Car Wars Internet Newsletter
Vol. 13, No. 6
December 26, 2010


Happy Holidays, autoduellists. This issue should give you warm you with a little napalm this snow-filled December.

Klaus Breuer's Medical Status

Klaus Breuer is the German autoduellist who has built a powerful vehicle design program for Car Wars. Klaus posted on the SJ Games Car Wars Message Board in November he was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumor. Klaus had surgery in November to attempt to remove the tumor. Klaus has not posted an update on his status.

Can you send an e-mail to Klaus wishing him a successful recovery? Receiving e-mails from over 100 Car Wars players around the world is the mental and emotional support Klaus needs at this time while medical experts treat him physically. Thanks.

Klaus Breuer
Munich, Germany
[E-mail Address Deleted]

Gear Jammer Motor Works Going Offline

Disappointing news was posted on the Gear Jammer Web site this month. Thanks to the SJ Games Car Wars Message Board for making me aware of this development.

Gear Jammer Motor Works

Bad News! Gear Jammers will be closing on December 31st 2010. Please make copies of any work you have online, for it will all be gone as of 2011.

Sorry for the inconvenience,

Rick H.

Presents for Car Wars Players on e23

Steve Jackson Games has published several Car Wars items on e23 including the Mini Car Wars set. Issues of The Space Gamer Magazine are continuing to appear on e23. You will have to wait until next year for legendary Volume 1, Number 58, the issue with "Massacre at Midville."

SWAT's Blog and Photo Gallery

This autumn I started a blog about Car Wars. I also created a photo gallery on Flickr of the 3D arena SWAT member and MiB Austin Searles built.

Weapons, Wheels and the Wasteland

owenmp's photosets

Drive Offensively in 2011,



4 post-apocalyptic games that should be remade today

Auto Duel Photo Gallery

Aaron Mulder's Car Wars Car Designer

Klaus Breuer's Car Wars Vehicle Designer

Batman Begins Tumbler

Car Wars

Car Wars for Go Play NW 2009

Car Wars Resources
Consortium Games

Car Wars Crash Flow Chart

Car Wars Adventure Gamebooks
Demian's Gamebook Web Page

Car Warriors
Fantastic Fiction

Costa Rica Pirates

Dark Future: The Game of Highway Warriors

Dark Future / Warlands Gallery
Displaced Miniatures

Last Derby Bowl: A Frag-Car Wars PBEM

Death Race or Full Auto the movie?
Sarcastic Gamer

Doug's Car Wars Site

Fantasy Role Playing Games - What Is A Role Playing Game?

Frustrated Wargamers Organization

Gear Jammer Motor Works

GURPS Autoduel Second Edition Bibliography
Steve Jackson Games

Hertfordshire Autoduellists Association
Yahoo! Groups

Jim's Wargames Workbench

North Texas Autoduel Association

The RokLobster's Gallery
Picasa Web Albums

Scorched Earth: A post-apocalyptic driver seat adventure game
Fortress: Ameritrash


The AADA Vehicle Guide

Car Wars City Blocks 2

Mini Car Wars

Space Gamer Vol. 1, No. 45

Space Gamer Vol. 1, No. 46

Space Gamer Vol. 1, No. 47

Space Gamer Vol. 1, No. 48

Space Gamer Vol. 1, No. 49

Space Gamer Vol. 1, No. 50

Space Gamer Vol. 1, No. 51

Space Gamer Vol. 1, No. 52


Diagnostic Dice
Creative Dice

Crash Track!
Shark Bone Games and DriveThruRPG

Extra Set #1: Vehicles
Paper Make iT !, DriveThruRPG and Wargame Vault

Hotz Matz Paved Felt Highways
Hotz ArtWorks

Light Bikes: Rules for Racing Light-powered Cycles
Glory Games, DriveThruRPG and Wargame Vault

Vehicular Homicide 2nd Edition
Radioactive Press, RPG Now, DriveThruRPG and Wargame Vault


15mm Post Apoc Survivalists
Rebel Minis

Vehicles and Tridlins
Ramshackle Games

Wolfhound Jack's Designs


Post-Apocalyptic RTS 'Apox' Announced
Shack News
September 09, 2010


Scrap Metal XBLA
Game On: Cape Cod Gaming Blog
July 29, 2010

Twisted Metal for PlayStation 3
Official Sony PlayStation Web Site


American Autoduelling Association Employment Notice
Lakeland Role Playing Guild
December 19, 2009

Any love for Road Kill Rally?
Fortress Ameritrash
November 26, 2010

Abandonia Forums
May 07, 2005

Automotive Combat
September 27, 2010

AutoWar 15mm Vehicles Pre-made or Roll your own
The Miniatures Page
December 22, 2010

Calling all old Car Wars fans
The Older Gamers Forums
May 14, 2008

Car Wars
Da Mek Shop
May 18, 2009

Car Wars;action=display;threadid=340
August 30, 2007

Car Wars?
AV Science Forum
March 31, 2008

Car Wars!
Goblinoid Games Forums
December 01, 2009

Carwars basic rules
Invision Power Board
October 19, 2005

Car Wars fans . . . check this out
Reaper Miniatures Message Boards
August 11, 2004

CarWars kill stickers
StarDestroyer.Net Message Boards
July 27, 2005

The Car Wars Thread
The Straight Dope Message Board
July 26, 2001

Custom Cars for Road Warriors of the Warlands
Mini Art of War
March 09, 2009

D&D 3.5 for Post-Apocalyptic Games
EN World
November 21, 2008

The Death Race RPG
Armor Games Forums
November 05, 2010

Good Old Games: Autoduel by Origin Systems, Inc.
Quarter to Three Forums
November 15, 2010

GURPS Autoduel
Pen and Paper Games
January 22, 2008

Help me fill in the Car Wars shaped hole in my heart
RPGnet Forums
December 24, 2010

Mad Max: difference between pursuit & interceptor?
The Miniatures Page Forums
February 05, 2010

Mad Max Grognard - Road War 2000
Apple II Adventures
December 05, 2008

More Hot Wheels conversions
Lead Adventure Forum
May 16, 2010

News: Accessories for your Hot Wheels
Wyrd Miniatures Forums
July 18, 2006

Our Car Wars game was fun
January 19, 2008

Pics of my Car Wars arena for "Autoduel in Akron"
Carnage in Wonderland Forum
September 12, 2010

Should Roadwar get a remake?
RPG Codex Forums
December 02, 2009

Thanks to gamers who played "Road Warriors" game at Fall-In!
The Miniatures Page
November 03, 2010


Car Combat Games
Gamers Paradise
Unlisted Date

Death Race
November 05, 2008

Hotz Mats Paved Felt Highways are now available
Tabletop Gaming News
June 10, 2010

Toll Roads for Legalized Car Wars
July 27, 2010

Warlands Black Bost Review
Little Lead Heroes
Andy's Mostly Miniature Wargaming Blog
April 23, 2009


Date: Tue, 29 Jun 2010 21:28:45 -0700
To: [E-mail Address Deleted]
Subject: Super-Scale Car Wars at StillCon 2010

Your Super-Scale Car Wars event at StillCon 2010 must have been a blast.
In 1998 I published a Super-Scale Car Wars article with notes from the author in the Car Wars Internet Newsletter. The article was also published in Shadis and Pyramid Online.

