US arms'n'aerospace titan Boeing is pleased to announce that it has won a further US Army contract to work on its monster truck with a frikkin lazor beam on it project.
The Army plan is called High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD), and is intended to produce a functioning ray cannon mounted on a massive 20-tonne heavy offroad supply lorry. Boeing won a beam-control contract for HEL TD last year, and has now been awarded a further $36m to embark on the next phase of this and act as systems engineer for the entire weapon.
"This contract award is an important win for Boeing because it supports a cornerstone of the Army's high-energy laser program," said Scott Fancher, Boeing veep in charge of the raygun department.
"HEL TD will ... counter the difficult threats posed by rockets, artillery shells and mortar projectiles."
The idea is that a HEL TD truck could be parked inside a military base in a dangerous warzone. Whenever local miscreants started firing mortars or rockets into the base, those inside wouldn't care as the raygun would zap the incoming rounds out of the sky. There have already been efforts to do this using rapid-firing automatic cannon systems, but these have the inevitable downside of spraying thousands of cannon shells all over the surrounding area as they do their work - which is unlikely to win over hearts and minds among the neighbours.
Boeing believe that HEL TD can be implemented using solid-state electrically powered lasers, rather than the chemically-fuelled jobs employed in the company's flying raygunship and nuke-nobbling laser jumbo programmes. That would remove the need for frequent top-ups of deadly, corrosive fuel - and the requirement to get rid of the equally nasty wastes afterwards, not to mention the risk of catastrophic leaks, explosions, inadvertent meltings of nearby troops etc.
Thus far, solid-state lasers have lacked the power that chemical jobs can achieve. However, there are projects under way here and there in the US defence establishment which seem to offer change. For now, Boeing is focusing on the beam-control system, which will need to be pretty nifty itself to keep a tightly-focused photon lance locked onto a flying shell or rocket. ®