Qassam Kazzam and Laser Slayer

I was thinking about all the Qassam missles being fired at Israel, and how to shoot them down more effectively. These are a crude device, so not susceptible to some kinds of electronic hacking, jamming, decoy, etc. Just a steel tube, fuel and nozzles, payload of explosives, and a very crude ‘fuse’ consisting of a firearm cartridge and nail.

The aim of the Qassam rocket design appears to be ease and speed of manufacture, using common tools and components. To this end, the rockets are propelled by a solid mixture of sugar and potassium nitrate, a widely available fertilizer. The warhead is filled with smuggled or scavenged TNT and urea nitrate, another common fertilizer.

The rocket consists of a steel cylinder, containing a rectangular block of the propellant. A steel plate which forms and supports the nozzles is then spot-welded to the base of the cylinder. The warhead consists of a simple metal shell surrounding the explosives, and is triggered by a fuse constructed using a simple firearm cartridge, a spring and a nail.

While early designs used a single nozzle which screwed into the base, recent rockets use a seven-nozzle design, with the nozzles drilled directly into the rocket baseplate. This change both increases the tolerance of the rocket to small nozzle design defects, and eases manufacture by allowing the use of a drill rather than a lathe during manufacture due to the smaller nozzle size. However due to the cone shape of each of the 7 nozzles, each nozzle’s inside must be made with a lathe, or else the interior of the nozzle would be cylindrical rather than conical (see rocket engine nozzle). Unlike many other rockets, the nozzles are not canted, which means the rocket does not spin about its longitudinal axis during flight. While this results in a significant decrease in accuracy, it greatly simplifies rocket manufacture and the launch systems required.


The cost of the materials used for manufacturing each Qassam is up to $800 or €500 (in 2008-9) per rocket.

That ‘under $1000 each’ price point means that even if they are shot down by a high tech anti-missile missile, there is an economic disparity. Such high tech missiles will cost many thousands ( tens of thousands? hundreds of thousands?) of dollars each. You need a cheaper bullet.

Looking at the casing, it isn’t all that thick.

Latrun Qassam Missiles

Latrun Qassam Missiles

Original Image

I’ve “played with” that sugar / potassium nitrate mixture before. It isn’t hard to ignite, but makes a mediocre substitute for real black powder in fireworks. As a rocket propellant it ought to be relatively cheap and effective. Yet a hole cut near the propellant or a ‘hot spot’ in the skin there will tend to ’cause issues’ for the rocket.

Furthermore, the ‘fuse’ will be prone to ‘cook off’ if heated enough. IMHO, that would be the preferred method of causing the rocket to fail in flight. Heat the nose.

In his book “Gunshot Wounds” Vincent Di Maio describes various experiments where ammunition was heated in ovens. He says that .22 long rifle cartridges detonate at an average of 275F, .38 Special at 290F and 12 gauge shotgun shells at 387F. The interesting thing about these furnace experiments was that in all instances the cartridge cases ruptured, but the primers did not detonate. In fact the primers were removed from some of the ruptured cases, reloaded into other brass and fired.

So we’re not talking about a really high temperature here. “Baking Bread” hot is ‘enough’.

I immediately thought of using a CO2 laser. Large industrial scale devices are available ‘off the shelf’ and “all” you need to add are laser ranging and precision aiming mirrors… The use of lasers for metal cutting is an established technology, and this needs far less heat than cutting.

Yet it happens at speed and much further away with a very hard ‘focusing’ problem…

Still, I thought, adding a bunch more power and it ought to be possible.

Then I turned up this little number from 12 years ago:

First-ever laser antimissile system hits target in field test

5 May 2000

A New York Times report

A powerful laser developed by Israel and the United States to shoot down rockets has passed its first test at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, hitting a stationary target, American military officials said this week.

If it is eventually deployed, the system would apparently be the first of its kind. “To my knowledge, no nation has ever deployed an antimissile system based on a laser,” said Lt. Col. Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization at the Pentagon.

Designed and built by a California contractor, TRW, for Israel and the U.S. Army, the laser and its tracking system were tested last week against stationary targets, said Lt. Gen. John Costello, commander of the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. Costello said the system, the Tactical High Energy Laser, would probably be tested this month against a moving Katyusha rocket. If that test is successful, he said, the system will be shipped to Israel for further testing and deployment.

“It will be the first engagement of the Katyusha rocket by a tactical high-energy laser, something that is militarily useful,” the general said.

The Israeli Defense Ministry said it planned to deploy the system along its northern border to shoot down guerrilla rockets after Israel withdraws from Lebanon in the summer. A spokesman for the ministry, Dan Weinreich, said the weapon was in the final stages of testing in the United States and Israel.

Marco Morales, a spokesman for the Space and Missile Defense Command, said the cost to develop the system through the first attempted shoot-down was $190 million.

At a briefing this week in Huntsville, Ala., on missile defense, Costello said developing the system over five years “could in fact revolutionize warfare” by protecting troops from rockets, mortars and other artillery. But he said use of lasers in rain and fog will require special experiments.

The possible deployment of the laser, though its geographic range is modest, represents a striking turnaround for an antimissile technology that was criticized as unworkable in the Strategic Defense Initiative of the 1980s. Since then, most American antimissile systems have turned to “hit-to-kill” technology. That means that a rocket-propelled vehicle maneuvers toward an incoming missile to collide with it and destroy it. But the U.S. military has also continued long-term research and development on laser-based systems.

Those include the Israeli-American program for intercepting short-range missiles; an Air Force program to shoot ballistic missiles, such as Iraqi Scuds, using a laser on a Boeing 747 jumbo jet; and a joint venture by the Air Force and the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization at the Pentagon to develop lasers that could be fired from space to destroy intercontinental ballistic missiles.

All those lasers would derive their energy from powerful chemical reactions and destroy the missiles by heating them to high temperatures. Although the Israeli- American laser, if successful, would intercept rockets in the middle or end of their flights, the others would try to destroy missiles earlier, as their boosters fired.

The laser’s exact power, range and repetition rate for firing are classified. But at the briefing in Huntsville, Richard Bradshaw Jr., a project manager at the Space and Missile Defense Command, said the laser fired fast enough that it was “capable of engaging multiple targets coming in.”

Costello suggested that the laser would have an initial range of four miles. “Frankly,” he added, “we´ve designed it with the Israelis because of the threat to northern Israel.”

*** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving the included information for research and educational purposes. Feel free to distribute widely but PLEASE acknowledge the source. ***

So they had a development program over a decade ago that was reaching the ‘field test’ stage.

At this point, I can’t add much to what they were already doing. But I’m left with a pondering. Did this system just get dropped? Is it developed, but deployed at the ‘wrong end’ of Israel for the present problems? Is it part of “Iron Dome”, just not talked about much (for obvious reasons)?

Given that ‘low tech’ fuse, I’ve got to think that you don’t need a really big precise focus laser cutter so much as you need a broader focus ‘heater’. Perhaps even MASERs or x-Ray lasers would heat better. A bit of ‘think time’ about heating that ‘fuse’ would likely lead to a cheaper and easier to focus missile defeating ‘directed energy weapon’. Though a big old CO2 IR laser can pump out a lot of heat for cheap… For urban environment ‘city fixed defense’ installations, it can be the size of a small warehouse and ‘grid connected’, so a whole lot of technical issues in packaging and powering a mobile system ‘go away’.

Things that make you go ‘Hmmmmm…..’

