically possible, but practical weapons have not been demonstrated. Certain types of particle beams have the advantage of being self-focusing in the atmosphere.

Blooming is also a problem in particle-beam weapons. Energy that would otherwise be focused on the target spreads out; the beam becomes less effective:

Plasma weapons[edit]

Main article: Plasma weapon

Plasma weapons fire a beam, bolt, or stream of plasma, which is an excited state of matter consisting of atomic electrons & nuclei and free electrons if ionized, or other particles if pinched.

The MARAUDER (Magnetically Accelerated Ring to Achieve Ultra-high Directed-Energy and Radiation) used the Shiva Star project (a high energy capacitor bank which provided the means to test weapons and other devices requiring brief and extremely large amounts of energy) to accelerate a toroid of plasma at a significant percentage of the speed of light.[31]

Electric beam in a vacuum[edit]

In a vacuum (e.g., in space), an electric discharge can travel a potentially unlimited distance at a velocity slightly slower than the speed of light. This is because there is no significant electric resistance to the flow of electric current in a vacuum. This would make such devices useful to destroy the electrical and electronic parts of satellites and spacecraft. However, in a vacuum the electric current cannot ride a laser beam, and some other means must be used to keep the electron beam on track and to prevent it from dispersing: see particle beam.

Speed of the weapon[edit]

The speed of the energy weapon is determined by the density of the beam. If it is very dense then it is very powerful, but a particle beam moves much slower than the speed of light. Its speed is determined by mass, power, density, or particle/energy density.

Sonic weapons[edit]

Main article: Sonic weaponry

Cavitation, which affects gas nuclei in human tissue, and heating can result from exposure to ultrasound and can damage tissue and organs. Studies have found[citation needed] that exposure to high intensity ultrasound at frequencies from 700 kHz to 3.6 MHz can cause lung and intestinal damage in mice. Heart rate patterns following vibroacoustic stimulation have resulted in serious arterial flutter and bradycardia. Researchers have concluded that generating pain through the auditory system using high intensity sound risked permanent hearing damage.

A multi-organization research program[32] involved high intensity audible sound experiments on human subjects. Extra-aural (unrelated to hearing) bioeffects on various internal organs and the central nervous system included auditory shifts, vibrotactile sensitivity change, muscle contraction, cardiovascular function change, central nervous system effects, vestibular (inner ear) effects, and chest wall/lung tissue effects. Researchers found that low frequency sonar exposure could result in significant cavitations, hypothermia, and tissue shearing. Follow-on experiments were not recommended.

Tests performed on mice show the threshold for both lung and liver damage occurs at about 184 dB. Damage increases rapidly as intensity is increased. Noise-induced neurological disturbances in humans exposed to continuous low frequency tones for durations longer than 15 minutes involved development of immediate and long-term problems affecting brain tissue. The symptoms resembled those of individuals who had suffered minor head injuries. One theory for a causal mechanism is that the prolonged sound exposure resulted in enough mechanical strain to brain tissue to induce an encephalopathy.[33]

History[edit]

Ancient inventors[edit]

According to legend, the concept of the "burning mirror" or death ray began with Archimedes who created a mirror with an adjustable focal length (or more likely, a series of mirrors focused on a common point) to focus sunlight on ships of the Roman fleet as they invaded Syracuse, setting them on fire. Historians point out that the earliest accounts of the battle did not mention a "burning mirror", but merely stated that Archimedes's ingenuity combined with a way to hurl fire were relevant to the victory. Some attempts to replicate this feat have had some success; in particular, an experiment by students at MIT showed that a mirror-based weapon was at least possible, if not necessarily practical.[34]

Robert Watson-Watt[edit]

In 1935, the British Air Ministry asked Robert Watson-Watt of the Radio Research Station whether a "death ray" was possible. He and colleague Arnold Wilkins quickly concluded that it was not feasible, but as a consequence suggested using radio for the detection of aircraft and this started the development of radar in Britain. See: History of radar#Robert Watson-Watt.

Engine-stopping rays, urban legend made real[edit]

Engine-stopping rays are a variant that occurs in fiction and myth. Such stories were circulating in Britain around 1938. The tales varied but in general terms told of tourists whose car engine suddenly died and were then approached by a German soldier who told them that they had to wait. The soldier returned a short time later to say that the engine would now work and the tourists drove off. A possible origin of some of these stories arises from the testing of the television transmitter in Feldberg, Germany. Because electrical noise from car engines would interfere with field strength measurements, sentries would stop all traffic in the vicinity for the twenty minutes or so needed for a test. A distorted retelling of the events might give rise to the idea that a transmission killed the engine.[35]

Modern automobile engines are not mechanically but electronically controlled. Disabling the electronics can indeed stop the engine. This has been implemented in OnStar, which has a remote control feature, but this is not a weapon. It is an add-on to the electronics of the car. Because a car is operating on a closed system, it would be impossible to use an electronic means of disengaging an engine, short of electrocuting it via laser or pulse weaponry. See also electromagnetic pulse (EMP), which is known for its engine-stopping effect, but is an undirected-energy weapon.

