Saturday, May 30, 2009

US lab debuts latest super laser

SAN FRANCISCO (AFP) – A US weapons lab on Friday pulled back the curtain on a super laser with the power to burn as hot as a star.

The National Ignition Facility's main purpose is to serve as a tool for gauging the reliability and safety of the US nuclear weapons arsenal but scientists say it could deliver breakthroughs in safe fusion power.

"We have invented the world's largest laser system," actor-turned-governor Arnold Schwarzenegger said during a dedication ceremony attended by thousands including state and national officials.

"We can create the stars right here on earth. And I can see already my friends in Hollywood being very upset that their stuff that they show on the big screen is obsolete. We have the real stuff right here."

NIF is touted as the world's highest-energy laser system. It is located inside the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory about an hour's drive from San Francisco.

Equipment connected to a house-sized sphere can focus 192 laser beams on a small point, generating temperatures and pressures that exist at cores of stars or giant planets.

NIF will be able to create conditions and conduct experiments never before possible on Earth, according to the laboratory.

A fusion reaction triggered by the super laser hitting hydrogen atoms will produce more energy than was required to prompt "ignition," according to NIF director Edward Moses.

"This is the long-sought goal of 'energy gain' that has been the goal of fusion researchers for more than half a century," Moses said.

"NIF's success will be a scientific breakthrough of historic significance; the first demonstration of fusion ignition in a laboratory setting, duplicating on Earth the processes that power the stars."

Construction of the NIF began in 1997, funded by the US Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).

"NIF, a cornerstone of the National Nuclear Security Administration's effort to maintain our nuclear deterrent without nuclear testing, will play a vital role in reshaping national security in the 21st century," said NNSA administrator Tom D'Agostino.

"This one-of-a-kind facility is the only place in the world that is capable of providing some of the most critical technical means to safely maintain the viability of the nation's nuclear stockpile."

Scientists say that NIF also promises groundbreaking discoveries in planetary science and astrophysics by recreating conditions that exist in supernovas, black holes, and in the cores of giant planets.

Electricity derived from fusion reactions similar to what takes place in the sun could help sate humanity's growing appetite for green energy, according to lab officials.

"Very shortly we will engage in what many believe to be this nation's greatest challenge thus far, one that confronts not only the nation but all of mankind -- energy independence," said lab director George Miller.

The lab was founded in 1952 and describes itself as a research institution for science and technology applied to national security.

"This laser system is an incredible success not just for California, but for our country and our world," Schwarzenegger said.

"NIF has the potential to revolutionize our energy system, teaching us a new way to harness the energy of the sun to power our cars and homes."

Monday, May 25, 2009

The Latest British Challenger 2 Main Battle Tank - British innovation in armored vehicles tested in Iraq

The Challenger 2 is the current main battle tank of the British Army, and is also used by the Royal Army of Oman. The Challenger 2 is the latest of three tanks to use the name 'Challenger', after the A30 Challenger, which served in World War Two and after the Challenger 1, the immediate predecessor of the challenger 2, which entered service in 1983.

Challenger 2 Tank Development and Production

The tank was designed by BAE Systems (previously known as Vickers Defence Systems) after calls for new technology from the Ministry of Defence. Design began in 1986, and in December, 1988, the MOD paid $90 million for development of demonstration vehicles. BAE Systems began full-scale production of the tanks in 1993.

The MoD ordered a total of 386 battle tanks and 22 driver training tanks between 1991 and 1994. Between 1993 and 1997, 38 battle tanks were ordered by the Royal Army of Oman, together with 4 armoured repair and recovery vehicles, 2 driver training tanks and 4 command post vehicles.

Challenger 2 Variants

The Challenger 2E is a modified model of the Challenger 2, which was exported to Oman. The Challenger 2E carries a compact but powerful EuroPowerPack, which allows for more fuel to be stored in the tank, and therefore offers an extended vehicle range of 550 kilometres.

Challenger 2E

The 2E features a battlefield management device and weapon control system, as well as gyrostabilised sights with laser rangefinders. An independent weapons platform can also be installed, which is controlled from the Commander's sight and acts independently from the turret.

Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle

The Challenger Armoured Repair and Recovery Vehicle is a specialised model of the Challenger 2 used to recover and repair other tanks. This carries a primary winch and a separate 'pilot' winch. It also features an Atlas Crane for extended reach, a Dozer blade designed to remove obstacles and stabilise the vehicle, and a collection of repair tools.

Further Challenger 2 Models

One Challenger 2 tank has been fitted with a 120mm Rheinmetall L55 smoothbore gun (also used in the Leopard 2006), which uses more powerful 120 mm DM53 APFSDS ammunition. Firing trials commenced in 2006.