Super-Scale Car Wars
Author: Loren Dean
Source: Pyramid Online

Super-Scale Car Wars
Author: Loren Dean
Source: CWIN 1.03

Drive Offensively,

Michael P. Owen
Seattle Washington Autoduel Team

Subject: RE: Super-Scale Car Wars at StillCon 2010
Date: Sun, 15 Aug 2010 14:34:27 -0700
From: Loren Dean [E-mail Address Deleted]
To: Michael P. Owen [E-mail Address Deleted]

Sorry for the late reply here, but it was a blast. For reference, I *am* Loren Dean, the author of the article you reference. I updated the original article just a teeny bit and it can be found here.

TAGG - Super-Scale Car Wars

Someday I'll get some more pictures.




Goldring Miniatures, Inc. Catalog
Mega Minis

Denis Loubet's Official Web Site

Irrational Designs: Official Web Site of Charles A. Oines

Leslie Fish's Official Web Site

Leslie Fish


Full Frontal Nerdity: Combining Car Wars and Formula De
Nodwick dot com
June 23, 2010

Hummers Are For Wussies
Ace of Spaces HQ Blog
March 13, 2005

Bear gets stuck in car, goes on brief ride

By Phil Gast
July 23, 2010

Story Highlights

* A bear spends more than two hours in a Colorado car
* The Toyota rolled down the driveway with the bear inside
* The animal trashes the vehicle's interior
* Deputies freed it by tying a rope to the door handle and pulling it

If you think you've heard it all, follow this tale of a hungry black bear who went for a ride, literally.

Douglas County, Colorado, Sheriff's deputies early Friday got a call about a honking car and a commotion inside. Perhaps it was teenagers or a thief, they thought as they approached Ralph Story's 2008 Toyota Corolla.

It turns out it was a thief, albeit the furry variety.

The deputies' first clue to something unusual was that the car was 125 feet below its normal parking spot in the driveway of the Storys' Larkspur home, which sits on five acres.

Imagine their further surprise when they turned on their flashlights and got a peek inside.

It was a full-grown black bear, also known as ursus americanus.

The deputies had earlier received a call from a neighbor. She had heard honking and came up to the Story home, where the family was asleep.

"Our Toyota was making a heck of a racket and was rocking back and forth," Story said.

The neighbor called deputies shortly after 3 a.m., according to spokeswoman Michelle Rademacher of the sheriff's Department in the community 45 miles south of Denver.

Story told CNN the bear was probably drawn to a peanut butter sandwich left inside by his 17-year-old son Ben. He said the family didn't realize what was going on until deputies arrived and the neighbor came back and called them. By then the car was no longer in the driveway.

Incredulous, Story, his wife and three teen children -- who have lived in Larkspur for 17 years -- rushed outside to see the red Toyota down the hill and near a tree.

Somehow, the bear had either opened the unlocked back door or pushed a window down to get inside. Understandably agitated, it bumped into the horn repeatedly and eventually knocked the car's gear into neutral. The Toyota rolled down the hill. The door added to the bear's indignity by closing at some point during the ordeal.

A sergeant and two deputies who arrived on the scene "were stymied on how to proceed," Story said.

They considered a tranquilizer or shooting the bear, whose gender is unknown. "Public safety is our primary concern," Rademacher said.

Finally, the officers decided the best outcome for all would be to keep everyone safe and let the bear live to see more adventures.

After taking pictures, one of them tied a long rope to a door handle and pulled. After a few moments, Story said, the bear bounded out around 5 a.m., at least two hours after it had gotten inside.

It left a foul-smelling "present" on the front seat.

The Toyota was trashed, with its air bags, seats and stereo torn to shreds. It's a total loss.

Ben Story said he was scared when the family rushed outside to see the car was gone. "My dad is going to kill me," he thought to himself. "My car is gone. I didn't lock it. He said it was stolen."

Rademacher said deputies have enough experience not to be shocked during a day's work. But this will make for a great memory.

Ralph Story admitted the incident was pretty comical. He's glad the animal got away and no one was hurt.

"There's a bear in the car. Who are you gonna get mad at?"

Area man reminded on September calendar to "start hating Notre Dame"
September 03, 2010

"They don't have logos on their helmets. That just seems silly. It's the same reason I hate the Cleveland Browns. You can't think of some intricate drawing of an Irishman to put on the helmet? Just silliness. Plus, where's the flyovers, smoke machines? Plus, they get their own network? For what? Let me tell you something . . . we've got a channel for cars (Speed Channel) and we get a channel for war battles (History Channel) . . . However, we can't get a channel that shows carwars and/or car battles? But we have a channel for Notre Dame? Tell me the fairness in that? If ND gets their own station, then the least the world can do for me is a channel where cars filled with machine guns go to war against armed alien foreign cars. And I don't think that's asking much. Not at all."


Can-Am Spyder Roadster

Ten Technological Advances Designed to Keep Our Soldiers Safer

By John Brandon
September 16, 2010

10 Batman gadgets you can (almost) get today

By Kevin Hall
July 17, 2008

Hack attacks mounted on car control systems

BBC News
May 07, 2010

The computer systems used to control modern cars are very vulnerable to attack, say experts.

An investigation by security researchers found the systems to be "fragile" and easily subverted.

The researchers showed how to kill a car engine remotely, turn off the brakes so the car would not stop and make instruments give false readings.

Despite their success, the team said it would be hard for malicious attackers to reproduce their work.

Locked in

The team of researchers, led by Professor Stefan Savage from the University of California-San Diego, and Tadayoshi Kohno from the University of Washington set out to see what resilience cars had to an attack on their control systems.

"Our findings suggest that, unfortunately, the answer is 'little,'" wrote the researchers from the Center for Automotive Embedded Systems Security.

The researchers concentrated their attacks on the electronic control units (ECUs) scattered throughout modern vehicles which oversee the workings of many car components. It is thought that modern vehicles have about 100 megabytes of binary code spread across up to 70 ECUs.

Individual control units typically oversee one sub-system but ECUs communicate so that many different systems can be controlled as the situation demands. For instance, in a crash seat belts may be pre-tensioned, doors unlocked and air bags deployed.

