New Video: Laser Gunship Blowtorches Truck (Updated)

From Wired (with video):

Back in August, Boeing announced that its Advanced Tactical Laser — a cargo aircraft retrofitted with a chemical laser — had successfully “defeated” a target vehicle parked on the ground. The test was a step toward the fielding of a laser gunship that, in theory, could blast targets with little or no collateral damage.

The company has now released a few seconds of video from the test, although footage is not yet available of the laser actually disabling the vehicle:

“I think you’ve made your point, Goldfinger, thank you for the demonstration.”

Pyrotechnics aside, there are a lot of reasons why this is significant. As our own David Hambling has explained previously, this has potential to bring a whole new level of precision to special-operations gunships, which traditionally rely on Gatling guns and howitzers to deal out pain. That’s not the route you want to go if you want to avoid collateral damage.

In fact, developers claim the laser gunship would have sniperlike precision. When they requested the Advanced Tactical Laser to be deployed to Iraq a couple of years back, the Marine Corps envisioned using it as a way to target individual insurgents — to devastating psychological effect.  Such weapons, when used against people, “can be compared to long-range blowtorches or precision flamethrowers, with corresponding psychological advantages for [Coalition Forces] CF,” the request stated.

But don’t expect a frightening “spontaneous combustion” weapon to be fielded soon. The Advanced Tactical Laser is still a demonstration program; the company has proven that it can package a chemical-powered laser inside a C-130, but as Noah has been writing for years, it’s hard to see the practical application of flying around with lots of toxic chemicals.


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