Other models based on elements of the Challenger design include the Titan armoured bridge layer (designed for rapid deployment of bridges), and the Trojan (which is used for battlefield construction and engineering).

Challenger 2 Armaments

The main armament of the Challenger 2 is a 120 millimetre L30A1 rifled tank gun with an electric control system, and stabiliser and a fume extraction system. A choice of ammunition can be used, ranging from depleted uranium APFSDS (Armer Piercing Fin-Stabilised Discarding Sabot) penetrators to HESH (High Explosive Squash-Head) ammunition, and smoke rounds.

Also, the tank carries an L37A2 general purpose machine gun for air defence, and an L94A1 chain gun beside the primary armament. Both of these fire 7.62 millimetre NATO cartridges.

Dorchester Armour

The Challenger 2 uses Dorchester armour - a type of Chobham armour, which is also used by the M1 Abrams main battle tank. The armour was first developed at the Fighting Vehicles Research and Development Establishment in Chertsey. The precise make-up of Chobham armour is undisclosed, but it is a composite armour thought to contain a mixture of tough ceramic tiles in a titanium alloy matrix, reinforced by metal plating. Chobham armour is particularly effective against high explosive anti-tank rounds.

Sometimes, Challengers are also fitted with explosive reactive armour, which contains sheets of explosives sandwiched between metal plates. This armour is effective against rod penetrators and shaped charges. On impact, the explosive blows up, forcing the plates apart, deflecting and damaging the projectile.

The Challenger 2 also features an NBC defence system and five L8 dischargers for smoke grenades.

Challenger 2 Specifications

The challenger features a diesel-powered Perkins CV12 engine. It has a maximum road speed of 59 kilometres per hour, 40 kilometres per hour on uneven terrain, with ranges of 450 kilometres and 250 kilometres respectively. The challenger 2 features a hydro-pneumatic suspension and an environmental control system producing warm and cold air. The tanks are now fitted with sand filters to increase their reliability in desert environments.

Military Deployment History

The Challenger 2 was accepted for service in 1994. It took part in numerous peacekeeping and training missions, but it was not used in combat until Operation Telic, (the British name for the invasion of Iraq), in 2003. 120 Challenger 2s were used during the battle for control of Basra and the tanks proved highly effective.

Latest German Leopard 2 Main Battle Tank

So the Germans have a tank that is comparable to the American Abrams line of tanks. Big deal right? Of course not! The Leopard is fighting side by side with the American Abrams in Afghanistan and Iraq right now! The Canadians in particular have deployed many Leopards to Afghanistan for combat roles, and the opinions on which tank is better are mixed. It basically goes both ways, each tank has its pros and cons, and in the end; they both are equally as effective against the threats they face there.

The similarities in the American Abrams and the German Leopard 2 are due to the fact that they are both based on the same design. In the mid-70s the Germans and Americans teamed up to build a tank together, but couldn’t agree on certain points. They both took the existing design they had come up with and then went their own directions. But how would they stack up against a more modern force than Afghani goat herders? Chinese tanks, Russian tanks? Only time will tell on that one. Unless we could steal a tank…

No doubt, the German Leopard 2 is a formidable machine.

The Latest Cornershot Rifle

Innovative weapons designs are typically developed to serve problem areas highlighted during the heat of battle. The Israeli military, through their extensive experience with urban combat and counter terrorism operations, developed an idea to provide the war fighter with an exceptional first-strike capability. Which brings us to a recently revealed design from the Israeli firm whose corporation is the rifles namesake,

The Cornershot. With a camera mounted on the nose of a swiveling barrel of an assault pistol, a soldier wielding this rifle can get a first look into a dangerous situation and strike first. Additional models can be outfitted with an automatic grenade launcher to shoot around corners and clear rooms. Check out the video that displays the training and capabilities of squads wielding the Cornershot.

Railguns - Electric Future Rail Gun - Military Raligun

A technology that will increase the Navy’s capable strike distance by ten fold is on the way. Proposed in the 1970’s under the “star wars” Strategic Defense Initiative, railguns are no longer a thing of the past or just an idea on the drawing boards. The United States Office of Naval Research has successfully fired a Railgun and has plans to incorporate the technology into Naval Ships by the year 2020. The main idea in developing the Railgun is to overcome the limitations of chemical projectiles. The Railgun will deliver projectiles to its intended target much more quickly and with an incredible amount of force. In fact, the force from a Rail Gun will be so intense, warheads will not need to be used. Charles Garnett, the project director, said that the rail gun will be able to take out a building by the time it is put into service.