But at least they are thinking about lower priced ‘bullets’ to shoot down cheap missiles.

This newer article (but only a little newer) has some information about the type of laser:

Nautilus Tactical High Energy Laser

The cooperative Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL) Demonstrator ACTD was initiated by a memorandum of agreement between the United States and the Government of Israel on 18 July 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 counterair missions. The THEL can provide an innovative solution not offered by other systems or technologies for the acquisition and close-in engagement problems associated with short- to medium-range threats, thereby significantly enhancing coverage of combat forces and theater-level assets. The THEL low-cost per kill (about $3,000 per kill) will also provide a cost-effective defense against low-cost air threats. It features up to 60 shots without reloading and a P(k) near 1 at ranges of some 5 km.

A joint U.S.-Israeli program was initiated to develop a THEL demonstrator using deuterium fluoride chemical laser technologies. THEL uses a Deuterium-Fluoride (DF) laser. NF3 and C2H4 are first reacted in multiple, side-by-side, high-pressure combustion chambers using an oxidizer (NF3) rich mixture that generates free F atoms. After ignition the combustion-generated F atoms, mixed with combustion by-products and a He diluent, flow into the laser cavity. A mixture of He and deuterium is also injected into the laser cavity, and DF is generated in an excited state as deuterium reacts with the free F atoms. The laser cavity is now ready to produce a laser beam.

THEL uses both Hydrogen Peroxide and Nitrogen Trifluoride. Nitrogen Triflouride (NF3) NF3 is used as a fluorine source in high-energy chemical lasers. Two applications are THEL and MIRACL (Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser) at White Sands Missile Range. Type 70 Hydrogen Peroxide is a critical element in the Anti-Ballistic Laser (ABL) and THEL Programs. Chemical lasers are the only class of HEL able to achieve megawatt power levels at century’s turn. The MIRACL is a deuterium fluoride (DF) laser operating at a wavelength of 3.8 microns that has been in operation at the megawatt level since the mid 1980s at the White Sands HEL Systems Test Facility. It suffered from inherent propagation losses at full power in the operational wavelengths. DF technology found a home in the US Army/Israeli THEL, where propagation losses were mitigated by lower power levels and a crossing target.
THEL was transferred to the US Army’s Program Executive Office for Air, Space and Missile Defense (PEO-ASMD) in 2003 for further development. The demonstrated effectiveness of the fixed site THEL demonstrator led to the initiation of a system engineering trade study in FY01 to evaluate mobile THEL variants that meet both Israeli and US Army mission needs. At that time, the Tactical High-Energy Laser (THEL) represented the low-risk, low-cost approach to field a high-energy laser system with operational capability of value in defending against air and missile attacks on forces, urban areas, or critical infrastructure. The DF laser demonstrated, in tests, effectiveness in destroying Katyusha rockets and airborne targets, including simultaneous engagements of both airborne and rocketlaunched targets. THEL was the first laser weapon system developed by the United States.

That brings it up to 2003, then this one says they ‘dropped out’ in 2006:

The day before, Aug 15, reported that Israel was already working with the U.S. government to see if it could revive its participation in the laser anti-missile system, previously called THEL, or “Tactical High Energy Laser.”

Israel dropped out of the project at the beginning of this year, the report said, because of the expense of developing the system. “But after seeing Hezbollah fire over 2,000 rockets into northern Israel, and having the Palestinians fire a few dozen a month into southern Israel, the Israelis want to reconsider the new version of THEL,” said.

Northrop Grumman, the U.S. partner in THEL development, is now offering a smaller version of THEL, Skyguard, for protecting commercial aircraft from portable anti-aircraft missiles, noted. But Northrop Grumman originally developed THEL for combat situations. And tests last year had highly promising results. They “showed THEL was able to knock down barrages of incoming mortar shells,” said.

It then goes on to suggest that the whole system was scrapped due to political influence issues.

According to the report, the THEL system is remarkably cheap — at least by the astronomical standards of BMD program development. “Northrop Grumman now says that it can have an anti-rocket system ready in 18 months, at a development cost of $400 million. Each anti-rocket system would cost about $50 million, and eight or nine would be required to cover the Lebanese border. One or two could cover Gaza. Thus the total bill for just developing, building and installing the systems is about a billion dollars,” the report said.

Why then, was THEL effectively scrapped at the beginning of this year?

“It died (as) a casualty of the Iraq war and homeland security and national missile defense ideologies and bureaucratic politics,” William M. Arkin, one of the most respected and influential U.S. reporters on national security issues, wrote in his “Early Warning” column in the Washington Post Aug 9.

Arkin noted that a test laser showed its ability to shoot down a short-range Katyusha rocket in flight as early as February 1996 in a New Mexico test. As a result of that test, TRW was awarded $89 million to develop that test laser capability into THEL, he wrote. A joint program was started with Israel. In May 1996, President Bill Clinton’s Defense Secretary William Perry called THEL “an urgent matter for both governments and one to which I assign the utmost importance.”

But as early as 1997, Perry’s Department of Defense requested no further funds to develop THEL. “The big boys at missile defense didn’t want anything short-range threatening their space-based, mega-long-range systems,” Arkin wrote.

On the ‘negative space’ analysis, I’ve not found anything newer. That can mean the program was dropped, but often means “something interesting happened” and the program went black. Yes, it could just mean I’ve not done much of a ‘search’; so others are welcome to “dig here!” and find newer stuff.

To me, it looks like an effective and working technology is sitting on the shelf, just waiting to be built around the cities of Israel.

Subscribe to feed

About E.M.Smith

A technical managerial sort interested in things from Stonehenge to computer science. My present "hot buttons' are the mythology of Climate Change and ancient metrology; but things change...
This entry was posted in Political Current Events and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

37 Responses to Qassam Kazzam and Laser Slayer

  1. Rob L says:

    Much of the current effort is going into replacing chemical lasers with solid state laser diodes to reduce operating costs, but solid state comes with it’s own set of problems with regard to cooling.

    I personally have large doubts that anti missile laser can be made to work effectively – too easy to add ablative or mirrored surfaces to the missile, water soaked wood would be a good low-tech option (oak has been used for re-entry).

  2. BobN says:

    A few comments based on what I remember reading. The plane based laser weapon was canceled because of budget issues, just after it was shown to be effective.

    The navy plans to deploy laser based systems on their ships starting in about 2 years. They are protection for a bunch of incoming missiles that could overwhelm present anti missile systems. The navy also wants to use it as deterrents to small boats getting too close. Shoot out the motors type of thinking. “Phasers on stun Scotty”

    Their have been tests of putting lasers on fighters, but I don’t know where that has gotten. I saw a news blurb where they showed laser use. They had several dummies sitting on the ground and the Jet wiped out one and didn’t touch the others. great for killing the commanders or specific terrorist as in drone applications. In another test they cut a hole in a pickup hood and destroyed the engine, nothing hurt except the small hole in the hood. With solid state lasers drone and fighter applications are at hand.

    About a year, maybe 2 there was a huge breakthrough in solid state lasers that allowed them to get big power out, so there was a change of direction in the short term plans.

    As a side note, I read that the military was having pretty good results in using a laser to ionize the air ahead of a particle beam. By doing this the particle beam can be controlled and may be weaponized.

    Every survivalist should study the cheap rocket technology, one never knows when this could come in handy.

  3. In 1973 there were rumors about tests at Kirtland AFB involving high power lasers that could punch holes in missiles at ranges of >10 miles. At the time I was engaged in building high power lasers, so I dismissed this report as pure BS. How wrong can one be?

