Well, the Chinese may be working on this, but I’m dubious of it being operational any time soon.
Chinese Military Mounting ‘Laser Guns’ to Hypersonic Vehicles (Aircraft and Missiles) to Increase Speed and Range
Well, this isn’t good. Apparently, they’ve been busy little beavers over there at Beijing’s Space Engineering University, developing a “powerful laser gun” mounted onto hypersonic missles and aircraft to increase speed (and obviously range) by cutting air resistance by 70 percent (70%) or more. According to the Chinese laser experts, the laser gun “can change the shock wave structure in front of the hypersonic vehicle and then change the speed and pressure distribution to achieve drag reduction” by creating a teardrop-shaped plasma cloud in front of the aircraft or missile. Basically, the plasma cloud generates foward-moving air/wind in front of the hypersonic aircraft or missile by spinning in opposite directions.
That sounds like laser-induced supercavitation. But unless they have some near-magical laser and energy storage tech, I think it would be of limited utility. The laser and power source will be massive; that will cut into vehicle payload. So much so that I would expect there would be no weapons payload. This might work for a couple of applications.
- Hypersonic reconnaisance vehicles (SR-71 on steroids)
- Hypersonic kinetic kill projectiles (hypersonic sabot rounds)
On the bright side, ionizing plasma will prevent this from being at all stealthed. The plasma field should really light up on radar.
There will be some practical complications. If the hypersonic vehicle is going to be at all maneuverable, I think the laswer will need to be steerable, adding the system mass; you need to be able to turn into your leading plasma field, not out of it in a turn (kind of like driving at night, and making a turn onto a road where your headlights aren’t yet pointing).
But if they got a aa high power laser — capable of continuously generating plasma for an extended period of time), I can think of some other weapon ideas that have noting to do with vehicles or projectiles.
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