The attackers created software called CarShark to monitor communications between the ECUs and insert fake packets of data to carry out attacks.

The team got at the ECUs via the communications ports fitted as standard on most cars that enable mechanics to gather data about a vehicle before they begin servicing or repair work.

The researchers mounted a series of attacks against a stationary and moving vehicle to see how much of the car could fall under their control.
Cars on dockside, PA All modern cars are fitted with computer control systems

"We are able to forcibly and completely disengage the brakes while driving, making it difficult for the driver to stop," wrote the researchers. "Conversely, we are able to forcibly activate the brakes, lurching the driver forward and causing the car to stop suddenly."

In one attack, the team transformed the instrument panel into a clock that counted down to zero from 60 seconds. In the final seconds the horn honks and as zero is reached the car engine shuts off and the doors are locked.

They found that almost every system in the car, including engine, brakes, heating and cooling, lights, instrument panel, radio and locks was vulnerable.

The team concluded that the car control software was "fragile" and easy to subvert. In some cases simply sending malformed packets of data, rather than specific control code, was enough to trigger a response.

The team are presenting a paper on their results at the IEEE symposium on Security and Privacy in California on 19 May.

"Cars benefit from the fact that they are (hopefully) not connected to the internet (yet) and currently are not able to be remotely accessed," said Rik Fergson, a security analyst at Trend Micro. "So in order to carry out a successful attack you would already need to have physical access to the vehicle, as a break-in or as a mechanic, seem the two most likely scenarios."

"As cars, and everything else in life up to and including even pacemakers or fridges, become steadily more connected and externally accessible, research such as this should be taken increasingly seriously by manufacturers," he added.

"This represents an opportunity to head off a problem before it starts, in the not-too-distant future it may represent a real risk to life."

German Military Braces For Peak Oil

Posted by timothy
September 11, 2010

myrdos2 writes "A study by a German military think tank leaked to the Internet warns of the potential for a dire global economic crisis in as little as 15 years as a result of a peak and an irreversible decline in world oil supplies. The study states that there is 'some probability that peak oil will occur around the year 2010 and that the impact on security is expected to be felt 15 to 30 years later. ... In the medium term the global economic system and every market-oriented national economy would collapse.' The report closely matches one from the US military earlier this year, which stated that surplus oil production capacity could disappear within two years and there could be serious shortages by 2015 with a significant economic and political impact."

Anti-aircraft laser unveiled at Farnborough Airshow

By Daniel Emery, BBC Technology reporter
July 19, 2010

UAV shot down by anti-aircraft energy laser

US firm Raytheon has unveiled its anti-aircraft laser at the Farnborough Airshow in Hampshire.

The Laser Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) can either be used on its own or alongside a gunnery system.

In May, the laser was used to shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in a series of tests.

Raytheon said the solid state fibre laser produces a 50 kilowatt beam and can be used against UAV, mortar, rockets and small surface ships.

The idea of using lasers as weapons has been around almost as long as the laser itself, invented in 1960.

Initially, the systems were chemical lasers, which get their power from a chemical reaction. They are very large pieces of equipment and are very fuel hungry, requiring a significant quantity of chemicals to drive them. The fuel is frequently toxic, requiring operators to don protective clothing.

Solid state lasers, in contrast, consist of a glass or ceramic material to generate a laser beam.

They are smaller, more compact and only require an energy input to generate the beam, although the energy required is still significant.

However, until recently, solid state lasers were not able to reach the same power levels as chemical lasers and so were not deemed suitable for military use.

'Last defence'

Peter Felstead, editor of Jane's Defence Weekly, told BBC News that CIWS was the start of real world applications for military solid state lasers.

"OK, so a UAV isn't armoured, nor is it flying fast, but as you can see from the video they shot it down in flames," he said.

"That's the very beginnings of what we can expect to see as firms miniaturise their technology and make them more effective."

Speaking to BBC News, Raytheon Missile Systems' vice president, Mike Booen, said that the tests, performed in a maritime environment, were a big step forward for laser technology.

"We've tied this into Phalanx, the US Navy's anti-missile defence system that links a multiple barrelled 20mm Gatling gun to a radar guidance mechanism.

"This system is already installed in many ships, both in the US and other Nato nations, such as the Royal Navy.

"It functions as the last line of defence, so if you can fit a laser onto it, you have a longer reach and an unlimited magazine, cause it keeps on throwing out photons," he added.

Two problems that have dogged laser weapon development for some time are weather conditions and the target itself. Damp maritime air can absorb the laser energy before it reaches the target and - as developers discovered in the 1960s when trying to target Russian Mig aircraft - a reflective surface can negate much of the laser's effectiveness.

Mr Booen acknowledges this, but said that these problems could be overcome.

"Every material reflects, but you can overcome this with power; once you get over a certain threshold - measured in multiple kilowatts - then the laser does what it is designed to do," he said.

Mr Booen said that once a material started getting hot, it affected the reflective ability, making the target absorb more energy and eventually leading to its destruction.

Land use

In May, the firm knocked out a number of UAVs at the US Navy test range on San Nicolas Island off the coast of California.

Although Raytheon would not give details of the height, speed and range of the UAVs, saying that data "sensitive", it did say that the Navy wanted tests to be as realistic as possible, suggesting that the aircraft were behaving in the way military planners would expect them to.

"This is the first time a UAV threat has been targeted and neutralised in a marine environment," said Mr Booen

"On a ship, the laser can be mounted inside a ship and the beam fed up through fibre cables.

"It was a bad day for UAVs and a good one for laser technology," he added.

The firm is also working on a sister land based system that can be used to target mortar and rocket rounds.

"On land, it could be mounted in trailers so it has applications across the globe," said Mr Booen.

Mr Felstead agreed, saying it could have "great capability" as a last line of defence in many situations.

"There are numerous real world applications for a laser than can knock out airborne threats, especially mortars and rockets.

"Airbases in Afghanistan, the Green Zone in Baghdad or the border with Gaza and Israel could all potentially use something like this.

"We're still some way off being able to take out an [Intercontinental Ballistic Missile] missile with laser technology, but we're on the path to that," he added.

Chrysler's Gun-Toting Pickup Truck
August 13, 2010

Chrysler's Ram truck division is taking direct aim at hunters with a unique feature on its new line of Outdoorsman pickup trucks - a gun closet.

Called the The Mopar RamBox Holster, its a rack that can hold two rifles or shotguns inside one of the lockable, watertight compartments located on either side of the pickup bed.

A $205 option - on top of the $1895 price of the RamBox feature itself - the rack can be rotated to hold six fishing poles for those who prefer quieter trips into the great outdoors.

The Outdoorsman starts at $28,350 and includes standard features like scratch-resistant bumpers, puncture-resistant tires, and a towing package. Buyers can order the trimline on most Ram models, including heavy duty and long wheelbase versions.