    In 1987 I was hired as a consultant by a company interested in buying a well known laser manufacturer. During the “Due Diligence” I was able to examine an improved version of the rumored laser and can assure you it was more than capable of the task although it would be considered too expensive and unwieldy for shooting down cheap rockets. Sixty centimeter output aperture, diffraction limited beam, and power density near the limit for dielectric mirrors.

    While CO2 lasers have excellent “Wallplug Efficiency” which means high average power per Watt of input they have some drawbacks when applied to downing missiles. What you need is high peak power and high pulse repetition rates. Pulse rates of up to 1,000 per second allow the plume created by each pulse to be blown away before the next pulse arrives. A continuous beam is hopeless as most of the energy is dissipated in heating the plume.

  4. Sera says:

    ” In fact the primers were removed from some of the ruptured cases, reloaded into other brass and fired.”

    How do you remove primers, from those cartridges, without destroying them? I can not think of a single way. Little help here? Is this guy (Vincent Di Maio) trying to fluff up his story?

  5. Petrossa says:

    Also the cost of powering/cooling the lasers is an issue in the field. You’d need a mighty big generator to power a useful laser. Plus it’ll be very bulky, a firehazard since you need copious amounts of fuel.
    The only place these kinds of weapons systems can be used is on a fixed platform, on land like or a nuclear powered ship

    That’s problem with all energy weapons. You need to generate the energy, what would make a breakthrough if finally they’d discover a feasible way to tap energy from natural forces so that the energy weapon would in fact a conductor from one force to another. That would obviate the need for large powersystems, you’d only need a cooling system.

  6. adolfogiurfa says:

    Wanna a cheap laser? :-)

  7. Older Wiser says:

    The “firehazard” was what made Israel cancel this project. They felt it was just too dangerous to be deployed as a weapon.

    I’ll venture a guess that Hilary promised them a few of those new lasers for Israeli warships to get them to forget about their ground invasion. They’re probably thinking the same thing you are.

  8. Jason Calley says:

    “To me, it looks like an effective and working technology is sitting on the shelf, just waiting to be built around the cities of Israel.”

    Here is one other obvious (but unpleasant) reason to leave an antimissile system on the shelf rather than in the field. Perhaps the Israelis don’t want a defense against these missiles. Assuming that Hamas is in fact firing the missiles in question, what is the cost to Israel? A handful of civilians out of a population of millions are killed, their homes destroyed, their families left destitute and bereaved — but to sociopathic politicians there are tremendous advantages. Israel gets a moral high ground as the victim, even while they send one of the most powerful military forces on Earth against an enemy which is blockaded and near starvation. Various arms manufacturing companies make big profits, military commanders make more ribbons, more stripes, weapon systems get field tested, politicians get automatic support for upcoming elections, etc.

    War is hell — but it is a tremendously lucrative hell, and past experience shows that wicked people will create a hell on earth if there is an ample profit in doing so. I do not think that any nation in the world is free of such people and if we wish to consider the possibilities, we need to remember that such things are possibly happening today.

    Here in the US, President Johnson got us in a war over a never-happened attack in the Gulf of Tonkin, a war which eventually resulted in somewhere between 58,0000 to 78,000 US soldiers killed (depending on how you count). These things happen. It is not a Jewish thing, an Islamic thing, or even a Yoruba Voodoo thing; it is a certain type of human individual who causes these needless (but profitable) wars. For that type of person, a relatively small missile attack might be much desired.

  9. E.M.Smith says:

    @Jason Calley:

    From what I’ve seen, “Never Again” dominates in the Jewish Community. They’ll not accept dead citizens for “stuff” or even for “sop to peace”. They’ve been down that road and know that “go along to get along” gets you gassed, burnt and buried.

    More likely is just that the “rocket vs rocket” was shown to work too, and was ready now (as evidenced the recent shoot-downs of missiles).

    Now while I personally think that most attackers won’t go to the trouble of chrome plating all their rockets (or even that that would work long term – different spectra and different intensities ought to work then – things like a 90% efficient reflector just needs a 10 x powerful laser…) it is an obvious ‘issue’. OK, play it forward, the vendor of the rocket system just takes a mirror with him on sales calls and says “ours is known to work and doesn’t have the mirror problem”… Ka-Ching!

    At the other end, say I’ve got a system that works. And find that it works really really well on low earth orbit satellites too… Hmmmm….. Don’t want to be advertising that this path works… so those folks who benefit from the Sats decide to hide this method (and maybe even we share Sat data as the payoff).

    IMHO it’s that kind of “net safety gain” calculus that would result in ‘hiding a method’, not some political machinations.

    Though more likely than all if them is just that the physical rocket system was working and proved first, so beat the ‘deployment race’ and then has priority in the R&D queue going forward.

    @Older Wiser:

    I could see that. As they were using chemical lasers (and with some exotic fuels at that. Deuterium? Really?…) the risk from ‘counter battery fire’ would be rather large.

    Where the missile based system as a pod of several and disbursed, the laser system has a large fixed farm of tanks full of stuff you do not want to mix…


    In the late 70s? or so Sci American had an article about a laser you could build at home. It made a “broomstick sized” chunk of light. Elegant design.

    Two metal plates, dielectric between. Top plate gets groove cut down the center of the plate (making it into TWO top plates). Plastic tunnel over the gap / groove fitted with air flow fittings and nitrogen flowed in. High voltage power supply. There was a spark gap that controlled when the power flooded into the top plates. When power floods in, it does so at ONE corner.

    Now, the neat thing: While no THING can travel faster than the speed of light, an EFFECT can. So that flow of electrons spreads out circularly from the corner. First arriving at one end of the channel. That starts to ionize the gas in the channel to breakdown voltage. It starts to emit light, that has VERY highly energized N2 just next to it, so simulates some photons in that direction (i.e. down the channel). That ionized gap is propagating down the channel in front of this packet of photons just a bit faster than the speed of light, as the charge arrives at the plates from the corner. The packet of photons keeps on picking up energy all the way to the far end of the channel and leaves as a laser beam. No precision mirrors needed….

    Just elegant. Kind of thing you can make with a scrap yard and an old TV set (flyback transformer) or car ignition coil.

    This one looks similar:

    This one shows the spark gap location:

    Claims about 8000 V needed, so in theory I could run it off of my Neon Sign Transformer with one pulse every cycle ;-)

    Supposedly can also be made to run off of plain air. I’d suspect other gases, like CO2, might be workable too, but would need testing / experimentation.


    That’s exactly why I’d expect to see them in Israel first. They DO have ‘fixed sites’ that need defending (their cities) and a fixed approach path for attacks (from Gaza, Lebanon, Syria). Not a lot of surprises, no need to be mobile, size not an issue… nor power grid connection.


    Some “long time ago” I saw an article about removing primers from dud rounds. It advised a LOT of caution. As these had spent their powder in the cookoff, less caution would be needed (but still considerable).

    Method used, IIRC, was like the inertial bullet pullers. Hammer like thing that holds the case, inertial tugs the friction fit metal part out.

    I could also see using compressed inert gas to blow them out, or even a non-reactive (inorganic) solvent as hydraulic ram pushing it out.

    Then with a very slow cut so as not to make heat, you could always just (slowly!) cut the case away.

    There’s more ways, but those are the most direct and likely to work with common shop gear.


