Death ray weapons \'ready in a decade\'

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Death ray weapons 'ready in a decade'

IAN BRUCE THE US defence department is to fund a "death ray" programme to allow the air force to field working laser and microwave weapons capable of tackling underground enemy bunkers.

Science fiction could become science fact within a decade.

Boeing's Phantom Works, the top-secret research facility which handles "black" US military projects, is working on directed energy beam weapons designed to be fitted in robot fighters and to the new Joint Strike Fighter.

The firm is believed to have built a high-powered microwave which can destroy radar installations and fry computer links in enemy command centres.

The air force's Kirtland laboratory in New Mexico has been given £35m to produce a laser cannon in two years, the first stage of an ambitious project to replace nuclear and conventional bombs and missiles.

Research on solid-state laser weapons is eight to 10 years from the stage where a working weapon can be installed on a fighter- bomber such as the JSF, which will equip front-line US and RAF squadrons from 2015.

The aim is to produce lasers which will replace guided bombs and missiles for devastating pinpoint attacks and possibly eliminate the need to adapt tactical nuclear warheads for bunker-busting missions.

George Muellner, who runs Boeing's advanced research programmes, said: "The technology for directed beam weapons is available and maturing. Within five to 10 years, high-powered microwave emitters will be able to suppress enemy air defence systems far more effectively than even precision-guided munitions."

Raytheon, America's other leading defence contractor, expects field trials of microwave and laser weapons within five years.

However, the side-effects of energy beam weapons are certain to anger humanitarians.

Anyone in the path of a one-megawatt microwave pulse would instantly have every drop of body fluid vaporised. Those caught in the sidelobe of the beam would be burned and probably brain-damaged.

Microwave emitters could be classed as banned incendiary weapons if used against flammable targets such as buildings or vehicles.
By netchicken: posted on 18-11-2002

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