Cyborg professor looks to future of bionic technology

By Alex Pasternack, Motherboard Editor
September 21, 2010

Story Highlights

* Kevin Warwick had radio frequency ID chip implanted in his arm in 1998
* Implant allows him to turn on lights by snapping fingers, open doors without touching them
* Warwick says he doesn't want to turn into a robot, he wants to be a better human

Editor's note: The staff at has recently been intrigued by the journalism of VICE, an independent media company and website based in Brooklyn, New York. VBS.TV  is Vice's broadband television network. The reports, which are produced solely by VICE, reflect a transparent approach to journalism, where viewers are taken along on every step of the reporting process. We believe this unique reporting approach is worthy of sharing with our readers.

Brooklyn, New York (VBS.TV) -- In 1998, Kevin Warwick became what some people call "the world's first cyborg." To be exact, Warwick, a professor of cybernetics at Reading University, had a radio frequency ID chip implanted in his arm. Years before RFID chips became common, this small implant allowed him to turn on lights by snapping his fingers, or open doors without touching them.

Once, after connecting his nerves to an array of electrodes in 2002, he let his wife use her brain waves to take control of his body. It was the first time the nervous systems of two humans had communicated electronically. "It was quite an intimate feeling," he says.

This isn't just for fun, Warwick tells, VBS' technology channel. He is certain that without upgrading, we humans will someday fall behind the advances of the robots we're building -- or worse. "Someday we'll switch on that machine, and we won't be able to switch it off," he says, sounding a note of alarm that clashes with the cheery visions of futurists like Ray Kurzweil. That might explain why he has very little technology at home, and counts "The Terminator" among his biggest influences.

Warwick doesn't want to turn into a robot: He wants to be a better human. Augmenting human ability, not turning into an automaton, is, after all, the premise of the "cyborg." One of the term's earliest uses, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, was in a 1960 New York Times article: "A cyborg is essentially a man-machine system in which the control mechanisms of the human portion are modified externally by drugs or regulatory devices so that the being can live in an environment different from the normal one."

See the rest of "The Cyborg" at VBS.TV

Today, the argument for cybernetics may seem more imperative than ever. Already the latest bionic technologies are allowing deaf children to hear and disabled war veterans to run again. Technologists, meanwhile, see "augmented reality" applications for smartphones as doing something similar for our brains, fortifying them for life in a world overflowing with data.

For now, Warwick, who will be awarded the Ellison-Cliffe Medal from the Royal Society of Medicine in 2011, is using his research into brain interfaces and autonomous robots to provide better insight into how memories are formed, and learn how to better treat brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. "Technology, directly integrated with the brain, can help overcome some problems people have," says Warwick. Brain implants could keep people fit, making sure, for instance, "you don't eat that chocolate cake that you want."

But the possibilities may also be stranger than we have yet imagined. Someday, says Warwick, humans could become "a curiosity for the machines."

" 'Look at that -- that's where we were in historical times,' they will think to each other."

Electromagnetic Pulse Cannon has the Attention of the USAF

By John Messina
January 21, 2010

According to Flight International, a Canadian company will soon demo an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) cannon that is capable of stopping a car at a distance of 656 feet (200m).

The EMP cannon will only work on cars that have on board computers. The disabling power relies on the car’s microprocessors and various other electronics that controls the engine.

Flight International found a Request For Information (RFI) by the US Air Force's Air Armament Center for a non-lethal weapon that can stop cars.

The RFI is seeking information that could lead to development of an air-delivered capability to disable moving ground vehicles while minimizing harm to occupants. The USAF is looking for responses that take advantage of existing infrastructure so that cost and development time can be kept to a minimum.

Eureka Aerospace, which is being funded by the US Marine Corps and the Office of the Secretary of Defense, will be demonstrating an improved version of its car stopper next month for the Marines at Dahlgren naval warfare center.

The device consists of a 1.2m-wide "flat screen-like" antenna weighting about 50-55 lbs. With that aperture size, cars can be disabled up to 200m away by disrupting their electrical systems. One drawback to this system is that it can’t be used on mid 1970’s or older cars because they don’t have the necessary electronics.

This device can also prove to be a valuable weapon for law enforcement. High speed car chases occur every day and usually end up in fatalities of innocent people. By retrofitting this device to a police helicopter, car chases can be greatly reduced.

More information:

Double-Bladed Chopper Flies 300 MPH -- a World Record?
September 16, 2010

A wild new design for helicopters is proving successful -- and may set an official air speed record.

According to Sikorsky, which manufactured the futuristic X2 helicopter, the chopper flew a blistering 250 knots during testing on Wednesday, and reached 260 knots (or 300 mph) during a controlled dive.

"The aerospace industry today has a new horizon," said Sikorsky President Jeffrey P. Pino. "The X2 Technology demonstrator continues to prove its potential as a game-changer, and Sikorsky Aircraft is proud to be advancing this innovative technology and to continue our company's pioneering legacy."

The old rotary-wing air speed record of 249 miles per hour had been set in 1986, and the new design clearly exceeds those speeds, having already bested the quarter-century old record handily in early August -- earning it the unofficial title of fastest helicopter on the planet.

But without a representative from the the National Aeronautic Association on hand, the official record for a helicopter still belongs to the British-made Westland Lynx ZB-500, flown by John Egginton in 1986, at a paltry 216 knots, or 249 mph.

"Our primary key performance parameter has been met," said Jim Kagdis, Program Manager for Sikorsky Advanced Programs. "The 250-knot milestone was established as the goal of the demonstrator from its inception. It's exciting to imagine how our customers will use this capability."

How fast it will ultimately go still remains to be seen.

"The aircraft is doing a little better than predicted," the chief test pilot said in a conference call with reporters, adding that the X2's top speed could be 15 knots faster.

Ultra high speeds have traditionally posed problems for helicopters due to the complex aerodynamics of moving rotor blades, such as those on the tail that counter the torque of the main rotor. Sirkorsky has addressed this issue with a six-blade, rear-facing propeller that generates thrust in a manner similar to fixed-wing aircraft.

Most important, Sirkorsky has been able to integrate these speed enhancements without compromising other flight qualities such as hovering, handling, and smooth transitioning from low to high speeds.

Sirkorsky believes that there will be many relevant applications for a well-rounded high speed chopper, such as high speed transport in remote locations. But at this time there are still no plans for a production version.

Navy's drone death ray takes out targets

By Nathan Hodge, Wired
May 31, 2010

Story Highlights

* U.S. Navy is one step closer to a workable ray gun with the Laser Weapon System
* LaWS has "successfully tracked, engaged, and destroyed" a drone in flight
* LaWS is essentially a laser upgrade to the MK 15 Close In Weapon System

For years, the U.S. Navy has been pursuing a workable ray gun that could provide a leap ahead in ship self-defenses.