Future Railguns will deliver small projectiles (3.2 KG) at immense speeds packing the punch of a Tomahawk cruise missile at a fraction of the price. For once a military technologyn is being created that greatly reduces costs to the Navy. Tomohawk Cruise Missiles can cost a million dollars a piece, while railgun projectiles are estimated to cost only $1000 by the time they are ready for use in 2020.

Still 13 years away from actual military use, the railgun has some obstacles yet to overcome. One of the biggest challenges in creating the electronically driven railgun is to find an electronic device that can withstand the hundreds of thousands of G’s that it’s projectile is pulling after being launched from the railgun. With accurate smart weapons prevailing, GPS is becoming a more integral part of US military arsenal and the railgun is pretty useless without it. Developing a device that will shield the railgun projectile’s instruments and GPS sytems at extremely high G-forces is still underway. Similar intsrumentation protection devices have been developed in the Excalibur artillery shell which can withstand up to 16,000 G’s.

General Atomics, a San Diego Defense Contracter was awarded a 10 million dollar contract to produce a railgun. Railgun technology has many benefits such as reducing the time it takes for a projectile to reach its target, reducing the hazard of tank crews carrying explosive rounds, and the reduction in military costs to fire long distance projectiles. Although the railgun is still under development and is years away from service, the abilities of this weapon are pretty incredible, surpassing any projectile technology that we have in our arsenal today

Metal Storm - Future Weapons Breakthrough Technology - 1 million rounds per minute!

Introducing Metal Storm, a breakthrough technology developed by a company whose namesake bestows the western world with a capability never seen before on the battlefield. Developed by Metal Storm Limited in Australia, the flagship idea of the Metal Storm array of weapons is the concept of stacked projectiles, which eliminate the moving parts of traditional guns. In fact, Metal Storm could be poised to eliminate the classic monicker of “machine gun” because this technology eliminates the moving parts necessary for traditional firing mechanisms.

The absense of moving parts is exactly what allows the Metal Storm weapons to theoretically deliver up to 1 million rounds per minute. Also, less maintenance is required to keep the weapon firing, aside from fixing the trigger after overuse from bouts of uncontrollable annihilation. Expectedly, the Metal Storm idea of stacked projectiles has found its way into myriad applications, from area denial systems to missile defense to assault rifles, this technology could prove to revolutionize the battlefield capabilities of western nations fortunate enough to share the common values of innovation, perserverance, and moderation in all things. Indeed, this system has recieved much attention from the US military’s weapons procurement staff, and will likely find its way into all sorts of unexpected and imaginative applications.

The AGM-114 - An American Classic Tank Killer

The Hellfire missile is the main armament of the American AH-64 Apache attack helicopter. The apache is not the only war machine to utilize the Hellfire, and the history of the Hellfire’s development attests to the business acumen of the US defence industry. After WWII, the DOD began to research with employing laser technology for military applications. Once laser technology and missile design had been perfected, large defense contractors incorporated textbook marketing principles such as modular design to increase versatility and ease of manufacturing. For example, the warhead of the missile comes in different varieties; a blast fragmentation warhead for defeating bunkers and a dual shape charge warhead that can defeat advanced reactive armor. The shape charge is clearly visible in the missile cross-section(it is the copper cone shaped piece). Likewise, the Hellfire was designed to be modifiable so that it could be employed with an array of military vehicles.

The newest platform to fire the Hellfire is the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) MQ-1B Predator, which signals a new era of robotic military machines. New developments for Hellfire missile platforms are constantly arriving, other visions include Hellfire armed small warships and Hellfire armed small land vehicles.

MQ9 Reaper - Latest Predator UAV - Iraqi Drone of Death

Imagine coming home from a hard day’s work, relaxing on the couch, and busting out your XBOX 360. Instead of playing a video game, you decide it would be nice to unwind while thinking to yourself…”ten seconds to impact”, then witnessing the full-color obliteration of an opportunistic target in Iraq. While this situation is not entirely accurate, it is very close to what US Air Force pilots of tomorrow will be doing on a daily basis as they command the new squadron of MQ9 Reapers set to arrive in Iraq. Controlled–piloted–from a base in Nevada, remote-control airplanes with laser-guided bombs and hellfire missiles attached to them will be raining death from above on anything that might look out of place. In fact, it seems like all the hoopla about the Democratically supported troop “pull out” seems more or less like this–human army out, robot army in. About 60 MQ9s have been ordered by the air force, and they will be flying out of the largest US Air Force base in Iraq, Balad Air Base just outside of Baghdad.

