Combat Lasers — The Weapons of Science Fiction Become Reality : A Well Thought Out Scream by James Riordan

“Set your phasers on stun,” Captain James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise would bark at his crew, but we all knew he meant “lasers” instead of “phasers” because lasers were the weapon of the future.  When Auric Goldfinger flipped on his superlaser that was burning and cutting through solid steel towards a spread-eagled James Bond all CombatLaser5of us guys winced.  To have the ultimate hand-to-hand combat weapon sizzling toward your private parts was cringe-worthy stuff.  Of course Bond somehow turned thecourse Bond somehow turned the tables on Auric and everyone in the Star Trek crew (except the guys in the red shirts) survived and we wondered if lasers were ever really going to be used as a weapon.  They were being used effectively in Medical applications, printing, CDs and optical discs, welding and cutting, surveying, the garment industry, communications, spectroscopy, heat treatment, and barcode scanners.  We even have laser cooling.  But, hey this is America, if we can do all that with lasers how come we’re not killing anybody with them?  Well, rest assured, that day has come.  Lockheed Martin, the mega defense contractor, Notre Dame University, DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and the Air Force Research Lab have begun flight testing a streamlined and greatly miniaturized airborne laser turret that has the potential to totally transform air combat as we understand it today. 


For the last few years there have been heavy 10-30 kilowatt combat lasers tested on a Navy ship and an army truck about the size of an 18 wheeler. Those were vehicles chosen to carry the heavy weight of the lasers and their power systems. Now there is an $26 million air force project for a 50+ kilowatt combat laser on an F15 and another $18 million project for a high altitude anti-missile drone by 2021. The flying combat lasers have to be far lighter. By 2021 the lasers should also have power increased to 150 kilowatts or more. Over the last 25 years the US military has spent about $8 billion developing combat lasers but none have been put into production. The military lasers are riding the widespread …

Over the last 25 years the US military has spent about $8 billion developing combat lasers but none have been put into production.  The military lasers are riding the widespread use of 10 kilowatt industrial cutting and welding lasers and the lasers for telecommunications.


Lockheed’s new Laser Super Turret could change air combat forever. This new state-of-the-art beam control turret allows for 360 degree aiming coverage for directed energy weapons that will be flying on military aircraft in the not so distant future. In other words, this turret is able to rapidly aim at targets and focus a directed energy burst through the atmosphere at those targets to disable or destroy them, all while flying on a aircraft barreling through the sky at high-speed.

Known as the Aero-Adaptive, Aero-Optic Beam Control, or just ABC for short, Lockheed’s new wonder-turret has been installed on an elderly Dassault Falcon 10 business jet for preliminary flight testing. According to Lockheed, the Aero-Adaptive part of the ABC turret relates to atmospheric turbulence compensation technologies that are integrated into it. Lockheed’s press release explains:

The ABC turret system is designed to allow high-energy lasers to engage enemy aircraft and missiles above, below and behind the aircraft. Lockheed Martin’s flow control and optical compensation technologies counteract the effects of turbulence caused by the protrusion of a turret from an aircraft’s fuselage.

So basically, the system can sense the turbulence in the atmosphere where it is aiming and it can rapidly compensate for that turbulence so that the high-power laser does not become unfocused as it travels through that atmosphere, which would greatly limit its range. According to some sources, ABC can actually pull this off when shooting at incoming missiles that are approaching from behind, in back of the highly disturbed air caused by the aircraft’s jet exhaust.

In June 2017, the U.S. Missile Defense Agency (MDA) released a solicitation demonstrating interest in the defense industry’s capability to produce a High Altitude Long Endurance (HALE) unmanned aircraft that can carry high energy laser system for boost phase intercept. MDA’s listing listed several requirements for this boost-phase capability including: 1. on-station altitude of greater than 63,000 ft, 2. flight endurance of greater than 36 hours, 3. flight cruise speed of less than Mach 0.45 at altitude, and 4. a payload capacity of at least 5,000 lbs and as much as 12,500 lbs.

CombatLazer3Drones on Lasers can be the holy grail of missile defense Boost phase missile defense is destroying an enemy missile during the earliest stages of its flight, while it remains within the Earth’s atmosphere. A viable boost phase defense has long been considered the “holy grail” of BMD (ballistic missile defense), as boosting missiles are much slower and easier to track than missiles during the midcourse or terminal stage, which makes them more vulnerable to interception. Boost phase defense also overcomes the challenges of discriminating between lethal warheads and debris, as the missile is largely intact at this stage and has not had the opportunity to deploy decoys. Early intercept during the boost phase also has the added benefit of causing the missile’s ordinance to fall back on the aggressor after the boosters have been disabled or destroyed.