    Isn’t the “plume” problem somewhat removed by the near-mach speed of the missile? (Or am I thinking in ‘human time’ and need to think in ‘nano-time’? ;-)


    Pointer on the solid state lasers? Could be interesting….

    (Wonder if one could make a ‘jello dye laser’… Why? My God Man, think of the fun of having a working Jello-Laser ;-) Like “Jello-shots” are no better than real shots, but there’s just something wrong-funny about the whole idea! ;-)

    I first saw the speculation about a laser ionized particle beam a long time ago. It would be interesting to find a way to make “directed lightning bolts”… shades of Oden and Thor…

    And yes, I’ve noted the design “for future reference”… damn simple.


    No weapon is a ‘magic bullet’. One of these would obsolete a very large inventory of existing mortars, rockets, bombs, etc. The cost of replacing them with others would be it’s own benefit in the tit-for-tat world of munitions. Then the reduced explosives payload of a small missile that had to boost 20 lbs of water and oak with it, well, that’s an advantage in reduced ‘incoming’ boom-stuff as well.

    But I like the idea of a ‘Fine hand crafted Solid Oak reentry vehicle’ ;-)

    Amish From Space! Returning in their hand crafted low tech escape pods ;-)

  10. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. “In the late 70s? or so Sci American had an article about a laser you could build at home. It made a “broomstick sized” chunk of light. Elegant design.”
    Yes, the so-called TEA lasers. They really can be made from junk around the house!
    Note that their output is monochromatic but not very coherent.

  11. Sera says:

    Out of ten primers, I was only able to save one that fired successfully (in a blank round). It took a lot of work because they don’t want to re-seat. I was using the same primers for a 38 small pistol. So, I guess it’s possible. On the other hand, I’ve never done shotshells before so that may be easier? In other news, I thought that this was fun…

  12. Petrossa says:

    If Israel wants to install lasers they can count Obama out. He despises BibI with a vengeance. Never scorn a narcissist is a lesson Bibi is learning fast.
    If i where Israel i started to look elsewhere for ‘friendship’ because with friends like Obama you don’t need enemies.

  13. Chiefio,
    Nitrogen lasers have some neat uses but I hope you are not suggesting they have potential as weapons.

    The Duke University Free Electron Laser Laboratory needed a short pulse high power UV laser to drive the LAB6 photo-cathode for their Linac. We scoured the planet and the highest pulse energy came from LTB (a company that used to be in East Germany). While the wavelength was right (337 nm) as was the pulse duration (sub nano-second), we could have done with much more energy (~400 micro-Joules per pulse). Sadly nobody else can do even that much.

    Click to access thp198.pdf

    No doubt the laser experts reading this will tell me that YAG lasers with suitable harmonic generators can produce short UV pulses with more energy per pulse than the Nitrogen laser. While that may be true, such a complex system will cost at least 10 times more than LTB’s brutally simple Nitrogen laser that consists of a planar capacitor discharging through a tapered spark gap. Strictly speaking the “Nitrogen Laser” is not even a laser; it is a case of Self Amplified Spontaneous Emission (SASE).

  14. Chiefio,
    I sent a follow up comment to the above and it just vanished. If I was one of those “Conspiracy Buffs” I might think that “Big Brother is Watching”. If this goes through I must be paranoid (but am I paranoid enough?).

    One of the problems with Nitrogen lasers is the quality of the switch used. The LTB lasers use the best commercially available switch (an American made Thyratron) which means that the “Jitter” is nano-seconds. While at Duke I wanted to upgrade the jitter performance by a couple of orders of magnitude (pico-seconds). It was a really simple thing; all I needed was a Kryton. The unique properties of that device would have greatly simplified the electronics while improving reliability and performance.

    In the early 1970s I had used Krytrons in my “Streak Cameras” that could resolve events only two pico-seconds apart. While at Duke university in 2000, I was unable to obtain Krytrons, lacking the security clearances needed. Sadly, some Pakistanis stole Krytrons for their nuclear weapons program and after that everything went pear shaped.

    How could a “Brit” like me get his hands on Krytrons in the 1970s? Sandia Laboratories needed streak cameras for research on thermo-nuclear weapons and back then the best available cameras were made by the Lebedev Institute in Moskow. It made more sense to enable a few Brits to produce a better camera than to ask the Soviets to help.

  15. DirkH says:

    Jason Calley says:
    23 November 2012 at 4:53 pm
    “Here is one other obvious (but unpleasant) reason to leave an antimissile system on the shelf rather than in the field. Perhaps the Israelis don’t want a defense against these missiles. Assuming that Hamas is in fact firing the missiles in question, what is the cost to Israel? A handful of civilians out of a population of millions are killed, their homes destroyed, their families left destitute and bereaved — but to sociopathic politicians there are tremendous advantages. Israel gets a moral high ground as the victim, even while they send one of the most powerful military forces on Earth against an enemy which is blockaded and near starvation. ”

    You’re confusing Jews and Muslims. It’s the Muslim tactic to use their kids as human shields to get support from leftist Media types in the West.

    Maybe you just want to smear jews.

  16. Jason Calley says:

    @ DirkH “Maybe you just want to smear jews.”

    Maybe you are rude and 100% in the wrong.

  17. E.M.Smith says:


    The things creative minds think of for fun ;-)

    Had no idea this existed:

    Sounds like a real tooth-loosener to shoot! ;-)


    Nice links! Yup, that’s it.


    ANYTHING can be used as a weapon. First rule of self defense…

    Showstrings can become a garrote, belt buckle a flail, rock in a tied off sleeve a mace / flail. Etc.

    The Nunchuk came about due to an “arms control” law. It started life as a ‘rice flail’ on the farm. Similarly the “side handle baton” our police use evolved from the well bucket crank handle (due to the same law about weapons).

    A cane is a club, a tire iron is a staple of movies everywhere, the C.I.A. teaches how to use a regular pen as an awl / spike / stiletto.

    And don’t even get me started on poisons… (There’s a common seed used to make cheap bracelets that has a toxin stronger than ricin – and not one in a million folks realize it; so you can wear it through TSA then crush one into someone’s drink and their gonners…)

    So can a laser be used as a weapon? Certainly. Anything from blinding to electrocution to hitting them over the head with it to maybe even cutting holes in stuff….

    Nice stories about lasers and parts… As I’ve pointed out before, a krytron doesn’t look all that hard to make DIY. just a gas filled tube and a couple of electrodes. Cathode, grid, anode, gas and a ‘keep alive’ electrode near the cathode. None of it looking particularly hard. Hell, it’s not even at vacuum. Any jeweler could make the metal bits, then just gas it up and flame seal (and any neon sign guy can do that).

    As to why WordPress does what it does with comments: Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes not. Sometimes when very busy, it seems to ‘pend’ some of them off on some spool somewhere, only to return later. Rare, but it happens.


    Jason’s not the ‘smearing’ type. Just likes to think through some ‘orthogonal’ possibles.

    As there are often “inversions” of common reasoning in Spy vs Spy, it’s quite reasonable to think “maybe they are thinking it backwards for some other motive?”.

    Say, for example, they found that it worked FINE, but being easy and cheap to make would also let Hamas make a very cheap one that would: Blind spy Sats, shoot down / blind drones, knock down ‘Iron dome’ rockets, and shoot down fighter jets and drill holes in tanks. Oh, and maybe that it wasn’t all that hard to make and you had no defense against it. At that point THE prudent thing to do is NOT to roll it out and demonstrate to the world that it works… but rather to loudly pronounce how horribly hard it was to work on, tended to blow up in your face, and was a rat hole of money sink and you are so sorry you even thought about it in the first place. FUD. Fear Uncertainty and Doubt.

