After being reminded that North Korea could well have ballistic missles capable of hitting North America, I did a quick search on ABM systems to see how close we were to having some sort of working protection from a launch.
Unfortunately, about 99 percent of a search that includes “plasma” brings up gaming related items. Hoping some folks who understand the physics can explain this thing in layman’s terms.
Is the science behind this real or just some overhyped dreams that look good but aren’t technically feasable?
Jane’s seems to suggest that the US has or is close to a working system that was taken “dark” in or about 1998. However, wouldn’t this working system be something to trumpet? Anyone seen anything else out there in the technology areas? Are we talking viable weapon here? How soon could we field it?
The two reports seem to suggest different strike methods. The Russian report seems to say the plasma charge would result in an atmospheric disturbance with resulting overpressures leading to destruction of the target, while Jane’s seems to suggest the effect would be more an electrical disruption. What would be the likely effects of a “plasma bullet”? Would the weapons as described be considered directed energy or projectile type?
What the heck am I talking about when I say “plasma”, anyway?
Of course, in order to have an effective weapon, you’re going to need one heck of a power supply! Where you’re going to get that, without using nuclear energy, I have no idea. IIRC, bbeaty, has played around with such things.
I read somewhere that one type of plasma cannon that you could build was a railgun without any projectile, just the aluminum foil, and with different shaped electrodes (a “pole” in the middle of a “tube”, instead of two separate rails and a ring-shaped piece of aluminum foil). It kinda “sprays” though, something right in front of the barrel is in big trouble but it doesn’t shoot a long-distance ball of anything. It’s hard on your electric bill too.
You can put together a CO2 laser for just a few hundred bucks and burn stuff with it. I haven’t done it myself, but others have.
It seems to me the main problem with plasma, lasers or whatever is attenuation through the atmosphere. That is, as the projectile/beam/whatever travels it loses potency (just like a flashlight dims over distance). To have an effective weapon (to shoot anything beyond a mile or two) you need a helluva lot of power and that becomes its own problem.
I have no idea how plasma weapons are affected by the atmosphere but it’s something to consider.