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:
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.
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.
The world has already gone from bomb disposal bots (which seemingly half the police departments have now) to patrol robots fitted with assault rifles. So what's next? Fully-armed droid soldiers?
Well, they decided to skip that step and went right to droid soldiers that can fire a million fucking bullets a second. The company iRobot (yes, the Roomba guys) are teaming up with Australian weapons company, Metal Storm, to create Warrior. iRobot will provide the robot part, and Metal Storm provides the Firestorm weapons system, and revolutionary guns that work by stacking the ammo in the barrel and cooking it off via electrical impulses.
The result is a robot that can shoot little 40 mm grenades at you at a rate of 4,000 a second.
Having the rounds triggered electronically meshes well with a computer targeting system. And the guns are designed not to jam, so don't count on that once these bastards start rolling down your street.
Or maybe we should just relax. After all, iRobot says Warriors are "being engineered with advanced software, giving them the ability to perform some battlefield functions autonomously."See? Perfectly harmless.
Where They Got the Idea:
It reminds us of the unmanned Hunter-Killers that roamed the landscape of the future in the Terminator series.
It probably would have reminded us of the ED-209, but iRobot scrapped their original plans to make them look like a robotic chicken fucked a machine gun toting fencing helmet.
There's an urban legend about a woman killed by a shaft of frozen urine fallen from a plane's leaking toilet. Then there's the one about pennies dropped from the top of the Empire State Building, passing through pedestrians' skulls like bullets. Then there's the one about telephone pole-sized tungsten rods dropping from an orbital weapons platform at 36,000 feet per second to impact the earth below with the force of a meteor strike.
Guess which one you won't find on Snopes under "stupid bullshit?"
Yes, enormous Swords of Damocles hanging in space are one more reason to lie awake at night, thinking about how much safer we feel thanks to science.
The so-called Rods From God system would have two satellites placed in orbit, one to control communication and targeting, the other containing the rods. When released, nothing but gravity and a little remote guidance is needed to bring them down on target like the wrath of Zeus.
The brute force of hundred-kilogram rods traveling over 7,000 MPH makes them ideal for penetrating underground bunkers, your mother, and hardened nuclear missile silos. You know, things you might find in a rogue state, in violation of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.
Such treaties don't apply to hypervelocity rods, though they strike with the force of a tactical nuke, they produce no radioactive (and far less political) fallout. The US Space Command (where we always claimed our Dad worked even before we knew it existed) says they plan to have this capability by 2025.
Where They Got the Idea:
These apparent James Bond fans seem to have combined the orbital death laser from Diamonds Are Forever with the wicked-awesome spear gun Bond used in Thunderball.
We know what you're thinking. "C'mon, Cracked, that's Photoshopped! You don't really expect me to believe the military has flying saucers?" Well ... they might. One thing they definitely have are Lethal Frisbee UAVs, or Unmanned Aerial Vehicles.
These are robotic drones being developed for the Air Force by Triton Systems, who believe they're well-suited to urban combat environments. Fired from a device like a skeet-launcher, the discs then fly via remote or internal guidance into hostile, heavily-defended areas.
High maneuverability would allow them to, say, access an upper story apartment or flank and close on an entrenched enemy position. When near the enemy, the drone detonates. Its MEFP warhead will spray the area with armor-piercing shrapnel to shred infantry or, alternately, form a single-targeted explosion to destroy heavy vehicles or perform demolition work.
Basically just imagine this thing ...
... only killing a bunch of dudes.
So all this means that pretty soon it'll be easy to spot insurgents. They'll be the ones with the champion Frisbee dogs.
Where They Got the Idea:
We're thinking the Manhacks from Half Life 2, the irritating little hovering robots with their spinning blades.
Only instead of cutting you, it blows the shit out of the room you're in, killing everyone nearby. So quite an improvement, really.If you enjoyed that, check out our look at futuristic movies that already got it wrong in 2001 to Timecop: 8 Movie Futures Already Proven Wrong. And then watch the video that explains The REAL Reason Guns Are Dangerous.
If you're tired of being afraid of cute dogs, check out The 5 Most Horrifying Bugs in the World, and then read about some animals that are only terrifying once it's too late in The 6 Cutest Animals That Can Still Destroy You.