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Saturday, February 28, 2009


I was reading an article elsewhere which suggested that "there's some nasty conspiracy theories going around about the surprising lack of funding for the thus-far-successful Airborne Laser program. Once lasers get rolling, combat aircraft suddenly become a LOT less viable...". the conspiracy being that the US Air force would only be human if they were leery about seeing a weapon developed that could put them out of business.

We have also been seeing increasing numbers of cases where kids with laser pens have been seriously interfering with pilots landing at international airports. Scale that up & I find you get....

The Tactical High-Energy Laser, or THEL, is a laser developed for military use, also known as the Nautilus laser system. The mobile version is the Mobile Tactical High-Energy Laser, or MTHEL.....

..was initiated by a memorandum of agreement between the United States and the Government of Israel on July 18, 1996. The THEL is a high-energy laser weapon system that uses proven laser beam generation technologies, proven beam-pointing technologies, and existing sensors and communication networks to provide a new active defense capability in counter air missions....THEL's low cost-per-kill (about $3,000 per kill, as opposed to the $444,000 cost of a Rolling Airframe Missile....

In 2000 and 2001 THEL shot down 28 Katyusha artillery rockets and 5 artillery shells.

On November 4, 2002, THEL shot down an incoming artillery shell. A mobile version has completed successful testing. During a test conducted on August 24, 2004 the system successfully shot down multiple mortar rounds....

Anything that can shoot down shells can clearly knock down aircraft which are larger, slower & stay there longer. Look at the time frame here as well - this was done in 2004, which in terms of high tech electronics is a generation ago. If it could be put on a trailer back then it could probably be put in a van next year. Think what could be put on a destroyer!

I don't know exactly what armed forces are going to look like when such things are widely deployed & I'm sure that is worrying the USAF too. However history is full of nations that invested purely in the sort of weapons they had in the last war & of how they lost the next one. There are further articles on laser weapons here but most of them are not currently practical like THEL.

Talking of which Britain's military flag carriers on which we are spending billions are to be...

The new UK CVF Royal Navy aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince of Wales, are expected to enter service in 2016 and 2018.

CVF will displace 65,000t, a size between the USA's 100,000t Nimitz Class and the French 43,000t Charles de Gaulle Class aircraft carriers, and three times larger than the 20,000t UK Invincible class carriers.....

In December 2008, the UK MoD announced that the originally planned in-service dates of the carriers, 2014 and 2016, would be set back by about two years (2016 and 2018) to match the entry into service of the joint combat aircraft, the F-35B.

Anybody want to guess how, together they would do against one Chinese/Indian/Brazilian/Israeli/Singaporean destroyer armed with a heavy duty version of this laser & a few spare exocets? Exactly what happened to the previous Prince of Wales battleship.

I think we should cancel these ships & use the money to develop some new technology.

This is also going to (or perhaps already has) made the SDI programme realistic. After all it only requires scaling up & if the batteries on a truck can destroy incoming shells a 1GW nuclear reactor, diverted for a few seconds, could destroy incoming ICBMs or even spy satellites.

One happy result of this is that the threat of a military dictatorship based on the fact that in a space war those in space always have the physical high ground (common to Heinlein's Starship Troopers, Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Space Cadet) may be gone because lasers are not affected by gravity.

And an entirely different piece of military hardware is this exoskeleton enabling somebody to run at 10 mph or carry a 200lb backpack which, if the bugs have been worked out of it will revolutionise infantry war & ultimately is a step towards the battle suits of the aforementioned Starship Troopers.

It is known as the HULC (Human Universal load Carrier so no copyright infringment) & the video is here.

There are other directions in which military capacity is changing - computer war, genetically modified diseases, miniaturised remotely handled bombs & assassination devices & I'm sure many more. None of these will, fortunately, enhance the power of scientifically backward terrorists like al Quaeda, quite the opposite. But they certainly will not enhance the power of states which think that "punching above our weight" in purely conventional weaponry, rather than scientific & economic progress will maintain a "top nation" status. History does not come to an end.

Jerry Pournelle expressed approval of & responded to this item (obviously I esteem his opinion & value his site). His response is here & is also replicated on my site here.

I see where you are coming from. But lets look at the argument a little more broadly. Lasers are LIGHT BEAMS. They travel in very straight lines, and are limited in range to what they can see. I dont think you'll be seeing guided lasers anytime soon being launched from over-the horizon strikes. Are they a great close-in weapon? No doubt. What they lack is the versatility that a missile offers.

Any modern Airplane, especially the American 5th Generation fighters (F-22 Rapter and F-35 JSF, both stealth, and the latter being developed with an Aircraft Carrier variant), are able to destroy targets from over several hundred miles away. You're little lasers, or your BIG lasers, wont ever be able to target them. An what happens when you attach lasers to aircraft? Makes it a level playing field again.

To make a long-story short: Aircraft Carriers are meant to project power in an area. No hostile ship equipped with lasers will ever be able to get close enough to a Carrier to be able to cause harm. If you think that it will... I really dont think you understand just how vaulable and powerful a US Navy Carrier is. If the Britons value their carriers the same way... they shall fear no lasers.
But this ability of aircraft to project power from over the horizon depends entirely on missiles. THEL can shoot down missiles as easily as shells. O grant it is an essentially defencive weapon which is why I said the opposing destroyer would need a few Exocets.

