E-Weapons: Directed Energy Warfare In The 21st Century (older article, good refresher)
LOS ALAMOS, New Mexico -- There is a new breed of weaponry fast approaching--and at the speed of light no less. They are labeled "directed-energy weapons" and may well signal a revolution in military hardware--perhaps more so than the atomic bomb.
Directed-energy weapons take the form of lasers, high-powered microwaves, and particle beams. Their adoption for ground, air, sea, and space warfare depends not only on using the electromagnetic spectrum, but also upon favorable political and budgetary wavelengths too.
That's the outlook of J. Douglas Beason, author of the recently published book: The E-Bomb: How America's New Directed Energy Weapons Will Change the Way Wars Will Be Fought in the Future (Da Capo Press, October 2005).Beason previously served on the White House staff working for the President's Science Advisor (Office of Science and Technology Policy) under both the Bush and Clinton Administrations.
After more than two decades of research, the United States is on the verge of deploying a new generation of weapons that discharge beams of energy, such as the Airborne Laser, the Active Denial System, as well as the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL).
"History has shown that, without investment in high-technology, fighting the next war will be done using the last war type of technique," Beason told SPACE.com. Putting money into basic and long-range research is critical, Beason said, adding: "You can't always schedule breakthroughs."
A leading expert in directed-energy research for some 26 years, Beason is also Director of Threat Reduction here at the Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) - noting that his views are his own and do not represent LANL, the Department of the Defense, nor the Department of Energy.
Ripe for transformation?
Though considerable work has been done in lasers, high-power microwaves, and other directed-energy technologies, weaponization is still an ongoing process.
For example, work is on-going in the military's Airborne Laser program. It utilizes a megawatt-class, high-energy chemical oxygen iodine laser toted skyward aboard a modified Boeing 747-400 aircraft. Purpose of the program is to enable the detection, tracking and destruction of ballistic missiles in the boost phase, or powered part of their flight.
Similarly, testing of the U.S. Army's Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) in White Sands, New Mexico has shown the ability of heating high-flying rocket warheads, blasting them with enough energy that causes them to self-detonate. THEL uses a high-energy, deuterium fluoride chemical laser. A mobile THEL also demonstrated the ability to kill multiple mortar rounds.
Then there's Active Denial Technology--a non-lethal way to use millimeter-wave electromagnetic energy to stop, deter, and turn back an advancing adversary. This technology, supported by the U.S. Marines, uses a beam of millimeter waves to heat a foe's skin, causing severe pain without damage, and making the adversary flee the scene.
Beason also pointed to new exciting research areas underway at the Los Alamos National Laboratory: Free-electron laser work with the Navy and a new type of directed-energy that operates in the terahertz region.
Niche for new technology
While progress in directed-energy is appreciable, Beason sees two upfront problems in moving the technology forward. First of all, "convincing the warfighter that there's a niche for this new type of weapon," and secondly making sure these new systems are not viewed as a panacea to solve all problems. "They are only another tool," he added.
Looming even larger is the role of those that acquire new weapons. "The U.S. could put ourselves in a very disastrous position if we allow our acquisition officials to be non-technically competent," Beason explained.
Over the decades, Beason said that the field of directed-energy has had its share of "snakeoil salesmen", as well as those advocates that over-promised. "It wasn't ready for prime time."
At present, directed-energy systems "are barely limping along with enough money just to prove that they can work," Beason pointed out. Meanwhile, huge slugs of money are being put into legacy-type systems to keep them going.
"It's a matter of priority," Beason said. The time is now to identify high-payoff, directed-energy projects for the smallest amounts of money, he said.
In Beason's view, Active Denial Technology, the Airborne Laser program, the THEL, as well as supporting technologies, such as relay mirrors--are all works in progress that give reason for added support and priority funding.
"I truly believe that as the airborne laser goes, so goes the rest of the nation's directed-energy programs. Right now, it's working on the margin. I believe that there are still 'unknown unknowns' out there that are going to occur in science and technology. We think we have the physics defined. We think we have the engineering defined. But something always goes wrong...and we're working too close at the margin," Beason said.
Step-wise, demonstration programs that spotlight directed-energy weapon systems are needed, Beason noted. Such in-the-field displays could show off greater beam distance-to-target runs, mobility of hardware, ease-of-operation, battlefield utility, and other attributes.