Now, with a series of tests of a system called the Laser Weapon System, or LaWS), it may be one step closer to that goal.

Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), the service's technology development arm, announced today that LaWS had "successfully tracked, engaged, and destroyed" a drone in flight, during an over-the-water engagement at San Nicholas Island, California.

It's certainly not the first time lasers have shot down an unmanned aerial vehicle -- last year, the Air Force zapped several drones with beam weapons in a series of tests at China Lake, California, -- but this test brings an additional bit of realism -- and an extra technical challenge.

Laser beams can lose strength as they move through the moist, salty sea atmosphere above the sea, so the Navy needs directed-energy weapons that can work effectively on ships.

The LaWS is essentially a laser upgrade to the MK 15 Close In Weapon System (CIWS), a.k.a. the Phalanx gun, a radar-guided autocannon that is already installed on Navy surface combatants.

According to NAVSEA, the system tested (shown here) fired a laser through a beam director installed on a tracking mount, which in turn was controlled by a Mk 15 CIWS. That's the basically same system that controls the Phalanx.

It represents a possible next step for the Phalanx system, which is currently limited by the range of its 20mm autocannon (Raytheon, manufacturer of the Phalanx, is also marketing a missile system to replace the gun).

The Phalanx is a last line of defense against sea-skimming anti-ship missiles and hostile aircraft, but the laser wouldn't replace the gun completely.

Theoretically, directed energy weapons would increase the range of the system, but you would still have the gun as a backup if the laser fails to do the job.

LaWS might also have other applications: land-based Phalanx guns have been used to shoot down incoming rockets and mortars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a laser Phalanx could -- theoretically -- avoid the problem of the "20mm shower" (unexploded rounds falling back to earth).

Air Force Eyeing Microwave 'E-Ray' for Stealth Drones?

By David Axe
November 11, 2010

Taking down an enemy’s air defenses — his radars, missile launchers and command centers — is a prerequisite for large-scale air campaigns. Today, jet fighters packing radar-seeking missiles do the heavy-lifting in the so-called “Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses” mission. In the future, that dangerous task might fall on stealthy drones armed with electronics-frying microwave weapons.

That is, if the Air Force can ever get the combination to work. The drones are coming along just fine. The microwave weapons … not so much.

After years of research costing tens of millions of dollars, the Pentagon doesn’t seem to be any closer to a working “e-bomb,” “e-missile” or “e-ray.” This class of weapon has “seemingly intractable cost, size, beam-control and power-generation requirements,” according to Aviation Week. But with bad guys’ air defenses getting more lethal by the year, the Air Force isn’t giving up.

In what appears to be at least the fifth Pentagon e-munition push in recent years, last week the Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin a $230,000 contract for microwave-weapon concept development, aiming to begin defining a “high-power microwave energy weapon” that would “destroy electronic equipment without endangering personnel.”

Some previous efforts tried packing a microwave emitter into a bomb or missile. The latest try seems to emphasize a beam weapon. “The contract also involves the development of … a concept of packaging the high-power microwave source system into an aerial platform,” according to Lockheed. The company has until next year to study the idea.

For starters, the platform could be Lockheed’s mysterious RQ-170 stealth drone, pictured. According to Bill Sweetman at Ares, the Air Force might already have tapped the recently-unveiled RQ-170 for defense-suppression missions using “electronic attack” systems. Unless the Pentagon has some other radar-frying ray weapon up its sleeve — and it just might — that means microwaves. Further along, the future MQ-X drone could take on the defense-suppression mission, armed with the same e-weapons.

In any case, don’t hold your breath. Those old cost, size, control and power issues facing microwave munitions are probably still pretty daunting. For now, RQ-170s will probably have to rely on other weapons to suppress the enemy’s defenses. If the Air Force’s latest e-weapon push works, a microwave ray might be ready for action around the time the MQ-X enters service in the 2020s.

Navy Works to Laser-Proof Its Drones

By Noah Shachtman
August 02, 2010

In May and June, the U.S. Navy sent four drones crashing into the Pacific Ocean, after blasting them with a prototype laser weapon. If follow-up tests are successful, there’s a chance the ray gun might be ready for deployment some time around 2016. Other countries’ energy weapons will come years afterward — if they ever come at all. But the Navy isn’t taking any chances. It’s pushing ahead with research to laser-proof its drones, just in case anyone else has the bright idea of using ray guns to down America’s robot planes.

“Directed Energy Weapons (DEWs) are an emerging weapon technology with the ability to change the face of the battlefield…. As the technology matures, other countries will undoubtedly pursue DEW development. Therefore it is imperative that the United States develop countermeasures to defend U.S. forces and assets against the DEW threat,” the Navy recently noted, as it announced a pair of contracts to start work on countering the blasters.

Irvine, California’s Adsys Controls, Inc. is starting work on an “early threat detection mechanism that occurs prior to high-power engagement and the ability to deploy novel countermeasures to disrupt the DEW tracking mechanisms.”

Austin, Texas’ Nanohmics, Inc. will begin development of a laser detector that can be mounted on drones, so the unmanned aircraft can spot the ray guns before the ray guns zap them. The idea is to protect the spy cameras and other sensors on board the robo-planes. The “low-cost” system, to be “constructed from light and extremely low-cost glass or injection-molded polymers,” would give the drone time to “quickly take evasive action or engage optical sensor protection systems.”

It’s not the first push by the American military to defend against this still-hypothetical threat. The Navy announced last year that it wanted to “counte[r] or negat[e]” ray guns’ effects on “troops or civilian personnel.” Navy researchers are also looking into ways to laser-proof its ships using “metamaterials” — the spooky substances that could one day work as real-world invisibility cloaks.

The Air Force, for its part, is focusing on shielding U.S. bombs from enemy energy weapons. American precision munitions rely on GPS receivers and other electronics to direct them to the right place. Bursts of high-powered radio frequency energy could fry those electronics, turning those smart bombs dumb. So the Air Force is looking for researchers to come up with “protection/mitigation techniques,” including software changes and absorbent coatings.

In phase one of the program, researchers will build an ersatz bomb and evaluate coatings to block the radio frequencies, according to an Air Force request for proposals. In phase two, simulated circuits will be added, “selected shielding and coatings applied, and their effectiveness verified. Hardening of electronics will also be employed as necessary to demonstrate survivability.” Phase three ends with an “‘operational’ flight simulation,” complete with electromagnetic blasts.

$2,000 Car Up in Smoke? Tata Nanos Catching Fire,2933,569627,00.html

The Times of London and
October 26, 2009

Tata Motors, maker of the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, ruled out a recall of the tiny runabout yesterday in spite of three incidents in which fires started spontaneously in the steering column.