Likewise, Balad has begun construction of a 400,000 sq. ft. expansion of the runway to accommodate the staging of the new Reapers. Ultimately, the MQ9 Reaper represents the culmination of about 20 years of R&D, mostly carried out by engineering students working at our nations best research universities. From MIT to Georgia Tech, probably millions of man-hours from our brightest aeronautical, electrical, and mechanical engineering students seeking their doctorates have been, and likely unknowingly, contributing to the final product that represents the forefront of a futuristic military comprised of hunter-killer robots and aircraft. As long as they are used to dominate the world, then I guess that no time has been wasted, not even by reading this article. Have a nice day, and never forget that our people are the most valuable asset we have in America.

MGL M32 - Multiple Grenade Launcher

The phrase of the day today folks is this: Force Multiplier.

As defined by Wikipedia:

A force multiplier is a term referring to a factor that dramatically increases (hence “multiplies”) the effectiveness of a group or unit. The term was originally used by the military to describe elite units, such as Special Forces, that could be used to increase the effectiveness of indigenous forces by training them to fight guerilla warfare, but the term has broadened in usage and is now used frequently outside the military domain.

The Milkor Mk32 MGL Multiple Grenade Launcher does exactly this. A single soldier is handed the ability to wreak havoc on a scale simply not possible before he was handed an MGL Mk32. For whatever reason, lets call it our reliance on technology; Western nations with smaller populations develop weapons which effectively work around our lack of manpower, and we make each man more powerful. Hence the multiplication of force. Like I always tell people wary of the galactic number of soldiers fielded by the PLA of China, what can 20 guys with Ak-47s do to one guy with a grenade machine gun? Nothing. It is most probable that they would be under the impression that they were under attack from multiple mortar teams, and would take cover.

Now picture multiple platoons of soldiers all armed with MGL Mk32s, and you’ve got yourself a situation that you probably would rather not get involved in; a deterrent force multiplier. Aside from being the first multiple grenade launcher, the MGL also sports all of the other high-technology you would expect with a futuristic weapon. A red-dot site, multiple variants with specialized ammunition, and all-weather and lightweight variants. You do the calculations, the MGL Mk32 is simply a force multiplier product that you don’t want to be divided by.

UAV Helicopter - Fire Scout

Research and development dollars are obviously not an object for Northrop Grumman. From behind closed doors emerges a UAV helicopter attack ship; no doubt the product of an intense development program. The Fire Scout UAV is capable of autonomous take-off, landing, and flight; but of course it can be controlled remotely as well. Likewise, I have no doubt that there has also been some engineering man hours put into enabling it for preprogrammed strike missions. Of course they’ve already equipped some with the Metal Storm weapon, the highest round-per-second gun ever built, mounted on the weapons pylons. Technically, the Fire Scout can be equipped with a multitude of different equipment, from the most deadly weapons to even peaceful observational equipment.

This bad boy has already been procured by the US Army, whose interest in turn spurred a purchase by the US Navy. Apparently, it’s also impressive that the Fire Scout landed on a moving ship, autonomously, during its testing phase, which demonstrated it’s computerized navigation system compensating for the movement of the landing pad. Deployment plans schedule the Fire Scout to be used at the brigade level, and I’m sure that they are looking forward to having such a weapon added to their already omnipotently superior arsenal. On a final note, the Fire Scout is also designed to operate as one of the many cogs in the network-centric weapons development program known as Future Combat Systems.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Artillery Weapons - The Army Tactical Missile System - ATACMS

While launching seemingly endless volleys streaking up into the sky, the M270 MLRS mobile rocket launchers unload firepower unto the enemy. Many different types of missiles could be chosen to be launched by the MLRS, from rockets that rain shrapnel on areas the size of several football fields to GPS-guided rockets that can deliver a 500 pound warhead to any target. Likewise, defense contractors like Lockheed Martin will always be taking orders for more of these missiles and even upgrades for the system as often as they can. One of the most recent creations delivered by Lockheed Martin are the different blocks of the US Army’s Tactical Missile System (ATACMS, pronounched “attack - ‘ems”). There have been two different blocks developed so far, with block I designed to deliver 950 M74 submunitions to blanket an area, and block II to deliver a 500 lb warhead. The block II variety has been enhanced to strike targets from a verticle descent path, enhancing mountainous warfare capabilities and bunker-busting. This system is an extremely flexible and devastating combination of mobility and firepower, and one of the longest range, most accurate, widely deployed, and technologically advanced rocket artillery system in the world. During Operation Iraqi Freedom, the US Army fired 420 MLRS rockets in the opening salvos of the war, hitting targets as far away as 120 km. This weapon is literally the 500 pound gorilla of the wide open battlespace of the Middle Eastern deserts. With firepower like this fielded and ready to roll, its truly a wonder that anyone would challenge it, especially from a distance.

