One Shot, One Kill

DARPA Invests in One-Shot Rifle System Capable Under Varying Conditions for Snipers

from:  at The Blaze

DARPA Awards $6 Contract for Development of One Shot Rifle System for Snipers

(Image: Wikimedia)

The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), the military’s research arm, has awarded a San Diego company a multi-million dollar contract to develop a rifle-mounted system that would allow snipers to better hit targets in one shot, as this single shot could be the only one they get.

In its Advanced Sighting System Project, DARPA states that its goal is to “enable snipers to accurately hit targets with the first round, under crosswind conditions, day or night, at the maximum effective range of the weapon.”

DARPA Awards $6 Contract for Development of One Shot Rifle System for Snipers

(Image: DARPA)

For its next-generation, One Shot XG Phase, DARPA is looking for a “significantly smaller ‘field-ready system’ that can be ‘clipped-on’ directly to the weapon, eliminating the need for a spotter/observer in future sniper operations.”

To accomplish this, DARPA recently awarded Cubic Defense Applications a $6 million contract.

“If military snipers could neutralize enemy targets with a single round, they could potentially save many lives,” Steve Sampson, vice president of Advanced Programs for Cubic Defense Applications, said in the company’s statement. “One Shot XG seeks to allow our snipers to immediately obtain downrange crosswind, direction and range to target to provide ballistic corrections.

Using a crosswind measurement algorithm and electro-optic and laser designs, Cubic and its partners expect to take a different approach to this sniper program.

“Cubic has developed both systems and components, from fiber lasers and quantum well modulators to smart cards. One Shot XG will directly benefit from at least a decade of development geared towards state-of the art field-proven MILES combat training products,” Tony Maryfield, program manager and principal investigator for the One Shot XG product development at Cubic, said in a statement.

Attribution: Businessweek

Fire the Laser

Once the stuff of science fiction and James Bond movies, the U.S. Navy is now just two years away from arming it’s ships with the first generation of ‘directed energy’ laser weapons.

The weapons are designed to track and fire on threats to a warship that could include anything from armed drones and small ‘swarm’ boats to incoming missiles and aircraft.

According to Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, the chief of the Office of Naval Research, a  series of successful tests in recent months have enabled the Navy to halve its predicted timeline for mounting laser weapons on vessels.

‘We’re well past physics,’ he told WIRED.com.

‘We’re just going through the integration  efforts… Hopefully that tells you we’re well mature, and we’re ready to put these on naval ships.’

In April 2011 the Navy released a video of a test in which its prototype Maritime Laser Demonstrator blasted a hole in the engine of a small boat at sea off the California coast, leaving it dead in the water.

In July of this year, an officer in the Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) program said the Navy believed it was ‘time to move forward with solid-state lasers and shift the focus from limited demonstrations to weapon prototype development and related technology advancement.’

Solid-state lasers are one of several  different types of laser-based weapons systems currently being developed by the Navy and other military services in conjunction with major defense contractors.

The military has spent hundreds of millions on the development of the various systems, but once installed, the government predicts they will be relatively cheap to operate since they don’t use conventional munitions.

A shot from a laser weapon is estimated to  cost the Navy the equivalent of less than a dollar, compared to short-range air-defense interceptor missiles which cost between $800,000 and $1.4 million  each.

Up until now one of the Navy’s key concerns  with lasers has been how to generate  enough energy to fill the laser gun’s magazine,  however Klunder says that it is no longer an issue.

‘I’ve got the power,’ said Klunder, who spoke during the Office of Naval Research’s biennial science and technology conference.

‘I just need to know on this ship, this particular naval vessel, what are the power requirements, and how do I integrate that directed energy system or railgun system.’

With the technology almost now in place, there does however remain a concern over funding to make the laser weapons a reality. Admiral Mark Ferguson, vice chief of naval operations, has warned that ‘research and development is part of that reduction’ in defense budgets currently scheduled to take effect in January.

Attribution: Mail Online

Europa gets Drilled

A laser-powered drill could be used to penetrate the thick layers of ice on Jupiter’s frozen moon Europa, allowing robot probes to explore the oceans beneath.

The problem scientists who hope to study the oceans beneath the crust of Europa have faced has always been the amount of energy needed to melt through the miles of ice.

Batteries would not last long enough, even a small nuclear reactor would be too big, and solar power would be absolutely useless so deep in the depths of the moon’s oceans.

But the VALKYRIE drill would leave its bulky power plant on the surface of the moon, with a high-powered laser shooting down a fibre-optic cable to run the device.

Once it had penetrated icy crust of Europa, it could then explore the oceans beneath collecting and analysing samples before melting its way back to the surface, sealing the hole behind it.

Inventor and explorer Bill Stone unveiled the design yesterday at Nasa’s Astrobiology Science Conference in Atlanta, Georgia.

He told Wired Science: ‘Our modest goal over the next three years is to use a 5,000-watt laser to send a cryobot through up to 250 meters of ice.’

‘All the data show there are no show-stoppers for doing that. But from my standpoint, this is child’s play compared to what we could do.’

Dr Stone’s team combined several simultaneous advances in different fields, where researchers weren’t necessarily aware of each others’ work.

Bart Hogan, an optics expert and principal engineer on the project, told Wired: ‘It’s like you have all these groups making lenses for better eyeglasses, and someone says, “Hey, we can put these lenses together and build a telescope,”‘

With a doctorate in structural engineering and 11 patents to his credit, Dr Stone has already designed a range of robot explorers, of which VALKYRIE is just the latest.

His first robot, DEPTHX, descended deep into flooded Mexican hydrothermal springs to to find and collect samples of previously unknown microbial species between 2003 and 2007.

The next, called ENDURANCE, did the same thing in a freshwater lake hidden beneath a permanent ice cap in Antarctica in 2008 and 2009, creating the first 3-D chemistry map of a sub-glacial lake.

It was while testing ENDURANCE in advance of the Antarctic mission that Dr Stone came up with the novel power solution for VALKYRIE.

ENDURANCE used a tiny fibre optic cable – thinner than a strand of human hair – to communicate with the team sitting at the surface.

Dr Stone was suddenly struck with the idea that a much bigger cable could carry immense amounts of energy in the form of photons.

Researching the possibilities, he found that while there had been huge developments in both industrial lasers and fibre optic cables, no one had tried to fire the former down the latter.

Most development in the technology of fibre optic cables had been in the field of telecommunications, which uses very low power, Dr Stone told Wired.

While big industrial lasers, which can be powerful enough to cut a car in half, were usually only used in sealed units, with safety as the overriding concern, he added.

However, whether the new concept works or not, it is unlikely to make a mission to Europa anytime soon.

Nasa still have no clear, high-resolution pictures of what the surface of the moon is like and whether or not it is possible to land a spacecraft on there.

Mr Stone’s team has already built and tested the laser-fibre-optic power system at his laboratory in Texas.

They now plan to test a prototype of VALKYRIE at the Matanuska Glacier, Alaska, in June 2013.

Attribution: Wired Science, Mail Online