Tesla[edit]

Nikola Tesla (1856–1943), a noted inventor, scientist and electrical engineer, developed early high frequency technologies. Tesla worked on plans for a directed-energy weapon from the early 1900s until his death. In 1937, Tesla composed a treatise entitled The Art of Projecting Concentrated Non-dispersive Energy through the Natural Media concerning charged particle beams.[36]

German World War II experimental weapons[edit]

During the early 1940s Axis engineers developed a sonic cannon that could cause fatal vibrations in its target body. A methane gas combustion chamber leading to two parabolic dishes pulse-detonated at roughly 44 Hz. This infrasound, magnified by the dish reflectors, caused vertigo and nausea at 200–400 metres (220–440 yd) by vibrating the middle ear bones and shaking the cochlear fluid within the inner ear. At distances of 50–200 metres (160–660 ft), the sound waves could act on organ tissues and fluids by repeatedly compressing and releasing compressive resistant organs such as the kidneys, spleen, and liver. (It had little detectable effect on malleable organs such as the heart, stomach and intestines.) Lung tissue was affected at only the closest ranges as atmospheric air is highly compensable and only the blood rich alveoli resist compression. In practice, the weapon system was highly vulnerable to enemy fire. Rifle, bazooka and mortar rounds easily deformed the parabolic reflectors, rendering the wave amplification ineffective.[37]

In the later phases of World War II, Nazi Germany increasingly put its hopes on research into technologically revolutionary secret weapons, the Wunderwaffen.

Among the directed-energy weapons the Nazis investigated were X-ray beam weapons developed under Heinz Schmellenmeier, Richard Gans and Fritz Houtermans. They built an electron accelerator called Rheotron (invented by Max Steenbeck at Siemens-Schuckert in the 1930s, these were later called Betatrons by the Americans) to generate hard X-ray synchrotron beams for the Reichsluftfahrtministerium (RLM). The intent was to pre-ionize ignition in Aircraft engines and hence serve as anti-aircraft DEW and bring planes down into the reach of the FLAK. The Rheotron was captured by the Americans in Burggrub on April 14, 1945.

Another approach was Ernst Schiebolds 'Röntgenkanone' developed from 1943 in Großostheim near Aschaffenburg. The Company Richert Seifert & Co from Hamburg delivered parts.[38]

The Third Reich further developed sonic weaponry, using parabolic reflectors to project sound waves of destructive force. Microwave weapons were investigated together with the Japanese.

Strategic Defense Initiative[edit]

In the 1980s, U.S. President Ronald Reagan proposed the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) program, which was nicknamed Star Wars. It suggested that lasers, perhaps space-based X-ray lasers, could destroy ICBMs in flight. Panel discussions on the role of high-power lasers in SDI took place at various laser conferences, during the 1980s, with the participation of noted physicists including Edward Teller.[39][40]

Though the strategic missile defense concept has continued to the present under the Missile Defense Agency, most of the directed-energy weapon concepts were shelved. However, Boeing has been somewhat successful with the Boeing YAL-1 and Boeing NC-135, the first of which destroyed two missiles in February 2010. Funding has been cut to both of the programs.

Iraq War[edit]

During the Iraq War, electromagnetic weapons, including high power microwaves, were used by the U.S. military to disrupt and destroy Iraqi electronic systems and may have been used for crowd control. Types and magnitudes of exposure to electromagnetic fields are unknown.[41]

Alleged tracking of Space Shuttle Challenger[edit]

The Soviet Union invested some effort in the development of ruby and carbon dioxide lasers as anti-ballistic missile systems, and later as a tracking and anti-satellite system. There are reports that the Terra-3 complex at Sary Shagan was used on several occasions to temporarily "blind" US spy satellites in the IR range.

