Defense Undersecretary Says Pentagon Is Developing Real-Life Working Ray Guns

Friday, 23 March 2018 - 1:09PM
Military Tech
Friday, 23 March 2018 - 1:09PM
Defense Undersecretary Says Pentagon Is Developing Real-Life Working Ray Guns
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The idea of a ray gun feels wonderfully retro in the modern era. Where laser guns are still common in science fiction, ray guns evoke a sense of '50s optimism for a future where everyone lives on the moon and commutes to work via jetpack.

It's no wonder that ray guns have such a nostalgic feel to their very concept—the US military's various previous experiments in using what are known as neutral-particle beams are all somewhat old-fashioned. Back in the '80s, the government attempted to find a military use for neutral-particle beams before ultimately giving up and declaring the technology impractical. Something similar happened during a test in the '90s that also failed to produce the awesome death weapon that the government is clearly angling for.

As is often the case, that which is old is new again, and the current regime at the Pentagon is taking yet another look at the feasibility of ray guns, in the light of new, modern technological advancements.

According to Michael Griffin, the first defense undersecretary for research and engineering, there are a lot of potential uses for a working ray gun:

Opening quote
"Directed energy is more than just big lasers. That's important. High-powered microwave approaches can affect an electronics kill. The same with the neutral particle beam systems we explored briefly in the 1990s."
Closing quote


Among the potential uses of this technology, it seems that the main benefit is its devastating effect on electronic equipment. One use that was explored in the '90s was the possibility of killing missiles at range, potentially even before they've blasted off from launch sites, which would certainly be a useful tool to have in any military's arsenal.




Beyond that, there's the more traditional use of a deadly weapon, and the ability to pull a trigger or press a button in order to zap an enemy. Griffin believes that ray guns would have the "advantage of being non-attributable," meaning that they'd kill without leaving a trace—useful for covert missions that require subtlety, in which troops won't want to give away their position.

Of course, before the government can begin using ray guns in earnest, someone will have to fix the kinks in the technology that made it unfeasible several decades ago. This, though, is but a small stepping stone on the way to being able to microwave an enemy at 50 paces.

Presumably, these weapons will also be useful if any of America's Finest are craving popcorn while on patrol. Just so long as they give the packets a wide berth while zapping them.

It seems that ray guns aren't the only old-fashioned technological weapons that Griffin is considering putting to use. Apparently, everything in the Pentagon's back archives of ideas is up for grabs, so long as it makes sense:

Opening quote
"We should not lose our way… with some of the other technologies that were pioneered in the '80s and the early 1990s and now stand available for renewed effort…I will be very welcoming of other approaches that have not had a lot of focus in recent years or recent decades."
Closing quote


No doubt a large part of this rush to re-test old ideas comes from concerns that other countries around the world are advancing their military technology in new and unusual ways.

via GIPHY



As anyone who's played "Fallout" knows, war never changes, but technology can certainly make the experience very different. It seems that the Pentagon is eager to have the upper hand in the ongoing arms race, even if that means delving back into forgotten prototypes and half-baked ideas.

Let's just hope things don't get too similar to "Fallout" once we start zapping each other with ray guns.

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