    Basically, rather than give up all your ‘force multipliers’, you would hide the truth of a functional weapon. Even if it meant a few civilians die in rocket attacks.

    Often in such decisions it’s a choice of ‘some dead’ vs ‘more dead’…

    So before leaping to ‘smear’ as a motivation, look first at ‘is there a negative space being ignored’? as a motivation. I have found looking at the ‘negative space’ highly rewarding for discovering things…

  18. DirkH says:

    “So before leaping to ‘smear’ as a motivation, look first at ‘is there a negative space being ignored’? as a motivation. I have found looking at the ‘negative space’ highly rewarding for discovering things…”

    It is one thing to speculate that some invention is hidden deliberately and another to assume that Israel wants a few of their citizen killed to get some sympathetic press.

    The Israelis are no idiots. They wouldn’t get a sympathetic press in the West if hell froze over. Our journalists have been Muslim apologists since the 70ies. See Green Helmet Guy or the photoshopping at Reuters.

  19. Jason Calley says:

    @ DirkH “It is one thing to speculate that some invention is hidden deliberately and another to assume that Israel wants a few of their citizen killed to get some sympathetic press. ”

    I think I see the source of the misunderstanding between us.

    I am not assuming “that Israel wants” anything. In fact, I would reject the entire idea that “Israel” has the ability to want anything. “Israel” is not a sentient being, it is an abstract collective term. “Israel” is not the same as “all Israeli human beings” or “all Jews” or “the religion of Judaism” or “Zionist political strategies” or “humans of Jewish ancestry” or even “the Jewish friend I took to lunch yesterday.” The secular state of Israel has the same mixture of types of humans as any other nation — some good, some ugly, some trustworthy, some happy, some sociopathic. Just like Iran. Or Great Britain. Or the USA. It seems to be a common feature throughout the world that the higher ranks of political influence tend to have more sociopathic individuals. When I consider political actions, I always try to see whether there is some motivation for that action which might appeal to a sociopath, even if the nation in question is Israel. Or Iran. Or Great Britain. Or the USA.

    In the nation of Israel it is perfectly reasonable to suspect the actions of cold, calculating political individuals — just as in any other nation — without in any way “slurring Jews.” All human actions are taken by and are the responsibility of individual humans, not by collectives. In my original post on this subject, I said, “These things happen. It is not a Jewish thing, an Islamic thing, or even a Yoruba Voodoo thing; it is a certain type of human individual who causes these needless (but profitable) wars. For that type of person, a relatively small missile attack might be much desired.”

    It looks to me as if you are implying about me the exact opposite of what I wrote. I am being as clear as I know how. “It is not a Jewish thing, an Islamic thing, or even a Yoruba Voodoo thing; it is a certain type of human individual.”

  20. E.M.Smith says:

    @DirkH & Jason:

    You both seem to be working to mutual understanding here, so I’m letting things run. Just remember: Personal insults are to be avoided.


    While it’s true that sociopathic traits are concentrated in political leadership types, Israel has been somewhat more resistant to that than most, IMHO. Don’t know why. There’s a bit more ‘paranoia’, but then again, when for a few thousand years folks have been trying to kill you, that may not be so deviant…


    I would expect the ‘political calculus’ is less about ‘a leader’ as it is about the US / Israeli dynamic. Israel exists in large part due to U.S. help. I think they could survive without it, but it would be a whole lot harder.

    So I’d expect the “negotiation” (in the context of a working system shelved) would be more along the ‘mutual benefit’ lines of: US: “that would obsolete a few hundred $ Billion of our equipment too. We want you to not use it. We have folks dependent on that equipment in the field.” Israeli Politicians: “OK, but we’ll need to keep that $1 Billion ‘aid’ package in place with plenty of conventional munitions shipments. You realize it will cost us a dozen citizens per year on average?”. US: “Yes, but it will save us hundreds of our soldiers a year over the next decade as we’re ‘involved’ in places right now. So suck it up and we’ll keep you safe with regular munitions.”

    There are plenty of examples in military history of just that kind of thing. Churchill had to let folks die in German raids that he KNEW were coming in order to protect the knowledge that Enigma had been cracked. We had ‘stealth’ for years before openly deploying it / admitting it. Just to protect that advantage for ‘someday’. It looks like Aurora (hypersonic fighter / surveillance / bomber) came into existence and lived it’s entire life in secrecy, now being obsoleted. Replace by what? We don’t know… despite that it might be a ‘life saver’ if put into present use.

    Heck, I was at an air show at a local base some many years past. We got to ‘wander around’ a bit. Perhaps more than appropriate. One ‘advanced fighter’ was on the line. I walked up to it an peered into the air intake. It had an ‘unexpected’ (by me) movable air dam. It was placarded in that particular color / font of ‘advisory to pre-flighting-pilot’ something like “Air Dam must be in forward position above Mach FOO”… the problem being that the aircraft in question was reputed to have a max speed of FOO-1 Mach… So was that ‘experimental’, or a ‘during dives’ and not advertised? Or did it just go faster than folks wanted known?… The SR-71 would regularly go out and do a ‘speed run’ every so often when the USSR would claim a speed record. Right up until retirement. Actual max speed? I doubt the public knows…

    It is an absolutely standard and normal decision process to sacrifice a few lives (soldiers or civilians or children or puppies and kittens) to maintain secret a technological edge. WHEN the other side ‘spills the beans’ that they have it, THEN you go ahead and roll it out. The USA chose this path during the cold war. We were caught technologically ‘behind’ in W.W.II and decided to embrace the “Military industrial complex” and do constant invention and pushing the envelope. Precisely due to the desired ability to be able to ‘roll out’ a new tech just a hair better than the other guy, any time they push the envelope (while not letting them have a clue about what direction to investigate). Lately, with the recent tech rollouts under Chinese gaze, we seem to be giving them hints on ‘newest tech’… but I’ve got to think we have even better under wraps.

    We’re retiring some substantially undefeated in combat fighter aircraft. Think about that. You have a platform with essentially a ZERO fail to dominate. Obsolete… That implies to me that the F-22 Raptor is at least one generation back from what we could do. We’re that far ahead.

    Now say you had something that would shoot down that air dominance? Something where you can not defend against it (for reasons that are clear, but that I’ll not discuss as it would be ‘giving clue’ to the other side). Think protecting that would be worth a few dozen civilian lives? I do. I’d make that call in a heartbeat. ( I’d hate it, but I’d make it.) In modern warfare, air dominance is everything.

    So here’s Israel, and it’s got folks bright enough to realize that too. The USA says “We need to keep this under wraps.” Unprompted, I’d expect the Israeli delegation to say “Yes. But that means we need to continue taking some civilian casualties. We would expect some help in assuring our continued dominance of the battle space and funding for a conventional anti-missile system.”

    Nothing evil about it, from either side. Just the realities of war. There WILL be civilian casualties. All you can do is establish the acceptable level that gives the minimum TOTAL casualties over the longest planning horizon probable. A dozen a year in exchange for avoiding 20,000 in a hard war 5 years later without clear air dominance would be a very acceptable exchange. (And I’d still work like hell to find a way to stop that dozen).

