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Боевой лазер - фантазия или технология?Powerful military lasers - promised for many decades and is now advertised again - do not work. But why?

As air RAID sirens of Israel sounded to warn relatively incoming rocket during the recent conflict in Gaza, were joined by another sound. In the outskirts of the city, the ultra-modern system connected to the approaching missiles, decided its likely trajectory and then in many cases launched its own interceptors to knock them out of the sky. During the brief conflict roar Iron Dome of Israel has been a regular sound.

New missile batteries were declared as a great triumph, being started 573 times and making attacks 421 of 1,506 rockets launched from the Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli Ministry of defense.

Iron Dome was first exhibited in 2011 after the Israeli government has rejected more exotic missile defense system, which used lasers. But now, defence firm said that the so-called directed energy technology is still progressing, and soon it quiet weapons could be ready for his great test.

One of the major players - the us defense giant Lockheed Martin. After less than a week after the ceasefire, the company showed that it was working on a new laser system, called Antibalas Protection area (Adam), is designed to shoot such projectiles. It says that even did a test system that uses a laser, fiber solid state, to destroy missiles of a small caliber at a distance of only 1.2 miles (2 km).

Although it made a press release, Lockheed holds completing, on, its technology and the company has reduced interview on the ground weapons. "We demonstrated that the commercial 10-kilometrovogo laser, when concentrated our innovative software beam control, has sufficient power to deny the immediate threat ...,” Lynn Fisher, a spokeswoman for the Lockheed said the Future of Bi-bi-si. "In this time of 10 kW - is the highest power the only method available in the commercial laser with sufficient beam quality for this application.”

Lockheed is one of several companies that pursued laser weapons since the 1970s for a range of applications and military services. The army has already used lasers to detonate mines and artillery, while the fleet is interested in using them to "neutralize threats”, including unmanned aircraft, boats or missiles. In 2011 it released video of the test, in which the so-called Marine Laser Demonstrator burned a hole in the engine of a small boat.

Other firms, such as Northrop Grumman has developed a mobile weapon called Firestrike, which the company says it is strong enough to be used on the battlefield or in the sea.

Toxic problem

However, despite being long promised, the use of laser weapons is limited. Systems that exist today, are often too large or complex for applications in the real world. And critics say the recent explosion of interest simply reflects a long trend decades to overestimate the ability of lasers, underestimating the operational and technical challenges of using such weapons for ballistic missile defense.

One example of this was the Airborne Laser, which had to be run in a nose fairing of the Boeing 747 and developed to remove Intercontinental ballistic missiles in their vulnerable phase of improvement. Former Minister of defense Robert gates, said the operational concept, which involves flight unprotected aircraft in potentially hostile areas, was unrealistic and canceled the project.

Other laser projects suffered a similar fate. Sabrata Ghoshroy, researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, reviews, working as an employee of the Congress in the mid-1990s, when he was informed of the laser Nautilus, which was jointly sponsored by the United States and Israel.

Nautilus was chemical, laser, so called because it gets its energy from a chemical reaction, which was designed to shoot the Soviet Katyusha rockets. Even then Ghoshroy expressed his doubts regarding the project, whatever it was.

"This special laser used deuterium fluoride chemical laser technology which is highly toxic and difficult to address,” he says. "Would be canisters of this material, sitting in the desert; one Katyusha rocket that affects the canister is a huge problem.”
Developers eventually was able to demonstrate at the test range, they could shoot the missile, but tracing system was not very good, according Ghoshroy. After a decade of effort and hundreds of millions of dollars, was canceled laser effort, and Israel instead launched Iron Dome.

"My problems were approved once all that was left,” he says.

Ivan Oelrich, a specialist on defense, which advised on issues of military technological problems for several decades, equally dubious from short-term prospects of laser weapons to defeat missile. "The problem is these things look big, when You check them in White Sands,” says Oelrich, referring to the army range in new Mexico, used to verify the lasers. "In the real world all these lasers have restrictions based on the fact that lasts in the atmosphere.”

Fog, mist, or other conditions of bad weather can affect the efficiency of laser - and this provides an advantage for potential attackers. "If I know that you are going to have cloudy day tomorrow, I will launch its missiles back then,” says Oelrich.
Do not grease, will not go

Oelrich suggests that another problem is that attackers might be able to come up with a simple countermeasures to such laser weapons, such as painting them white missiles, which will allow them to reflect heat. Or, another idea is a bit more technical, but still easy to implement, is to learn what the laser wavelength would be, and then would cover the missile material, which will reject it. "It doesn't add a lot of weight, so why didn't I do it? ” he says.

Yet there is still a laser enthusiasts who argue that technology has a value as part of a more comprehensive approach to missile defense. Mark Hunzinger, retired Colonel of the Air forces and a former Official representative of the Pentagon argues the new powerful lasers, especially the new solid-state lasers, offer "more” approach to systems that deploy interceptors.

One of the problems pointed with interceptors such as Iron Dome, the fact that he often ends up being worth much more for a defender to remove the rocket, than for the aggressor to start. Laser weapons, in contrast, is theoretically more cheaply, as they may shoot in a near infinite number of times.

Gunzinger, now a senior fellow in Washington, D.C. the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, claims that laser weapons have the potential to change the "negative attitude of the cost back in your favor.

While Gunzinger indicate growing support for solid state lasers, especially from the Navy, he said that chemical laser as the one developed for the Airborne Laser, could be useful. "You could take a modernized version of the weapon system Airborne Laser and use it to protect advanced field, send airbase, from the environment and even ballistic missiles, short-range,” he says. "The technology is there, It is a question, if someone wants to Fund it.”

And this is the problem with the US government, faced with a financial cliff, prospects of financing home laser weapon system is unlikely at best

But even if it were possible, it is not clear that this is desirable. "One of the things that You should ask yourself, erasing the old idea, what if we decided not to make this last time, what is different now? ” said Oelrich. For laser weapons, which corresponds with the still, can be unclear.
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