Ever find yourself watching a movie, and at the moment the villain whips out an elaborately sinister doomsday device, you say, "Hey, I wouldn't mind having one of those things!"
Well, it turns out defense contractors are thinking the exact same thing. The only difference is they have billions to spend to make it happen. Coming soon to a battlefield near you:
5The Advanced Tactical Laser, Boeing's Flying Laser Cannon
We've been waiting for a good freaking death ray for, oh, about 70 years. So when Boeing says, " ... directed energy weapons are relevant to today's battlefield and are ready to be fielded," we pay attention.
Now, Boeing's already doing a few interesting things with laser technology on a smaller scale (like mounting devices to Humvees and using them to detonate bombs from a safe distance. They can also put a bigger one in a jumbo jet and use it to destroy incoming ICBMs from hundreds of miles away. But those are hardly death rays, right? They're reassuring defensive measures designed to protect our brave men and women!
That's where the Advanced Tactical Laser comes in.
Designed to engage (that is, utterly destroy) ground targets, the ATL is a weapon fitted to an aircraft like a C-130 transport plane. From 10,000 feet up and five miles away, this 40,000-pound, megawatt-class, chemical laser will melt a hole through a tank.
Or should we say, tanks. The ATL is intended to strike up to 100 targets in rapid succession. Oh, and the beam's silent. And invisible. One moment you're having a nice cup of coffee atop your troop transport, the next you're a smoking hole in the ground.
This space age, science fiction gadget is scheduled for live fire demonstrations later this year.
Where They Got the Idea:Independence Day.
Or, quite possibly from the 1985 Val Kilmer comedy Real Genius.
4Railguns, the Navy's Fleet-Destroying Doom Cannons
If you're into sci-fi or first-person shooters, chances are we had you at "railgun." For everyone else, there's the above picture. If you can't make out the writing there, it says "Velocitas Eradico." Speed destroys. That's from a recent railgun demonstration by the US Navy.
Railguns work by electrically generated magnetic repulsion, no toxic chemicals or propellants involved--so yay, finally a gun that kills people and not the environment! In the test pictured above, the projectile was fired with an electric charge of 10.6 megajoules, that's a one second pulse of 10.6 million watts, or enough electricity to power the average American household for a year. When applied in a single split second to an aluminum slug that's much, much smaller than your house, it's enough to make the slug do Mach 7. For those of you who just imagined a seven blade razor, first pretend you're not an idiot, and then try to conceive of something moving fast enough to ignite the air around it and to fuck up anything it strikes in ways science barely understands.
How far away are these things? Well, the Navy intends to put 64 megajoule railguns in their new, all-electric DD(X) battleships, which should be ready in 10 years.
Winston Churchill, in a quote that wasn't used on Navy recruiting posters, dismissed Naval tradition as "rum, buggery and the lash." In American, that's "rum, boning dudes and the lash." If Churchill's right, we just hope the rum makes the sodomy go down easier. We'd join a radical off-shoot of Scientology that thought Tom Cruise was too heterosexual and timid in his beliefs if there was a chance we'd get to fire a railgun.
Where They Got the Idea:
They seem to have combined Quake's railgun ...
... with the BFG 9000 from Doom.