by Geoffrey Ingersoll
Right at the end of 2012, we reported on a laser beam missile defense system Lockheed developed that would make Israel’s Iron Dome look wimpy.
It turns out, German company Rheinmetall concurrently produced a system quite like Lockheed’s ADAM – one which can accurately target an 85 centimeter-thick ball bearing, traveling 50 meters per second, and sear it out of the sky.
Perhaps the most terrifyingly cool bit of information out of the company’s press brief (released in mid-December and largely unreported in American media) is this tidbit: Several experts gathered to witness as “a massive, 15 mm-thick [.6 inches] steel girder was cut through at a distance of 1,000 metres [3,000 feet, about .6 of a mile].”
Both of these systems, Germany’s and Lockheed’s, are part of a large push to develop missile/mortar defense systems that don’t use ballistics as a primary means of execution. Ballistics, as we’ve all learned over the years, are not only incredibly difficult to produce, expensive and relatively inaccurate – but also they can only be used once.
Rheinmetall’s lasers use something called Beam Superimposing Technology (BST), which overlaps beams in order “to irradiate a single target in a superimposed, cumulative manner.”
The efforts of military developers worldwide can, in a way, trace their roots back to Ronald Reagan’s oft-joked about Star Wars missile defense program. Though these lasers aren’t quite like what Luke Skywalker dodged in George Lucas’s ’70s film – first of all, they’re invisible – they have proven effective at removing drones from the sky.