As for lasers on aircraft - with the exception of lasers used to provide target location for missiles - their effect depends on their power, which correlates to their size & battery or generator weight & the degree of survivability of the target. On both of those aircraft & spacecraft can carry less weight & are more vulnerable than cround or water based sites. The same problem applied to ship vs shore based gunfire. Gunboat diplomacy worked against colonial peoples & atrctaft carriers will continue to work against low technology countries, but against even medium technology countries like the Turks in the Dardanelles campaign it failed.
1. This is also going to (or perhaps already has) made the SDI program realistic. After all it only requires scaling up & if the batteries on a truck can destroy incoming shells a 1GW nuclear reactor, diverted for a few seconds, could destroy incoming ICBMs or even spy satellites.

SDI was realistic in the late 1970's. In the late 70's the Democratic Congress, under the leadership of Ted Kennedy, deleted all funding for SDI from that years budget. Our recent successes in SDI in the last decade have just re-achieved what was done 30-40 years ago because the knowledge was lost. Also, the US and Israel have finished a number of anti-missile systems together, including the Arrow anti-missile system. My best guess is that the Zionists and neocons in the Pentagon (most White gentiles) are choosing to work with Israel on this. Recently the US installed a American-made missile detecting radar in Israel, so I suspect that we handle the sensors and the Israelis handle the missiles/lasers part.

2. Chinese diesel subs have been able to evade US carrier groups sonar and surface right behind our carriers. With a good missile or a supercavitating torpedo they might be able to sink a carrier. Countries like France have been itching to sell Western technology to the Chinese so that they can use it against us in the future, so I wouldn't be surprised if they are already doing business with the PRC.

3. Britain should not have a navy that has a reach of more than 1000 miles. Right now Britain's largest military worry is the emerging EU superstate. Or to put it another way: Germany all over again. The money spent on US Trident missiles could be spent on reliable land based nuclear missiles. The engineers who design Britain's naval submarine reactors could then be reassigned to design civilian reactors. Once Albion can generate all of its' own electricity, domestic coal reserves can be used to make liquid fuel.

Of course, If Britain was this far sighted it wouldn't be letting in immigrants or dissolving itself in the EU.
"...airctaft carriers will continue to work against low technology countries, but against even medium technology countries like the Turks in the Dardanelles campaign it failed."

There were no aircraft carriers in the Dardanelles campaign... that was 1916... Comparing big-gun battleships to Aircraft carriers is apples to oranges. Use of aircraft carriers as main battle units wasn't introduced until the onset of WW2. You only need to look at the Pacific Theatre of WW2 to see the effect of ship-based aircraft on land-based targets. Heading into modern times...

I suppose that the Royal Navy might have issues with Gunboat Diplomacy (see Falklands War) But the Royal Navy is NOT the US Navy. We've invested a LOT more time and money into ensuring that we have the BEST in the world, bar none. We also play to win. The US Navy brings a helluva lot more guns into the fight than it's opponent, and plays VERY aggressively to win.

The Exocet, while proven formidable, isn't the "end-all-be-all" of weapons. In 1987, an Iraqi Mirage fighter launched 2 Exocet Missiles at a US Navy Frigate, and while it caused damage, the USS Stark stayed afloat. That was a Frigate.. A super-carrier is much better protected than a frigate. Hell, frigates are the first line of defense to protect the carrier.
I don't agree that the EU is a military threat to Britain for the near future. I can conceive of them doing sanctions to browbeat us but no more. At the rates the EU economy is imploding I don't think they are that much of a long term threat. On the other hand Britain's interest is in world free trade & arguably the Commonwealth, which implies an ability to project naval power worldwide, even if not on the US, or shortly Chinese, scale. You can consider this to be me yearning for the days of Empire if you wish - certainly any military force we have will be constrained by the size of our economy & while I have no doubt it could grow as fast as any in the world it isn't looking good under current management.
Charlie the point I was making about the Dardanelles is that all the very big buns on the British fleet then "the BEST in the world, bar none" bringing "a helluva lot more guns into the fight than it's opponent" was unable to beat much smaller land based guns for pretty much the same reason that lasers on aircraft won't win fighting THELs.

You are quite correct that since 1898 the US armed forces have never had to face an enemy they didn't technically & usually numerically far outclass. That this will continue is not ordained.
I don't agree that the EU is a military threat to Britain for the near future.

If I wanted to be difficult I could say that the EU has been a threat to British liberties since 1066. The EU finally achieves the dream of bringing the entire European continent under one government. Given a little time the EU could easily form an inner ring of countries willing to completely surrender their sovereignty to a central government. The Evangelicals here in the US have been predicting this since the 1970's, with this new unitary state led by a single dictator. In fact, EU economic problems could easily lead to political crisis where a single state is proposed and accepted.

I left a link here a few weeks ago to an article claiming that the EMU was designed by Germany to fail, so that it cold lead to the next step in Euro integration.

States have enemies and competitors, even EU superstates. The EU is likely to look on the UK as a platform for American power in Europe, and a threat to their power over their "near-abroad". Therefore the EU would want to either bring Britain into the EU or destroy GB.
The US Navy has refused to build any more carriers until they can find a way around the threat from very high speed Russian anti-ship missiles like Sunburn. They slam into the deck of their targets from above at Mach 3. They are carrier killers, and the Chinese have them on their subs.

Frankly we don't ahve a Navy capable of manning or defending these carriers. They are white elephants.
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