Ionatron awarded contract to develop laser weapons

Published 25 April 2007

Arizona-based energy weapon specialist awarded contract to develop pulse laser weapon which may be of interest to law enforcementhomeland security

May the Force be with you. Interest in energy weapons — that is, weapons which beam energy at the enemy rather than hurtle physical objects at him — is growing. Tucson, Arizona-based Ionatron has been awarded a $9.8 million cost-plus-fixed-fee non-competitive contract to fund the development of an advanced Ultra Short (femtosecond—10^-15) Pulse Laser, physics modeling, and experiments related to laser-guided energy effects (to be more precise: Laser Induced Plasma Channel, or LIPC) requirements, a transportable demonstrator, and effects testing.

Ionatron has been developing energy weapons for a while. For example, the company has done work on an IED land mine neutralizer called the JIN, as well as nonlethal and lethal short-range energy weapons based on its technology. The work on the new system is expected to be complete by April 2009.

LIPC technology

The company describes its LIPC technology as “man-made lightning.” The technology is not exactly new — it was first demonstrated in the 1890s — but Ionatron has improved it by adding a laser which speeds up the discharge and offers better control of the direction of the man-made lightning.

LIPC technology uses the conductive plasma formed when laser filaments pass through the atmosphere. Laser filaments are created by ultrashort (femto-second class) laser pulses generated by high peak power/low average power lasers. The conductive plasma acts as an efficient virtual wire for the controlled transmission of electrical energy.

Femto-second, by the way, is a duration of 10-15 seconds, or one-thousandth of one-millionth of a millionth of a second. Light travels only 0.3 micrometers in 1 femto-second.