    Doesn’t mean I’m “smearing”, well, “me”, in saying that. Doesn’t mean I’m a sociopath either. Just means that when folks are trying to kill you every day, you will not be perfect, will not be able to make every move every time so as to stop the deaths. The best you can do is probability based minimal loss over reasonable planning scenarios. And sometimes that means letting German bombers bomb civilians in your towns, or Hamas rockets to hit some schools… in exchange for a ‘greater good’.

    Oh, and none of us can know what the actual trade-offs are that are being made. Only that they do exist and they are being made and they will involve civilian casualty levels.

    I think that is the more likely scenario than a ‘sociopathic leader’ (even though the nature of the decision requires that same level of non-emotional sociopathic cognition method) or the “just hiding it due to wanting the money”. (Though there is the potential for some folks who have $Billions on the table in alternative weapons to want to keep it hidden for $$$ reasons…)

    BTW, when I was about 18 I was reading a Pop Science article. It was about a dentist who had made an airplane out of composite materials and it was going to revolutionize private aviation due to being so cheap to make. (Used techniques from dental composites with glues and plastic reinforcing). Stated “One Problem: Only the engine is metal so it doesn’t show up well on radar and might be a collision risk.”. Then it disappeared. Just gone. The “negative space of what ought to be but was not” was that airplane. A few decades later I saw a write up of the history of stealth that talked about key contributions from a novice inventor, a dentist… The DOD moved in and classified it all (don’t know if he ‘lost millions’ or got a bucket). So how many civilians died due to flying old decrepit aircraft or less sturdy cloth and wood ones instead of a composite new one? How many folks died in car wrecks instead of flying somewhere? (in cheaper safer commercial small craft) Don’t know, but it’s non-zero. How many US lives saved by stealth? Far more…

    I remembered that Pop Sci story as I was REALLY interested in aviation then, saw the potential of a cheap but safe plastic airplane, and really wanted to get one ‘in a few years’… And waited and waited and…

    So this kind of thing does happen, and all the time.

  21. DocMartyn says:

    Placing a mirror on something to protect it from a laser is as useful as stepping out of a falling elevator at the last moment.One vaporizes the mirror, turns the surrounding air to plasma, and the effect his to hit with the force as a sledge hammer.
    Pulse laser are designed to impart ‘shock’, not heat, and so the shorter the pulse the greater the shock power.

  22. Chiefio,
    You could certainly hurt someone by dropping the power supply of a Nitrogen laser on his/her head. You could kill someone by discharging the high voltage capacitor through his torso.

    The light output (337 nm) from such “Lasers” is something else. Four hundred micro-joules per pulse at 100 pulses per second is 40 mW.

  23. DocMartyn,
    “Pulse laser are designed to impart ‘shock’, not heat, and so the shorter the pulse the greater the shock power.”

    If we are talking directed energy weapons your statement is not correct. Weapons lasers are pulsed in order to increase the peak power delivered. Ideally the peak power should be so high that it does not matter whether the target is polished or not. If the peak power is high enough even polished aluminum will absorb sufficient energy to guarantee ablation on the first pulse and after that absorption increases with each pulse. Given enough pulses the skin of the missile will be pierced.

    With intercontinental missiles the object is to make a hole big enough to ensure that the missile will disintegrate during re-entry. For short range missiles the idea is to penetrate the skin of the missile in order to ingite the fuel or warhead as suggested by Chiefio.

  24. BobN says:

    @ EM – Your comment on the Aurora I found very interesting. Do you have any evidence that it exists? I Follow weapons technology and our air strategy doesn’t make sense to me. The F22 our top plane has been halted, to expensive. The F35 was supposed to be a cheaper version for high production, but supposedly it is much less capable. The US is betting the farm on the F35, but the Russian fighters seem superior in all respects performance wise. Air superiority is everything, but it appears our present approach has passed on maintaining this capability.

    there are a lot of rumors on the TR3B, but nothing concrete. If we have a technology in the wings that is far superior it does no good when the shooting starts unless it is in production and ready. Its all very puzzling and disconcerting if you just look at the known data. Should I trust the government has advanced technology in the wings, not necessarily, these are the same people screwing every thing else up. Curios on your perspective.

  25. Chiefio,
    “Nice stories about lasers and parts… As I’ve pointed out before, a krytron doesn’t look all that hard to make DIY. just a gas filled tube and a couple of electrodes. Cathode, grid, anode, gas and a ‘keep alive’ electrode near the cathode. None of it looking particularly hard. Hell, it’s not even at vacuum. Any jeweler could make the metal bits, then just gas it up and flame seal (and any neon sign guy can do that).”

    Sometimes you are downright scary. Forty years ago I visited EG&G’s Kryton manufacturing facilities in Massachussetts. Really “Low Tech” as you suggest. Why the Pakistanis had to steal these things rather than reverse engineering them is a mystery to me.

  26. E.M.Smith says:


    There was a geologist ‘gave a talk’ about the quake detectors he was using to study local earthquakes. He was puzzled that there was a pattern of ‘shake propagation’ that would travel from one side of So. Calif. to the ocean… at well over the speed of sound. Then some hours later, back the other way.

    Later, he said it was all just a mistake. There wasn’t any such thing of interest. Never Mind…

    The ‘pattern’ when connected pointed at Groom Lake. The amplitude was what would come from a sonic boom. The speed was about Mach 4 or 5 IIRC. The ‘scuttlebutt’ was that he was detecting Aurora test flights. After one of his talks (2nd or 3rd?) some nice men in suits were reputed to have visited… then suddenly there was not such data / pattern / whatever…

    About 5 years later, another aviation oriented site reported that the test platform Aurora had been shut down and work had moved on to other, better, things… About the same time the ‘string of pearls’ exhaust sightings ended. In a related story, it was reported that “interesting things” had moved from Groom Lake to Utah in the mountains with a SSTO that simply went up and out of the air all together…

    Proof of evidence for any of it? Not really. All I can really offer as proof is that in the 1970s I read a book in the engineering library at U.C. that had an example of a ‘wedge’ type proposed hypersonic engine. VERY similar to that on the Mach 10 or so test drone NASA used a few years back ( 4 decades later ?). I find it very hard to believe that it would take 40 years to go from “This idea looks good” to “first test / operational”… Oh, and remember that we’ve had a hypersonic AIRFRAME since the first shuttle flew… So all this time we’ve had a hypersonic airframe and no engine work? Riiiight…


    What? Why little ‘ol ME scary? Why on earth would you say that? 8-)

    Frankly, I think I’m the kind of person that spooks and military folks worry about the most. The “wildcard” with unexpected abilities and outside the box thinking. Like having a jeweler make a little metal do-dad for you and a glass-n-gas guy fit it out. (get your low level ionizing radiation source from a smoke detector? Wonder if a partial radon fill would work?…. the ‘keep alive’ electrode often uses a bit of ionizing radiation to make a faster switch time…)

    I don’t know that I could make them exactly the desired switch speed on the first trial, but I’m damn sure I can make one from scratch that will function. The rest is then just the ‘test, qa, modify, retest’ cycle. I’ve done minor ‘glass blowing’ (we were taught it in chemistry class for making custom labware… and I played with it some on my own too) and I’ve worked with neon lights. I’ve made a variety of powersupplies from scratch too.

    Frankly, I’m pretty sure I could make a nuke from scratch (with a few references I have in storage) other than the machining of the SNM. (I’ve not done much on a lathe… and nothing with materials of that hazard class…) It isn’t all that hard, really. Gun type is damn easy. Implosion type harder, but still doable. Heck, I might need to cheat and use the computer to calculate some things (instead of doing it ‘period correct’ with my slide rule ;-) but conceptually it’s, um, attainable.