Directed-energy technologies can offer a range of applications, from botching up an enemy's electronics to performing "dial up" surgical, destructive strikes at the speed of light with little or no collateral damage.
Beason said that one blue sky idea of his own he tagged "the voice from heaven". By tuning the resonance of a laser onto the Earth's ionosphere, you can create audible frequencies. Like some boom box in the sky, the laser-produced voice could bellow from above down to the target below: "Put down your weapons."
Regarding use of directed-energy space weapons, Beason advised that "we'll eventually see it."
However, present-day systems are far too messy. Most high-powered chemical lasers -- in the megawatt-class -- require onboard fuels and oxidizers to crank out the amount of energy useful for strategic applications. Stability of such a laser system rooted in space is also wanting.
On the other hand, look to advances in more efficient lasers--especially solid state laser systems--Beason advised. "What breakthroughs are needed...I'm not sure. But, eventually, I think it's going to happen, but it is going to be a generation after the battlefield lasers."
Yet, having the directed-energy source "in space" contrasted to shooting beams "through space" is another matter, Beason quickly added. Space-based relay mirrors--even high-altitude airships equipped with relay mirrors--can direct ground-based or air-based laser beams nearly around the world, he said.
"So you're using space...exploiting it. But you are going through space to attack anywhere on Earth," Beason said.
Late last year, speaking before the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C., Beason told his audience that laser energy, the power sources, beam control, as well as knowledge about how laser beams interact with Earth's atmosphere are quite mature. The technology is ready to shift into front line warfare status.
"The good news is that directed-energy exists. Directed-energy is being tested and within a few years directed-energy is going to be deployed upon the battlefield," Beason reported. "But the bad news is that acquisition policies right now in this nation are one more gear toward evolutionary practices rather than revolutionary practices."
"Visionaries win wars...and not bureaucrats. We've seen this through history," Beason observed
Private contractors threaten U.S. democracy
Leaders back Manhattan as home for defense lab (KS)
As the formal public-comment window closed for a potential National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility in Manhattan, six prominent Kansans — members of the state’s congressional delegation — made their support for the project known in a letter sent to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Their conclusion: Kansas is the best home for the potential $450 million project.
"Kansas has demonstrated the research capacity, strong public support and necessary infrastructure to meet DHS’ requirements to fulfill and implement NBAF," members of the delegation said in their letter, released Friday. "We urge your careful consideration of both the Kansas proposal and look forward to ensuring the success of NBAF in Kansas."
Signing the letter were U.S. Sens. Sam Brownback and Pat Roberts, R-Kan.; and U.S. Reps. Nancy Boyda and Dennis Moore, D-Kan.; and U.S. Reps. Jerry Moran and Todd Tiahrt, R-Kan.
Four other sites also are in the running for the project, which is commonly referred to as NBAF: San Antonio; Madison County, Miss.; Athens, Ga.; and Granville County, N.C.
Plum Island, N.Y., which is home to the current Homeland Security lab, also is considered an alternative, although the site would have to be upgraded.
The new lab would be a top-security center where scientists would conduct research on plant and animal diseases, including those that could affect humans. Officials have said that the center could employ up to 500 research positions, spur an estimated 1,500 construction jobs and ensure an ongoing flow of federal research dollars, spin-off operations and related offerings expected to carry positive, long-term economic effects.
In Manhattan, Kansas State University has offered Homeland Security the use of the university’s new bioresearch lab, while the federal government would build the new 500,000-square-foot NBAF. (Cont..)
Boeing robo-copter lifts heavy load
DARPA, the Pentagon research bureau which likes to put the battiness back into battle-boffinry, is pressing ahead with its robot dog/packmule/mini-Imperial-Walker programme.
Partly-functional "BigDog" petrol-engined droid packmules have already been developed, but it seems the machines' controlling software isn't really up to dealing with rugged terrain. (Cont..)
Security Drill on Main CT Artery
State police and federal authorities conducted a homeland security drill Tuesday that caused a traffic backup on the Merritt Parkway and left Connecticut commuters wondering about the delay.Lt. J. Paul Vance, state police spokesman, said the drill was conducted to test new equipment and communications between various municipal, state and federal agencies.The drill was conducted near Exit 41 on the southbound side of the parkway at about 11 a.m. It tied up traffic for at least two hours, as state police and men wearing camouflage reduced the roadway to one lane and appeared to be checking vehicles.