Tata, which sells the basic version of the Nano in India for 100,000 rupees ($2,000) plus taxes, said that a short circuit in the combination switch that controls the headlights, windscreen wipers and indicators was probably responsible for the incidents.

Sunil Kumar Panwanda, whose Nano caught fire in Delhi, said that his daughter parked the car outside his home on Tuesday afternoon. Three hours later it was “in flames and smoking”, he told The Times. “I had bought the car for my children and they are now terrified of driving it,” he said in an interview with a local news channel. “I want the company to refund my money and take back the vehicle.”

Ravindra Bhagat, another Nano owner, whose car caught on fire in the city of Ahmedabad, said: “I bought the car because Ratan Tata [the head of Tata] drove and introduced it. I thought this small car will be convenient for daily use in the city. Now, I feel it is better to drive a big car. Even if I get a replacement, I will not accept it.”

Click here for the rest of this story from The Times of London

Tata rules out Nano recall despite three reports of cars catching fire

By Rhys Blakely in Mumbai
The Times of London
October 22, 2009

Tata Motors, maker of the Nano, the world’s cheapest car, ruled out a recall of the tiny runabout yesterday in spite of three incidents in which fires started spontaneously in the steering column.

Tata, which sells the basic version of the Nano in India for 100,000 rupees (£1,300) plus taxes, said that a short circuit in the combination switch that controls the headlights, windscreen wipers and indicators was probably responsible for the incidents.

Sunil Kumar Panwanda, whose Nano caught fire in Delhi, said that his daughter parked the car outside his home on Tuesday afternoon. Three hours later it was “in flames and smoking”, he told The Times. “I had bought the car for my children and they are now terrified of driving it,” he said in an interview with a local news channel. “I want the company to refund my money and take back the vehicle.”

Ravindra Bhagat, another Nano owner, whose car caught on fire in the city of Ahmedabad, said: “I bought the car because Ratan Tata [the head of Tata] drove and introduced it. I thought this small car will be convenient for daily use in the city. Now, I feel it is better to drive a big car. Even if I get a replacement, I will not accept it.”

Another fire was reported in the city of Lucknow. There were no reports of injuries in any of the incidents.

Tata denied that the cars had caught fire. The company said that there had been “minor smoking ... and a localised melting of some of the fire-retardant plastic parts”.

A spokesman for Tata Motors, which owns Jaguar and Land Rover in Britain, said that the company was considering carrying out “pre-emptive audit checks” on new Nanos to stamp out the fault. It may also ask the owners of the 7,500 cars it has delivered to bring them in to be inspected.

It denied, however, that the car, which it eventually plans to bring to Britain, would have to be redesigned and said that a recall was not planned. The spokesman said: “We do not believe this is a generic fault.”

Analysts believe that the problem is probably due to a batch of faulty parts supplied to Tata.

The malfunction is the latest in a series of glitches to have beset a model that was heralded as ushering in a new era of super-thrifty engineering and lauded as an emblem of India’s status as an emerging economic power when first unveiled in Delhi last January.

In March this year the “people’s car” was launched commercially amid great fanfare in Mumbai. However, Tata faced a big hurdle in its mission to bring four-wheel motoring within the reach of India’s motorcycle-riding middle classes: a relatively small production output of only 50,000 units in its first year.

The paucity of supply was the result of a dispute over the land on which Tata was building a factory to produce the Nano — a row that became emblematic of the social tensions that India faces as it strives to emulate the manufacturing might of China. Tata eventually abandoned the site, at a cost of as much as $350 million.

Such has been the level of hype surrounding the Nano, however, that industry watchers believe its problems are unlikely to put off buyers.

Darius Lam, of Autocar Professional, the Mumbai trade magazine, said that the relatively small number of cars on the road would help the company to contain the problem.

He said that Indian consumers were accustomed to new products requiring “re-engineering” before they worked perfectly. “The excitement that surrounds the Nano means any malfunction will make headlines, but I don’t think any long-term stigma will stick.”

Shares in Tata Motors closed down almost 4 per cent in Mumbai.

'Nowhere to Hide': U.S. Army Testing New 'Smart' Weapons in Afghanistan

The XM-25 Soon Will See Combat; Precision Rounds Can Be Programmed to Explode Before Impact

By Sarah Netter
ABC News
November 18, 2010

Nine years into the war in Afghanistan, a handful of U.S. soldiers have a new weapon in hand, a lethal combination of technology and explosives that the Army has called a "game changer."

Looking like it came straight out of a sci-fi movie, the XM-25 fires highly specialized rounds that can be programmed to explode at the precise location where the enemy is hiding behind cover.

Consider it a beefed up take on the old adage "boys and their toys."

Five of the high-tech, semi-automatic weapons arrived in the war-torn country this month and soon will be tested in combat.

"This weapon makes our forces more lethal, it makes them more effective and it keeps them safer," said Lt. Col. Christopher Lehner, the project manager for individual weapons at Program Executive Office Soldier, which developed the XM-25. "This is the first time that we've put smart technology in the weapons system for the individual soldier."

Though the XM-25 has tested well in the United States, military brass will be watching the weapon's performance in real-life combat to assess not only how well it performs, but also what weapons it might end up replacing.

Soldiers currently up against insurgents ducking for cover behind fortified walls have little choice but either to fire highly explosive 40mm grenades or mortar rounds, which are effective, but often inaccurate, or to leave their own cover and maneuver to fire direct shots, which puts American lives at risk.

Enter the XM-25.

"We're talking about seconds to neutralize the enemy, versus minutes," Lehner said.

Crouching behind his own cover, a U.S. soldier armed with the XM-25 can point his weapon at the wall behind which the enemy is hiding to get the precise distance. The rounds, which come four to a magazine plus one in the chamber, can then be programmed to travel just a short distance behind that to explode precisely where the insurgent is believed to be hiding.

With the scope aimed at the top of the wall, the round will fire and explode before impact, at the precise location programmed by the soldier, raining a hail of explosives and fragments on to the enemy.

It all takes mere seconds -- five to program and fire, two for travel.

The rounds also take into account air pressure and temperature to accurately hit their marks.

"Our soldiers can stay behind cover and shoot this weapon at the enemy who's behind cover and we can take him out," Lehner said. "But they can't take us out because we're behind cover and they don't have this weapon."

Analyst Praises XM-25, but Questions Whether It's Enough

The precision also has the potential to go a long way to soothe politics between the military and the Afghanistan government, which has come down on U.S. forces for what it says is a high number of unnecessary civilian casualties.

"With all the latest political pressures with the Afghanistan government placing on our soldiers and our tactics we use ... this helps them to eliminate the problems we're seeing down range," Lehner said, citing airstrikes with a lot of collateral damage as a sore spot for the Afghans.