CombatLazer2Directed energy technology—or lasers—is the most sought-after future boost phase missile defense option. The US Navy is requesting 60-85 million each year for the next few years to develop more powerful combat lasers. It is called project HELIOS. A follow on system originally called SNLWS (surface navy laser weapon system) Increment 2 would boost the power of the lasers to 150-300 kilowatts which is enough to engage cruise missiles. An eventual increment 3 would boost power to 500+ Kilowatts to engage cruise missiles fired directly at a ship. The entire DOD will have a directed energy weapon roadmap in early 2018. Fast speed and distance to hit North Korean ICBMs would likely need megawatt lasers. Having good targeting with 300 Kilowatt lasers could allow 3-5 drones to combine laser power on a common target. Alternatively the multiple 300 kilowatt systems could be combined to reach megawatt power. This will mean having systems that are 3-4 times bigger.

This technology is broadly known as ‘adaptive optics.’ Similar systems that use a laser to sense disturbances in the atmosphere between a system’s optics and its target, and which utilizes an adaptive or ‘deformable’ mirror technology to compensate for it, have been used by cutting edge observatories, the Airborne Laser program, and other larger laser systems prior to this new and highly miniaturized laser turret’s arrival.

At first, operational versions of this turret will most likely be installed on bombers, very large drones and converted cargo aircraft like the AC-130 gunship. But soon after, this system, or a slightly miniaturized version of it, will be mounted on fighter aircraft and tactical-sized unmanned combat air vehicles (UCAVS).

Combat lasers are here…and these babies are not set on stun.