It has been claimed that the USSR made use of the lasers at the Terra-3 site to target the Space Shuttle Challenger in 1984. At the time, the Soviet Union were concerned that the shuttle was being used as a reconnaissance platform. On 10 October 1984 (STS-41-G), the Terra-3 tracking laser was allegedly aimed at Challenger as it passed over the facility. Early reports claimed that this was responsible for causing "malfunctions on the space shuttle and distress to the crew." The United States filed a diplomatic protest about the incident.[42][43] However, this story is comprehensively denied by the crew members of STS-41-G and knowledgeable members of the US intelligence community.[44]

Law enforcement[edit]

Dazzlers are devices used for temporarily blinding or stunning an attacker, or to stop a driver in a moving vehicle. Targets can also include mechanical sensors or aircraft. Dazzlers emit infrared or invisible light against various electronic sensors, and visible light against humans, when they are intended to cause no long-term damage to eyes. The emitters are usually lasers, making what is termed a laser dazzler. Most of the contemporary systems are man-portable, and operate in either the red (a laser diode) or green (a diode-pumped solid-state laser, DPSS) areas of the electromagnetic spectrum.

Future[edit]

Currently, the technology is being considered for non-military use to protect Earth from asteroids.[45]

Non-lethal weapons[edit]

Main article: Non-lethal weapons

The TECOM Technology Symposium in 1997 concluded on non-lethal weapons, "determining the target effects on personnel is the greatest challenge to the testing community", primarily because "the potential of injury and death severely limits human tests".[46]

Also, "directed energy weapons that target the central nervous system and cause neurophysiological disorders may violate the Certain Conventional Weapons Convention of 1980. Weapons that go beyond non-lethal intentions and cause "superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering" may also violate the Protocol I to the Geneva Conventions of 1977."[47]

Some common bio-effects of non-lethal electromagnetic weapons include:

Interference with breathing poses the most significant, potentially lethal results.

Light and repetitive visual signals can induce epileptic seizures. Vection and motion sickness can also occur.