The first five XM-25s arrived in Afghanistan earlier this month and have been tested on a range there. The rounds arrived on Tuesday.

Lehner said the weapons will be in combat within days, before the end of the month, though he declined to reveal exactly where they would be used.

The U.S. military plans to order 12,500 XM-25s at a cost of $25,000 to $35,000 each. The rounds, about the size of a roll of quarters, cost between $25 and $35 each. Though the initial plan is to put an XM-25 with each squad and Special Forces team, the combat assessment, he said, will help gauge whether the military needs to order more, which will drive the price down.

Dan Goure, vice president of the Arlington, Va.- based think tank, the Lexington Institute, said the XM-25 goes a long way toward correcting what he sees as major deficiencies in military operations. But, he said, the Army needs to reach a bit farther.

While the Department of Defense has sunk large sums of money into tanks and vehicle-mounted weaponry, the "dismounted warrior" was left largely exposed, a "huge" problem in a place like Afghanistan where soldiers are charged with hiking into dense hillsides where no vehicle could ever travel.

"What we had not spent a lot of time working on was the equipment, personal equipment, guns and weapons for the dismounted soldiers," he said.

The XM-25, he said, is a good upgrade, though he stopped short of agreeing with Lehner's "game changer" assessment.

Goure, who served on the 2001 Department of Defense transition team, praised the ability of the weapon to be useful both in urban settings and caves.

"The nice thing about it is I don't have to carry two or three different weapons or two or three different shells," Goure said. "It's certainly an important step forward because it provides much heavier firepower to the dismounted squad and that's hugely important."

But he questioned whether the rounds were high-powered enough, opining that the small rounds may have limited explosive capacity.

"Is it going to be enough or do you need still a heavier duty" weapon? he asked. "You'd like something that might be a bit longer-range, a bit heavier in explosive power."

"Short of that," he said, "it is pretty good."

U.S. Army: Other Countries 'Years Behind' With Similar Technology

Development of the XM-25 has been about 10 years in the making. It first was fired on a test range on Aug. 11, 2009.

The guns also have made an appearance in video simulators to train soldiers and even online games for civilians, including "America's Army."

Lehner, who penned an article on the weapon titled, "Nowhere to Hide," said he's confident it's the only weapon of its kind.

Through a lot of "war gaming," he said, the United States knows other militaries are working on high explosive airburst technology, but are "years behind."

"We have to stay ahead of the technology curve," he said. "If we don't, someone's going to get ahead of us."

But eventually, they will catch up, Lehner acknowledged. And then the Army will start all over again.

"You cannot prevent enemy forces from developing whatever they're going to develop," he said. "Sooner or later, they're going to get it, so maybe you should have it first."

6-Wheeled Sports Car Headed for Production

Jalopnik and
December 02, 2010

After 32 years of development, the Covini Engineering team claims this is the production version of the six-wheeled C6W it finally is unveiling this week. The future is now.

The unusual sports car takes its engineering inspiration from the Tyrell P34 Formula 1 race car of 1976. The Tyrell had two pairs of 10-inch front wheels to improve downforce, increase traction and provide a smaller frontal area to reduce drag.

Although the specific engineering behind the Tyrell P34 doesn’t necessarily translate to the C6W, when we spoke to company founder Ferruccio Covini two years ago he provided several reasons why he’s creating his modern-day six-wheeler.

Covini says his unusual design provides:

* Less risk of front tires deflating.
* Less risk of aquaplaning.
* Better braking.
* Better grip.
* Better comfort.
* Better absorption of frontal impact.

Covini now tells us he’ll finally bring what he calls a “production version” of the Covini C6W to the Racing Professional Motor Show in Bologna this week. Power for this rear-wheel-drive, six-wheeled beast comes from a 4.2-liter Audi channeling 433 horsepower and 346 pound-feet of torque through a six-speed manual gearbox. Top speed is expected to be 185 mph.

But that’s not all. Covini also let slip that Covini Engineering will prepare a new diesel supercar next year along with a new, as yet unnamed project. Look for announcements from the show. And for the moment, sate your thirst for six-wheeled awesomeness with this video of a prototype C6W on the track:

Covini C6W on track

We have to love the idea of any car that follows the maxim, “If two wheels are bad and four wheels are good, then six wheels must be awesome.”  But as always, we’ll believe it when we see it in the cold metal and six-wheeled flesh.

Editor's note: Two wheels are awesome, Ray. Always.

KERS Comes to Cars as Jaguar Tests Flywheel Hybrid

By Chuck Squatriglia
October 28, 2010

Kinetic-energy recovery systems didn’t fare well in Formula 1, but a bunch of British automotive companies bet the technology will catch on with road cars.

A consortium led by a Jaguar Land Rover is developing a flywheel-hybrid system that it says boosts performance by 60 kilowatts (about 80 horsepower) while improving fuel efficiency 20 percent. The consortium, which includes automakers like Ford and engineering firms like Prodrive, sees a market for flywheel hybrids among luxury automakers.

“We have investigated the base technology, built the prototype and will be testing it in the next few months to see if it lives up to its potential,” said Pete Richings, Jaguar Land Rover chief engineer.

Kinetic-energy recovery systems first gained widespread attention in Formula 1, as teams like McLaren and Ferrari experimented with KERS last year. The technology flopped, but Ferrari adopted in the 599 Hy-KERS concept car, and there’s speculation McLaren’s road car division is exploring hybrid drivetrains.

Jaguar’s system uses a flywheel. During braking, a small continuously variable transmission (CVT) mounted on the rear differential transfers the kinetic energy to a flywheel. When the driver applies the accelerator, the flywheel returns the energy through the CVT to the wheels, providing a boost of 60 kilowatts for around 7 seconds. The flywheel spins at up to 60,000 rpm.

Porsche is using an electromechanical flywheel hybrid system with generator-motors in the 911 GT3-R Hybrid race car this season.

Jaguar is testing its purely mechanical flywheel system, which reportedly weighs 143 pounds, in an XF sedan. Jaguar says it is superior to battery-electric hybrid systems because flywheels are smaller, cheaper and more efficient. Instead of converting kinetic energy into electricity that is stored in a battery, the CVT transfers the energy directly to the flywheel and then back to the wheels.

The Flywheel Hybrid System for Premium Vehicles consortium includes Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, Prodrive, Torotrak, Xtrac, Flybrid Systems and Ricardo.

Photo and graphics: Flywheel Hybrid System for Premium Vehicles. Top photo shows the flywheel-hybrid system mounted to the rear differential.

Navy Launches Pilot With an Electromagnetic Shove [Updated]

By Spencer Ackerman
December 20, 2010

Steam-fired Navy planes are so passe. Over the weekend, the Navy used a huge electric charge to catapult a manned flight into the air.