MLRS - HIMARS - ATACMS Multiple Launch Rocket System Artillery - The “Steel Rain” Missile Launcher Video

MLRS provides massive amounts of firepower on the battlefield. Designed to have a longer range and greater lethality than enemy artillery systems, the possession of the MLRS creates a tremendous advantage for the allied forces. Traditional artillery, essentially a large cannon, is still employed by every modern army. However, on a wide open battlefield, the MLRS can wreak incomparable amounts of damage and fear upon enemy forces by firing guided rockets from a previously unimaginable distance. With a range of up to 300 kilometers using the most modern ATACMS (Army Tactical Missile System class rockets, the MLRS can hit targets before they even think about being ready to fight a battle. With the capability of only one MLRS launcher, which can carry 12 rockets, to blanket a square kilometer with fragmentation warheads, the MLRS is designed to act as a stand-off front-line assault vehicle to take out entire enemy formations of troops or vehicles. Likewise, the MLRS has also been fitted unto the HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket System) wheeled platform that has increased mobility and range, which decreases the likelihood of a successful enemy counterattack. With the newest technology on the battlefield, such as the MLRS, allied powers are reducing the time-frame of battles. Time is running out for the enemy to even tie their boots and line up before miles of their front-lines can be pulverized by missiles raining down from beyond the horizon. This phenomenon of destruction of earned the MLRS the nickname of the Steel Rain.

Thermobaric Weapon - Explosive Fuel-Air Bombs

There are many different types of Thermobaric weapons, it is the destructive concept that renders Thermobarics different than conventional high explosives. Rather than a simple bomb with high explosives in the warhead, thermobaric weapons, or fuel-air bombs, are predominantly filled with either an aerosol or powder of a high explosive mixture. The bomb has 2 charges, the first to blow away the casing and release the aerosol cloud, and the second to detonate the cloud. This 2 stage method renders the size of the blast to be drastically larger in diameter than conventional high explosives, which dramatically increases the shockwave and heat created by the explosion. These weapons are the most powerful bombs besides nuclear weapons, common examples are the MOAB and “Daisy Cutter” bomb, the latter is popularly displayed twice in the awesome movie Outbreak starring Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman (in the opening scene and ending scenes). Also known as vacuum bombs, they are also used on building and caves because of their ability to collapse structures. The shockwave and subsequent dramatic overpressure created by the intense heat of the explosion draws in oxygen so fast that it literally sucks in anything in its radius, be it cave walls or walls of a structure. Thermobarics have seen widespread use in the caves of Afghanistan, and smaller versions are also becoming more widespread with applications from hand grenades to rocket launchers.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

MOAB - The GBU-43 Massive Ordinance Air Blast Bomb

Coined the “Mother of All Bombs” for its massive size and blast radius (400ft), the MOAB truly is the Future of Military Firepower. The MOAB is a massive 21,000 pounds and contains over 9 tons of H-6 explosive. The MOAB is so large that it must be dropped out of the back of a cargo plane. The bomb is not considered to be a precision weapon but it is definitely a psychological weapon! Trust Me, you do not want to be on the receiving end of this ten ton Mother of All Bombs.

Father of all bombs Russia

I am sure you have heard of the MOAB or Massive Ordnance Air Blast Bomb, coined the Mother of All Bombs. The MOAB is an eight ton non-nuclear weapon with a 450 foot blast radius. What you might not have heard is that Russia has recently unveiled the “Father of All Bombs” which is said to have a 900 foot blast radius, double what the MOAB boasts. Until the Russian military unveiled the FOAB the MOAB was the largest non-nuclear bomb in the world. The center of the explosion created by the Father of All Bombs is reported to be twice as hot as MOAB as well. The Russian military apparently created a weapon roughly the same size as the MOAB with twice the power! So it looks like the Russians have one-upped the American military’s largest non-nuclear weapon… or have they?

There are a lot of skeptics that believe the Father of All Bombs may just be a big hoax. The Russian military claimed the bomb was dropped from a Tupolev 160 bomber although the bomb and the aircraft where never seen in the same video. Recall that the MOAB is usually dropped out of a much larger C-130 or equivalent. “You’ve got to approach Russian claims with skepticism,” says John Pike, an analyst at the think tank

Wired has a great article regarding inconsistencies in the video and the claims made by the Russian military. Psychological warfare?