    My cousin was an “Army Nuke” who held the keys to the nukes in Germany. Ph.D. in Operations Research IIRC. We got to talking once… I told him how I would design a ‘suitcase nuke’. His eyes got very wide and he asked “How did you find that out! It’s classified.:.” ( It’s a kind of layout of materials rarely discussed and there’s a type of neutron reflector / trigger that’s ‘in public files’ but not all that well known… and no, not going to say more…) What can I say. I was ‘interested’ in nuclear technology once upon a time for about a year… Oh, and it doesn’t need many krytrons either… it doesn’t need perfect ‘assembly’ to work well enough…)

    Per total energy out of a nitrogen laser:

    I’ve seen little to say that they can not ‘scale’ to very large sizes. Looks to me like all it takes is enough charge over enough gas to make ‘bigger’ happen… don’t know if it could be made as big as CO2 pumped lasers, but don’t see why not. (Might need to go to RF energy pumping and then a discharge trigger, perhaps with a ‘pilot laser’ to get the coherency up…)

    Gee, wonder where I could get a nice FAST rise time RF energy spike…. think a Maser pumped laser has any potential?

    At any rate, there’s a wiki:

    that gives very high instantaneous power possible (but only obliquely points out the extraordinary short pulse times so very low average power).

    I did find a patent for a supersonic flow nitrogen laser with 1/4 Watt continuous power. Don’t know if that’s enough to do damage, but I’d not want to look at it….

    Click to access 3543179.pdf

    Claims a 13 Kilo cycle rate possible. Also claims a 1 KiloWatt pulse (but of very short duration 20 nanoseconds). Has an interesting discussion of using several banks of thyratrons to get higher pulse rates.

    To go beyond that would likely take some added effort. Perhaps some secondary gas in the pumping… Nitrogen neon? Argon? Carbon Monoxide? (But at that point might as well go with a CO or CO2 supersonic gas flow megawatt kind of thing anyway…)

    At any rate, I’ve not seen evidence of folks trying to scale these up, so there might well be lots of things that could be done / tried. Having 13,000 pulses of 1 kW each whack something in one second has got to have an impact… even if it’s just one nasty sunburn…

    (Though personally, yeah, I’d rather hit them with the power supply ;-)


    Well, looks like one can go to very high repetition rates with supersonic gas flow and RF excitation frequencies…

    Don’t know if 1 kw per pulse is enough, though…

  27. p.g.sharrow says:

    U.S. Navy ships in the next two years to get laser weapons :
    New big kid toys to add along with the Rail Gun. The price of poker is going up. pg

  28. E.M.Smith says:


    Nice. IMHO one of the best features of ship lasers is the ability to do variable damage. Vary power and duration as needed to “heat the skin so they leave” or “fry in place” or “vaporize holes”. So those Iranian ‘fast boats’ can be ‘warmed’ if they are getting a bit close and ignoring warnings or just POOF! (perhaps followed by BANG! as their ‘cargo’ goes up…) if slow learners…

    Ships are an ideal platform. Lots of room for generators and capacitors. Many (nuclear) with a built in massive power plant. Big enough to carry big gear and mobile enough to get it where it needs to be; yet capable of self defense such that ‘counter battery fire’ is hard to make work against them.

    I predict an increase in sales of smoke generators and chaff dispensers on ships and airplanes ;-)

  29. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. and BobN All this talk of Aurora reminds me of a proposed technology for space launch that I ran across in the mid 1980s and have been unable to track down since. Perhaps one of you two genii (is that a real plural of genius?) can speak on it. The idea was this: imagine you go to the north magnetic pole or somewhere in the vincinity where the magnetic force is near perpendicular to the Earth’s surface. Imagine you laid a large loop (100 meter diameter?) of a superconducting wire on the ground. Pass a current through the loop to create a magnetic field, and if the field opposes the Earth’s, you get lift. How much lift? Lift is just a function of current in the loop and the diameter of the loop. The article I read had the equations, and it worked out surprising more lift than I would have expected. IIRC a small man carrying ship would have loop somewhere in that 100 meter diameter range. Use three smaller loops and you can maneuver in the field. While the “start at the magnetic pole” explanation is the simplest example, launch from other locations is possible, just more complicated. With a true superconductor power requirements are reasonable for onboard generators. Of course, there is the rub… good superconductors being hard to get and maintain at that size.

    So here is another approach. Use a very good conductor, maybe silver, and have the inside of the loop be a high frequency rectifying antenna. Now all you have to do is beam a good dose of radio energy at the ship and you have lift. Of course you may still have problems dumping in enough power to accelerate at a couple of gees (and remember, one gee doesn’t get you anywhere higher, it just balances gravity) without overheating things. So maybe you do a conventional ground launch to help things along. Where to launch from? Somewhere up north… maybe some island in Alaska that people don’t watch much. Do a suborbital launch aimed toward the north magnetic pole, a path which takes you over interior Alaska and the Yukon. Once you are up 80 or 100 miles, deploy your big loop and rectenna. An initial jolt of current will open the loop and spread the antenna as the loop repels itself into a circle. Then, maybe 800 or so miles downrange (that is, to the northeast of the launch site) you build a gigantic array of transmitters and as the vehicle passes over, you light it up. The spent booster dumps in the Arctic Ocean, and the vehicle accelerates enough to achieve orbit. Maybe you need to pick up speed over several passes — or maybe you build several transmitting station scattered around the globe.

    Makes sense to me… Anyway, if anyone has some good info on magnetic repulsion as applied to space flight, please point me to it.

  30. BobN says:

    @ Jason – Never heard of the magnetic loop that you speak of. Sounds interesting, but I’m thinking the power level to run the thing may be off the charts. Never the less, I will watch for it in my readings.
    Several other ways they are looking at space launches. Use a linear motor and run it down the track with a ramp pointing up at the end. The G-forces would prohibit people launches, but they are evaluating this for supply launches. That would be fun to watch, slingshot of things into space!

    Another one I have read about is a long tether into space that is used like an elevator. The light weight and strength of the fiber being the gating item. Use RF or microwave to activate the carrier device. Japan is doing studies on this.

    People are looking at magnetic induction for many things. Home usage without wires is interesting, but the health aspect I believe would be an issue. Here are some links to what people are doing.

    I suspect your rectenna would be used in some of these power applications.

    The drone idea you mentioned has also been mentioned as a way for space launch, Circle a launch vehicle around a tower until you get to its maximum lift with thinning air, then kick in a small rocket for the escape.

  31. BobN says:

    @ EM – Thanks for the comments on Aurora, very good evidence of something. A few years back a radar image of something going mock 5 was shown, going from Texas to the Atlantic, the radar image is no longer available. My only concern is that if something already exists, why is the air force having such trouble with the wave rider (mach 6). From the reports released the skin buckled on the tests. It holds up in simulation so they are trying to figure out where they went wrong.

    Years ago the wife and I spent a week out close to the Sultan sea to get some sun in the winter, it was great except every night about 2 AM low flying jets would come screaming down the valley. The 3rd night I was ready and got a glimpse of it. Didn’t know what it was until about 4 years later when they took the wraps of the F117, that’s what I saw. I had a friend give me a tour of the B52 base in Rapid City. We got word there was a scramble as a plane with a flame out was coming in from Canada. It was the FR71 and boy did they get that under cover fast. Quite a few years before I knew what it was officially called.