Naval aviation officials are tight-lipped about the test launch for now and we don’t know if the test went according to plan. But Danger Room has confirmed that the Navy’s experimental Electromagnetic Aviation Launch System completed tests on Saturday and Sunday of the deck catapult of the future from its test-bed home at Lakehurst, New Jersey. That’s somewhat behind schedule from reports indicating EMALS was supposed to provide a manned flight launch by the fall. We’re told to await a full roll-out of the test results, possibly later today.

What’s the advantage of the so-called EMALS? If it works as manufacturer General Atomics intends, the power provided through EMALS is more easily adjustable than steam catapults, allowing it to launch everything from fighter jets to small drones — steam isn’t good for launching smaller aircraft — all with less wasted energy. Supposedly it can recharge faster than steam, allowing more rapid launching. The system will draw its power from the generators aboard its next-generation Ford-class aircraft carrier, which the Navy wants commissioned by September 2015 despite recent cost over-runs.

This isn’t EMALS’ first test: testing with dead weights began at Lakehurst, launching the weights at speeds up to 180 knots. Aviation Week’s Bill Sweetman reported in June, “So far, tests show no signs that the powerful electrical surges cause electromagnetic interference with aircraft, ammunition or ejection seats.”

We don’t yet know what kind of plane EMALS launched this weekend (an F/A-18 Super Hornet, I presume?); how much energy was required and generated; or what the generated speeds were. But if the test succeeded, it’ll be some good news for a program that hit a snag in January, when equipment failure caused a three-month test delay. General Atomics has to deliver its electric catapult to the Newport News shipyard by May 2011 in order to meet the U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford’s production schedule, so the test helps determine the future of the next-gen supercarrier.

Navy watchers are looking at EMALS closely, since outfitting the Ford with steam catapults instead is estimated to cause a year-plus delay in the carrier. The outgoing chairman of the House’s shipbuilding subcommittee warned this summer that if EMALS fails, “the nation has paid billions of dollars for an unusable ship.”

We’ll update you when we have more on this weekend’s EMALS test.

Update, 6:15 p.m.: Here’s the Navy’s official release heralding the successful launch, using — yep — a Super Hornet. Christopher Cavas at Navy Times has more, as does John Reed at DOD Buzz.

Video: Navy’s Electromagnetic Plane Launch

By Spencer Ackerman
December 21, 2010

Has the era of the steam-powered airplane catapult ended? The Navy released this video today to suggest that future of shipboard airplane launch is all electromagnetic.

As Danger Room first reported yesterday, the Navy successfully got an F/A-18E Super Hornet airborne using its new-model catapult, the Electromagnetic Aviation Launch System, or EMALS. To call the Navy stoked would be an understatement: not only is the new launch system supposed to be more efficient than steam, it’s better capable to launch small drones as well as big planes, giving aircraft carriers a broader range of options. Any press release that begins “The Navy made history Saturday…” isn’t playing around.

But the Navy wasn’t just excited, it was also relieved. Had the previously-unproven EMALS failed, the next-generation Ford class aircraft carrier, a core service priority, would have to be re-designed to include steam catapults. In other words: screwed.

No matter now. Here’s a clip of EMALS launching its first manned flight on Saturday at its Lakehurst, New Jersey test facility. Commented Lt. Daniel Radocaj, the test pilot who made the first launch, “I got excited once I was on the catapult but I went through the same procedures as on a steam catapult. The catapult stroke felt similar to a steam catapult and EMALS met all of the expectations I had.”

Navy Uses Electromagnets to Launch Fighter Jet
December 24, 2010

A railgun is designed to fire bullets without using explosive charges, relying on the repulsive force of electromagnetism instead. And the Navy has found a way to use that power to propel jet planes, too.

In a test conducted December 18 at a test site in Lakehurst, N.J., Naval Air Systems Command launched an F/A-18E Super Hornet using the power of electromagnets -- a technology the Navy hopes will eventually replace the archaic-sounding steam power currently used to catapult planes from the decks of aircraft carriers.

“I thought the launch went great,” said Lt. Daniel Radocaj, the test pilot from Air Test and Evaluation Squadron 23 who piloted the first plane propelled by the new technology, which the Navy has named Electromagnetic Aircraft Launch System, or EMALS.

“I got excited once I was on the catapult, but I went through the same procedures as on a steam catapult. The catapult stroke felt similar to a steam catapult and EMALS met all of the expectations I had.”

Newer, heavier and faster aircraft will require more force to catapult from the carrier decks than steam-powered systems can supply. Electromagnets will be able to deliver, and allow for smooth acceleration at both high and low speeds, increasing the carrier’s ability to launch aircraft, the Navy said in a press release.

The technology was first tested out by the Navy in 2004 with a full-scale, half-length prototype, where more than 1,500 launches were conducted. The EMALS will be a key element on the next-generation carrier U.S.S. Gerald R. Ford. Had this newest test failed, Wired's Danger Room pointed out, the Ford would have to be re-designed to include steam catapults.

The Navy made headlines at the beginning of the month by testing a new weapon also based on railgun technology, which used electromagnetic current to accelerate a non-explosive bullet at several times the speed of sound. The conductive projectile zips along a set of electrically charged parallel rails and out of the barrel at speeds up to Mach 7.

The result: a weapon that can hit a target 100 miles or more away within minutes.

An electromagnetic railgun offers a velocity previously unattainable in a conventional weapon, speeds that are incredibly powerful on their own. In fact, since the projectile doesn't have any explosives itself, it relies upon that kinetic energy to do damage. And at 11 a.m. today, the Navy produced a 33-megajoule firing -- more than three times the previous record set by the Navy in 2008.

The Secret Soviet Laser Tank

By Jesus Diaz
December 20, 2010

I don't know how much firepower this secret Soviet laser tank has, but it sure looks like the kind of thing I'd like to have handy in case of alien invasion.

It isn't nearly as deadly as the 33-megajoules Navy railgun, that's for sure. In fact, the 1K17 tank—which used 66-pound synthetic ruby rods at the heart of its laser system—wasn't designed to destroy enemy fighters. Its objective was to blind pilots and weapons systems, dazzling optical and electronic mechanisms even under the most severe weather conditions. Or that's what they claim, anyway.

Recently uncovered in a military museum near Moscow, the laser tank was the culmination of Stiletto, another laser vehicle that was accepted for service but was never mass-produced. The 1K17 entered service in 1992. It had US intelligence a bit worried, but more because of the secrecy surrounding it than for any knowledge of its actual capabilities or destructive power. Shortly after the collapse of the Soviet Union, the project was canceled because Boris Yeltsin preferred vodka missiles over ruby pew pew. [Otvaga via English Russia]

Send an email to Jesus Diaz, the author of this post, at