The Author

James Riordan

James Riordan

Rare is it that any author will have one of his books described as the definitive work on a particular subject, but such a distinction has been bestowed by critics on no less than four books written by James Riordan. The New York Times Bestseller Break on Through, Riordan’s biography of Doors lead singer Jim Morrison, has not only been called “the most objective, thorough and professional Morrison biography” by the Times Book Review but also named as one of the Ten All Time Best Rock Biographies by Amazon.com. Riordan’s The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco) was called “One of the best how-to books ever written” by the Los Angeles Daily News and “The ultimate career book on the music industry” by Recording, Engineer & Producer. Critics described Riordan’s The Bishop of Rwanda as “one of the most important books you’ll ever read.” and The Coming of the Walrus, Riordan’s novel about the 60s as “the definitive book on the era” and “a hilarious tale of a harrowing search for the greatest truth of all”. With the release of A Well Thought Out Scream and Madman in the Gate, Riordan pushed the boundaries again with poetry/song lyric books that contain hundreds of stunning, beautiful and poignant images from artists and photographers from all over the world. In the summer of 2013 a new edition of The Coming of the Walrus was released to rave reviews followed by The Kill Switch. The author of thirty-three books, James Riordan’s career began in the music industry where as a songwriter, manager, producer and concert promoter he worked with several well known artists. In 1976 he began writing a newspaper column, Rock-Pop, which he later syndicated. Riordan soon became one of America’s premier rock journalists with articles reaching millions of readers including those of Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy, Circus, Musician, and newspapers like The Chicago Daily News and The Kansas City Star. His reputation for relating on a one-to-one level soon led to interviews with George Harri-son, Bob Dylan, Fleetwood Mac, Frank Zappa, The Doobie Brothers, Kenny Rogers, Barbra Mandrell, Crosby, Stills & Nash and countless others. His first book, The Platinum Rainbow (written with Bob Monaco in 1980) became the largest selling book ever written about the music business. The guide to “succeeding in the music business without selling your soul” was praised by Variety ,The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, The Las Vegas Sun, The Minneapolis Tribune, Billboard, Record World and many more. The Platinum Rainbow became an industry-wide phenomenon and interviews with James Riordan were aired on over 1200 radio stations and numerous television talk shows. Next Riordan collaborated with Pulitzer Prize winner Jason Miller on a mini-series for network television (The Irish) and a movie of the week for CBS (Bless Me Father). In June 1991, William Morrow & Co. published Break On Through to outstanding sales and reviews. Riordan worked as a consultant on Oliver Stone’s film of Morrison’s life, The Doors, which led to his writing Stone’s biography. Published by Hyperion /Disney in December 1995, Entertainment Weekly called STONE “an unflinching biography... enough spectacle to fill a month of daytime-TV talk shows.” The New York Post said reading the book was like “the sensory overload of watching all of Oliver Stone’s movies back to back.” Riordan was interviewed by Inside Edition, People Magazine, The Tom Snyder Show, and many others. From 1997-2000, Riordan created and co-starred in a local television program, Kankakee Valley Prime Time, which won six Crystal Communicators, three Tellys, and earned Riordan a Chicago/ Midwest Emmy Nomination for Writing the program. In the summer of 1999, James Riordan wrote, directed and starred in Maddance, an hour long dramatic project which won Crystal Communicators for Drama, Writing, Acting and Directing. On April 9, 2000, James’ 16 year old son, Jeremiah, was killed as a passenger in an accident that involved three drunk drivers. Shortly after this, James founded Make it Stick which works to warn teens of the dangers of substance abuse and publishes a magazine distributed to high school students. In 2001, he founded Jeremiah’s – A Place to be Yourself to give teens a place to hang out away from the dangers of drugs and alcohol. Force to close by its incredible growth rate, Jeremiah’s was recognized as one of the fastest growing and most successful teen centers in the United States. In 2004, Toastmasters International named Riordan Communicator of the Year for Central Illinois, the YMCA gave him their Service to Youth Award and the United Way named him the Outstanding Volunteer of Kankakee County. Returning to writing, Riordan went to Africa to write The Bishop of Rwanda, (with an intro by Purpose Driven Life author Rick Warren). In November of 2006, Harper Collins released a new edition of Break On Through followed by The Coming of the Walrus (Image Workshop) in December and The Bishop of Rwanda (Thomas Nelson, Inc.) to rave reviews (“Powerful …plumbs the depths of God’s forgiveness and finds no bottom – Publisher’s Weekly). In 2011, he won the Pledge For Life Harold Award for his work with area youth. In the summer of 2012, Lee and Shane Stanley (Gridiron Gang) optioned Maddance as a feature film followed by Apothecary Films optioning The Kill Switch in 2013 and Omni Films optioning Final Service to film in May. Riordan joined the staff of the Mancow Syndicated Television and Radio show in January of 2014 and is now seen and heard across America on a weekly basis. His biography is included in Who’s Who in Entertainment , Who’s Who in Poetry and Contemporary Authors of America. James Riordan – Works Books The Kill Switch, novel with Andrew Dahlmaine, Stonegate Ink, 2013 The Coming of the Walrus, Trade Paperback Editn, Image Workshop 2012 Springboard To Heaven ( Jojo Sayson Adventure), Image Workshop, 2012 The Elijah Collection, novel collection with Bill Myers, Zondervan, 2011 The Well Thought Out Scream (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 Madman in the Gate (Poetry/Art), Image Workshop Press, 2009 The Deadly Loyalty Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Ancient Forces Collection, Forbidden Doors, Zondervan, 2009 The Enemy Strikes with Bill Myers (Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 Deception with Bill Myers (Book 2 Elijah Project series. Zondervan, 2009 The Bishop of Rwanda (Finding Forgiveness) Thomas Nelson, March 2007 Paperback Edition May, 2012 The Coming of the Walrus (What Really Happened in the '60s) IW, 2006 Break on Through (The Life & Death of Jim Morrison), Morrow, 1991. (New York Times Bestseller, Published in 5 languages, Hardcover, 5 Paperback Editions, Harper Trade Paperback November, 2006) Stone (The Controversies, Excesses & Exploits of a Radical Filmmaker), Disney/Hyperion,1995. (Published in 3 languages, Hardcover, Paperback Edition). Making It in the New Music Business, Writers Digest Books, 1987, (Second Edition, Revised and Updated 1991, Two Hardcover Editions) The Platinum Rainbow (How to Succeed in the Music Business Without Selling Your Soul) 250,000 copies with Bob Monaco, Swordsman Press, 1980, Twenty-Three Editions, Revised 1988) 25 Year Anniversary Edition, 2005 Capture the Wind (Microphones) w.Tom Lubin, Literary Mouse Press,1989 Private Biography of Russ Kalvin, founder of Kalvin Corp., 1990 Private Biography of Steve Stefano, founder of Joico Hair Products, 1993. Mystery of the Invisible Knight (Book 2 in the BloodHounds Series) with Bill Myers, Bethany House,1997. Matters of the Heart (The Life & Times of Edgar Cullman), Culbro, 1997. The Curse (Book 7 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1997. The Undead (Book 8 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1996. The Scream (Book 9 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1998 The Ancients (Book 10 Forbidden Doors) with Bill Myers, Tyndale, 1999. The Cards (Book 11 Forbidden Doors Series) with Bill Myers, Tyndale,2000 Films Final Service, co-written with Gary Moore and based on his book, Omni Productions, to be filmed in May, 2014. Maddance, Writer/Director/Lead Actor, Search Engine Films, Simmcomm, 1999. (Winner of 4 Crystal Communicators including Best Drama, Screenplay, Director, Male Actor – Austin, TX.1999) Performance (The Life of Ingrid Bergman), Screenplay, Lancit Productions 1998. Returned to Author when film division closed)Rewritten2009 Shadowdancers, Story & Screenplay, Story with Bill Myers, 1997 Dr. Babylon, Story 1996. Air Guitar, Story & Screenplay, 1994 The Platinum Rainbow, Story & Screenplay, 1993 Television/Video Kankakee Valley Prime Time, Writer, Director, Producer, 1997-2000. (Nominated for Midwest/Chicago Emmy for Writing, 1998, 3 Telly Awards, 4 Crystal Communicators 1998-2000). Angels Among Us (The Amtrak City of New Orleans Train Disaster, Co- Producer, (Telly Award, 2000). River Valley Sports Authority, Producer, 1999-2003. I Hate The World (Hypnoises Music Video), Writer/Director/Producer, Crystal Communicator for Best Music Video Concept, 1998). The United Way (Video) Crystal Communicator for Best Video for a Charitable Organization, 1998.

If it isn't money and it isn't fame and it isn't sex... then what... God?

— James Riordan, 2000

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