Emergency responders set to hold joint exercise with state (NM)
LAS CRUCES — Emergency responders from federal, state and local levels will be in Las Cruces starting today to plan for the worst.
The New Mexico Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management will coordinate with several DoZa Ana County agencies — as well as the El Paso Fire Department — in a full-scale exercise to begin today and continue through the weekend near the old city landfill at 4755 E. Foothills Road in Las Cruces.
"It's as close to real life as you can get without destroying anything or hurting anybody," Las Cruces deputy fire chief Andrew Bencomo said.
The goal, sheriff's investigator Richard Chavez said, is "to demonstrate how important emergency preparedness is. It is also to make sure that our personnel is adequately trained to deal with a large-scale incident."
The training will be continuous over the the three days and will focus on how the participating agencies plan and execute their response.
The state's Homeland Security Department will also test its Joint Information Center, tasked with disseminating information to the public during disasters.
Officials will simulate a building collapse (cont..)
Top Army Commander Visits San Francisco
SAN FRANCISCO, Sep. 28, 2007 (KGO) - One of the Army's top commanders came to San Francisco.
General George Casey discussed his vision for the soldier of the 21st century.
Wearing his usual Army fatigues and a relaxed demeanor, General George Casey spoke before members of the Commonwealth Club. Casey says right now the Army is out of balance, but not broken.
"When we are consuming our readiness as fast as we're building it that we can not get back the strategic flexibility and the readiness the country needs for future contingencies," said Casey, U.S. Army Chief of Staff.
Casey commanded the multi-national forces in Iraq from July 2004, until he became the Army Chief of Staff earlier this year. He says the Army's primary goal is retaining and preparing its all-volunteer force. So far this year, 250,000 soldiers have enlisted or re-enlisted.
"That's a quarter of a million folks. So there's a lot of people out there that still understand what's at stake here and are committed to the ideals that this country stands for," said Casey.
With regard to a future draft, Casey says the Army is not planning on one.
"The Army is doing nothing in our planning or forecasting that involves a requesting, a reinstatement of the draft," said Casey
The Army is investing heavily in future technologies, to the tune of $160 billion in 2006. It's called future combat systems or FCS.
"I've been out here visiting laboratories in Los Angeles and Santa Clara. It's exactly the kind of system we need for our soldiers to be empowered for the 21st century warfare," said Casey.
"We're trying to get to the point where we can take a little unmanned aero vehicle&fly that thing down the alley&and they can see what they're up against before they go down there. Find an IED, those kinds of things. That's powerful."
In response to direct questions about Iraq, General Casey said there is no question the troop surge is helping.
At the same time, the Army is planning to reduce its soldiers' 15-month deployments, so they come home sooner.
Army Shows Congress FCS 'Spin-out' Technologies
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, Sept. 28, 2007) - Army Chief of Staff Gen. George W. Casey Jr. showed members of Congress equipment now being used in Iraq that incorporates technologies developed under the Future Combat Systems program.Gen. Casey and Secretary of the Army Pete Geren spoke to the House Armed Services Committee Sept. 26 about the need to reset and modernize the Army to improve its overall readiness."We are ultimately working toward an agile, globally responsive Army that is enhanced by modern networks, surveillance sensors, precision weapons and platforms that are lighter, less logistics-dependent and less manpower-intensive," Gen. Casey said.Research and development of such systems is well underway with the FCS program, Gen. Casey said, but he added that the Army needs the support of Congress to keep up the momentum. While major new FCS systems may not be fielded until 2012 with the new FCS Brigade Combat Teams, Gen. Casey pointed out that a number of new technologies "spun out" of the research are already helping Soldiers today in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Micro Air Vehicle is shown here during an operational test flight with a military Explosive Ordnance Disposal team at China Lake, Calif. A similar UAV was shown to members of Congress Sept. 16 during a House Armed Services Committee hearing.
Firefighters agree to participate in weekend terror drill (update)
PROVIDENCE, R.I. --Providence firefighters have reversed course and agreed to participate in a statewide terror drill this weekend.(cont..)