Cruise ships are known to use sonic weapons (such as LRAD) to drive off pirates.[48]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ "Daily Telegraph, 12th September 2013", Golden Eye-style energy beam is developed by Nato scientists, Oct. 08, 2013
  2. ^ "Milsat Magazine, Satnews Daily, June 24th 2009", U.S. Navy Laser Versus UAVs... Laser Wins..., Oct. 08, 2013
  3. ^ "Defence IQ talks to Dr Palíšek about Directed Energy Weapon systems", Defence iQ', Nov. 20, 2012
  4. ^ Spectrum Tutorial, University of Wisconsin Electromagnetic Spectrum Tutorial, accessed 22/06/2013
  5. ^ RF vs Microwave Freq range, Microwaves and radio waves
  6. ^ "The Pentagon's Ray Gun". CBS News. 2008-06-01. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 
  7. ^ Raytheon focuses on non-lethal weapons,Andrew Johnson, (The Arizona Republic, 09-17-2009)
  8. ^ [1][dead link]
  9. ^ [2][dead link]
  10. ^ Magnus Karlsson (2009). "Bofors HPM Blackout". Artilleri-Tidskrift (2-2009): s. s 12-15. Retrieved 2010-01-04.
  11. ^ Google search
  12. ^ a b Fulghum, David A. (2005-12-17). "Israel tests improved Arrow interceptor". Aviation Week & Space Technology. Retrieved 2009-08-19. 
  13. ^ David A. Fulghum & Douglas Barrie (2005-09-06). "Radar Becomes A Weapon". Aviation Week & Space Technology. Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  14. ^ Colonel of Aviation Grigoriy "Grisha" Medved (retd) (2008-04-13). "Grisha's Radar fry-off". Air Power Australia. Retrieved 2014-05-16. 
  15. ^ F. J. Duarte, W. E. Davenport, J. J. Ehrlich, and T. S. Taylor, Ruggedized narrow-linewidth dispersive dye laser oscillator, Opt. Commun. 84, 310-316 (1991).
  16. ^ Joint High Power Solid-State Laser fact sheet, Northrop Grumman Corporation, April 22, 2008 [3]
  17. ^ Pae, Peter, "Northrop Advance Brings Era Of The Laser Gun Closer", Los Angeles Times, March 19, 2009., p. B2.
  18. ^ Northrop Grumman (2010-04-07). "Navy Shows Off Powerful New Laser Weapon.". Foxnews.com. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  19. ^ Emery, Daniel (2010-07-19). "BBC News - Anti-aircraft laser unveiled at Farnborough Airshow". Bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2011-09-25. 
  20. ^ MLD Test Moves Navy a Step Closer to Lasers for Ship Self-Defense, official press release, 4/8/11.
  21. ^ Navy tests laser gun by zapping motorboat off California coast, LA Times, 4/11/11.
  22. ^ Luis Martinez (9 Apr 2013). "Navy's New Laser Weapon Blasts Bad Guys From Air, Sea". ABC. Retrieved 9 April 2013. 
  23. ^ Air Force Link News story on the PHaSR handheld rifle-style weapon. 2 November 2005.
  24. ^ Wired News article "Weapons Freeze, Microwave Enemies" (and copied in at least 661 other web pages including this link[dead link])
  25. ^ Boeing YAL-1 Airborne Laser (ABL) | Photos and Pictures
  26. ^ U.S. Army's vehicle-mounted High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator shoots down UAVs, mortar rounds - Laserfocusworld.com, 13 December 2013
  27. ^ Lockheed Martin Wins Contract To Develop Weapons Grade Fiber Laser For U.S. Army Field Test - Providencejournal.com, 24 April 2014
  28. ^ "The Leading Mil Net Site on the Net". milnet.com. Retrieved 2012-06-12. 
  29. ^ Atomic Rocket: Space War: Weapons
  30. ^ US lasers? PLA preparing to raise its deflector shields - SCMP.com, 10 March 2014
  31. ^ "Energy Citations Database (ECD) - - Document #7369133". Osti.gov. doi:10.1063/1.860681. Retrieved 2012-06-12. 
  32. ^ Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory (Groton, Connecticut), Navy Experimental Diving Unit (Panama City, Florida), SCC San Diego, Navy Medical Research and Development Command (Bethesda, Maryland), Underwater Sound Reference Detachment of Naval Undersea Warfare Center (Orlando, Florida), Applied Research Laboratories: University of Texas at Austin, Applied Physics Laboratory: University of Washington, Institute for Sensory Research: Syracuse University, Georgia Institute of Technology, Emory University, Boston University, The University of Vermont, Applied Physics Laboratory, Johns Hopkins University, Jet Propulsion Laboratory, University of Rochester, University of Minnesota, University of Illinois system, Loyola University, State University of New York at Buffalo, New York
  33. ^ "Non-Lethal Swimmer Neutralization Study"; Applied Research Laboratories; The University of Texas at Austin; G2 Software Systems, Inc., San Diego; TECHNICAL DOCUMENT 3138; May 2002 Non-Lethal Swimmer Neutralization Study
  34. ^ Archimedes Death Ray: Idea Feasibility Testing
  35. ^ Jones, R.V. (1978). Most Secret War: British Scientific Intelligence 1939–1945. Coronet. pp. 84,124. ISBN 0-340-24169-1. 
  36. ^ Seifer, Marc J., Wizard, the Life and Times of Nikola Tesla. ISBN (HC) pg. 454.
  37. ^ Martin O'Collins, director (21 February 2006). "Weird Weapons: The Axis" (in English). Modern Marvels. Season 12. Episode 8. The History Channel.
  38. ^ "Forschungsstätte für Hitlers "Todesstrahlen"". Main-netz.de. 2009-08-19. Retrieved 2012-06-12. 
  39. ^ Wang, C. P. (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Conference on Lasers '85 (STS, McLean, Va, 1986).
  40. ^ Duarte, F. J. (Ed.), Proceedings of the International Conference on Lasers '87 (STS, McLean, Va, 1988).
  41. ^ U.S. Senate - Committee on Veterans Affairs: Hearings - Gulf War Illnesses; Testimony to the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee; Meryl Nass, MD, Director of Pulmonary Rehabilitation, Mount Desert Island Hospital Bar Harbor, Maine; September 25, 2007 [4]
  42. ^ Kononenko, Boris. "Silent Space Is Being Monitored". Retrieved 21 July 2011. 
  43. ^ Zaloga, Steven. "RED STAR WARS". Retrieved 21 July 2011. 
  44. ^ "STS-41-G". Astronautix.com. Retrieved 2012-06-12. 
  45. ^ "End of the World 2013: DE-STAR Project Proposed after Asteroid 2012 DA14 Flyby, Russian Meteor Blast", International Business Times, Feb. 22, 2013
  46. ^ Human Effects Advisory Panel Program; presented to: NDIANon-Lethal Defense IV [5]
  47. ^ Non-Lethal Weaponry: From Tactical to Strategic Applications; Colonel Dennis B. Herbert, USMC (Ret.), program developer, Institute for Non-Lethal Defense Technologies at Pennsylvania State University; pg. 4 [6]
  48. ^ Smith, David (November 22, 2006). "Pirates shoot at Britons' cruise liner". The Guardian (London). 

References[edit]

External links[edit]