Boeing scoops raygun contract

New weapon won't fall off the back of a lorry

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Boeing is adding further to its extensive portfolio with the contract to build a 20-tonne truck housing a laser gun.

It's designed to be parked close to vulnerable facilities such as airports, where it would shoot down enemy projectiles such as rockets, mortars, or indoctrinated clay pigeons.

The solid-state electrically-powered laser is a new departure from the 'household' version that uses highly-poisonous chemical fuel (rather than, say, diesel).

The High Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) contract was won by Boeing last year but the project has been given a $36 million cash injection with the planes and arms manufacturer now being asked to act as systems engineer for the weapon.

Radioactive pigeons

Boeing has already developed chemical rayguns that can be mounted on aeroplanes to take out targets hundreds of kilometres away, but the literal fall-out from such a weapon going wrong makes an electrically powered version far preferable.

Rapid -fire automatic cannon systems have been used in the past for similar defence work but these are inevitably compromised in built-up areas by the fall out of fist-sized chunks of lead that hurtle from the sky towards the soft heads of those not actively practicing terrorism.

Shooting from the truck

Boeing raygun czar Scott Fancher said: "This contract award is an important win for Boeing because it supports a cornerstone of the Army's high-energy laser program, HEL TD will... counter the difficult threats posed by rockets, artillery shells and mortar projectiles."

It may also be used in those Olympic shooting events at which the US was unable to win a gold medal, though admittedly, there is no evidence to support this assertion whatsoever.