    I go out almost every night and look to the sky, hoping to see the triangle plane that is always being reported. Hope to get lucky one of these nights.

    You mentioned a Suitcase device, I’m betting that would be a bit tough to make. What I think would be very easy would be to take a plane put a device with a big coil and a magnet that is driven by dynamite or C4 to drive a magnet through the coil creating an EMP pulse. Seems like it could all be done pretty low tech and could knock out pretty wide areas.

    I just recently read that the military has a missile they can be directed that contains EMP capability. They can trigger it on and off and redirect it over the battle field knocking out precise areas of interest.

  32. E.M.Smith says:


    Well, this one isn’t exactly the same, but does use interesting techniques:

    I have my doubts about their ‘vacuum pump’ and the strength of the magnetic lift at distance, though…

    Some seriously amusing things you can do with superconductors and magnets:

    I especially like the way the “puck” takes a corner without rails or touching anything ;-)

    I suppose one could make a levitation device that would make it to space…


    What is said publicly to be difficult and a failure need not be the truth. It can be to mislead the other side into not exploring an area, or into spending a lot of money and resources exploring a dead end…

    Per EMP devices. Not hard to make at all. Plans on the web.

    Charged coil and explosives are easy enough. Repeat usability is harder…

    This one claims to use superconductors…

    Basic rule of thumb on military aviation: Whatever is seen in public flight is last generation, not next. Whatever is on the drawing boards is generation after next…

  33. Chiefio,
    You need the Krytron to trigger implosion type (Pu239) weapons.

    While I have never had the security clearance to fully access this kind of technology, security was pretty lax back then and I got a lot of helpful hints from people involved in rail guns, implosion fission weapons and directed energy weapons. Some of this was applicable to my non-classified laser projects such as the Duke University Free Electron Lasers.

    Not all the technology I am referring to came from the USA. Some came from the Lebedev Institute in Moscow and from the BINP (Budker Institute of Nuclear Physics) in Novosibirsk. The heart of BINP project was the OK-4 (Optical Klystron #4). When the “Cold War” ended Duke university was able to aquire this device and also the US equivalent.

    The equivalent US project was developed at LLNR under the code name “Paladin”. When the SDI funding dried up, LLNR decided to dig a large hole in the desert to bury Paladin. We pleaded with them and they agreed to let us salvage as much as possible. We sent a team that brought back everything that was not dangerously radio-active. These items now reside in five 40 foot containers located in the back lot of the Duke FEL facility in Durham, North Carolina.

    What did we do with Paladin? Absolutely nothing! The simplicity of the Russian OK-4, aka the “Siberian Snake” enabled Duke university to develop the world’s brightest gamma ray source at up to 11 MeV in 1996. Since then, the Russians (BINP) have delivered the OK-5 and a “Booster” for Duke’s Linac (Linear accelerator) raising the gamma ray energy by an order of magnitude and the average power by two orders of magnitude.

  34. BobN says:

    @ EM – The FCG you posted was very close to what I had in mind, only I was firing a piston through a coil to induce the EMP pulse, this said to energize the coil and then send a piston through shorting the pre-charged coil. This is way better, a collapsing field creates a much bigger pulse as seen in a car coil, same idea. If a guy was handy at shaped charges for directed explosions a pretty good EMP device could be made in short order.

    Your right, what you see is obsolete for the military. Need to guess where they are as everything is miss direction.

  35. Jason Calley says:

    @ E.M. and BobN Thanks for the ideas and leads on magnetic propulsion. The StarTram site has some wonderful ideas — assuming there is not some fundamental error in their physics or some technological non-starter. I was amazed at the magnitude of the forces between high amperage conductors, but that was one of the things that initially surprised me years ago when I was reading the “magnetic loop” propulsion idea.

    Also as for using their MHD pumps, I am not convinced that there is not a simpler solution. During the time when Tesla was working on his particle beam concept, one of the ideas he patented was a solution of “how do you go from a vacuum chamber to the outside air with no solid window?” He used high pressure jets of air squirting outward from the hole leaving the vacuum, making a sort of venturi to prevent air from being sucked into the chamber. Wonderfully simple, and, if the air velocity of high, quite effective.

    I have a quick story concerning EMP weapons. About 12 or 13 years ago I got interested in the subject and found a web site with some very interesting data on the subject, including a listing of various EMP bombs designed to be air dropped. There were diagrams showing the “footprints” of the various bombs, that is, the shapes and sizes of the areas over which they were effective. The diagrams were basically shaped like two eggs kissing at the pointy ends with the drop location at the center — the sort of shape you see from a lot of moderately directional radio transmitters. IIRC, each lobe was perhaps a mile or less long and slightly less wide, making an effective area of approximately two miles by one mile. Anyway, fascinating subject, and I happened to be discussing it with an Air Force Officer not too long afterwards. After a bit if talk he asked me, “How do you know these things?” “Oh, I found it online, I guess it is public knowledge.” “Hmmm… send me that link, huh?” “Sure!” So I sent him the link. And a couple of weeks later the site was gone.

    The space elevator idea is nice — if you have the wire! The bolo system is perhaps more practical with current technology.

    Anyway, thanks for the tips!

  36. P.G.Sharrow says:

    Navy tests major Laser weapon:
    500 Kw laser cuts through feet of steel. Tunable E-Laser can also be used for communication. pg

  37. E.M.Smith says:

    Gee… Korea gets hinkey with rockets and nukes and we “suddenly” find out one of our big lazer projects works…

    They say it burns through 20 feet of steel per second, but don’t say how many milliseconds of beam length they can actually produce. I doubt it runs for a full second…

    FWIW, one of my “negative space” tools is to look at development trajectories. You have something just flying along, a very promising military app is said to be soon, then it all just “starts having problems and goes very slow”… Usually means it works fine and development is continuing at the old pace, but as a Dark Project. Cover story of “troubles” left out there to discourage others…

    As a couple of decades ago we had the flying laser in a 747 shooting down missiles “real soon now”, then silence… I think it is already working fine; but more a risk to us in other hands, so will only be ‘rolled out’ when we have a defense against it AND “the other side” starts to make them.

    Yes, you can run into non-linear complexity failure modes with scale, but usually there’s a bit of warning…


    Interesting stuff ;-)


    I think the explosive driven ones can give more zap for the bang ;-)

    @Jason Calley:

    That ol’ negative space thing…. What ought to be, but isn’t (or was and is now gone…)

    Now, take what you saw then, project forward at prior rate of development…

    FWIW, I’ve seen maps of the EMP from a small nuke burst in the ionosphere. At about 400 miles over about Kansas, most of the USA is “sparky sparky getting darky”… A small nuke and ONE missile is all it takes. Someone WILL try to do that… Anyone with orbital capability can do it. Iran has launched a satellite capable rocket… Now it’s just get the nuke payload small enough…

    We could make one about 6 inches in diameter in the ’70s (private conversation with kid of designer in the dorms…) and working on 4 inch. So designed about 1/2 century ago. In the era of slide rules and the advent of color TV… with the common computers using punched cards and paper tape with memory measured in Kbytes, not M or Gbytes… The Indians made a low yield nuke out of “reactor grade” plutonium… Probably too hot to stay around for long, or keep on the shelf for long (radiation degrades parts), a likely a bit physically large; but…

    So we either get something that can take down missiles in the boost phase from a distance for selected ‘parties of interest’ or eventually we go dark.

    I’d vote for “already have laser system – limited secret deployment”. Watch for “unexplained launch failures”…

Comments are closed.