The military has always viewed physics as a way to achieve victory over the enemy. Ballistics, based on mathematical and physical laws, has become the "god of war" since the Napoleonic wars. In the past century, atomic physics has provided the military with nuclear and thermonuclear weapons. But the potential of physicists has not yet been exhausted. According to experts, new types of weapons and means of war are next in line. How far scientists have advanced, fulfilling the wishes of the military, and on what principles their development is based, we will see today.
From laser to graser
Science fiction films in which the heroes use laser weapons appeared so long ago that even the word "blaster", meaning a laser pistol, already seems to be something completely old-fashioned. However, laser weapons are never used on this side of the movie screen. Have you forgotten about him? No. Here are two practical implementations of laser technology to get you started.
A-60 is a flying laboratory equipped with a megawatt laser installation, created on the basis of the Il-76MD military transport aircraft. The purpose of this Russian aviation laser complex is to counter the enemy's optical-electronic means. Simply put, it will destroy the optics of reconnaissance satellites with a laser beam in the infrared range. In this case, hitting targets in space is much more effective than ground targets. The upper layers of the atmosphere are less dense, and therefore less scattering of the laser beam. We already have experience in shooting at space targets. In 2009, the A-60 "shot" at the Japanese geophysical satellite Ajisal, flying at an altitude of 1500 km. True, this did not damage the satellite completely covered with reflective elements. It was launched into space in order to reflect laser beams, though not as a training target, but to determine its location for scientific purposes. It must be said that the A-60 is equipped with a laser, which was originally supposed to be located on the Skif orbital platform. Probably, in the future, the laser may still be in orbit. In September of this year, information appeared that work was underway in our country to create an aircraft with a combat laser of a new generation. The laser itself is ready. It remains only to adapt it to the aircraft.
Work on the creation of an aircraft laser was carried out in the United States. They are now stopped. Boeing YAL-1, equipped with a powerful onboard laser, was designed to intercept ballistic and cruise missiles. Despite successful tests (in 2010, two training missiles were destroyed by a laser), the project was closed in 2011. Even taking into account the fact that the power of the oxygen-iodine laser was brought to one megawatt, in real combat conditions it will still be of little use. The power of the laser beam is enough only to warm up the rocket skin to a critical temperature, and then its independent destruction takes place. But if the rocket rotates in flight or is covered with a heat-shielding coating, then the laser will already be useless. And even if the target is hit, spectacular explosions a la "Star Wars" are not to be expected.
Nevertheless, in the American army, laser weapons may appear as early as 2025.The 10-kilowatt High Energy Laser Mobile Test Truck (HELMTT), which can be placed on army armored trucks, was tested in the United States this spring at the Fort Sill military base located in Oklahoma. According to experts, its laser is powerful enough to shoot down drones and destroy mines. By 2020, it is planned to increase its capacity to 100 kilowatts. Less powerful 2-kilowatt lasers are being developed and planned to be installed on Stryker light armored personnel carriers. There are serious plans for the use of lasers in the US Navy. In late 2015, the US Navy signed a contract with Northrop Grumman to develop a 150-kilowatt laser. The laser gun, an experimental model of which is currently being tested, has a power of only 30 kilowatts.
It must be said that the physical basis of the operation of any laser is the existence of the phenomenon of stimulated emission. As a result of this phenomenon, light is amplified, and therefore new possibilities for its use appear, from laser pointers to industrial welding. Light, as we know from physics, is electromagnetic radiation perceived by the human eye. But the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation is not limited to light, to which optics also refers to ultraviolet and infrared radiation. Going beyond the optical range, or rather, into a shorter wavelength range, will theoretically make it possible to create more powerful lasers with destructive power. It should be said here that the first "laser" in the usual sense of the word was a maser - a device in which, with the help of stimulated radiation, the amplification of microwaves lying in the spectrum behind infrared radiation was carried out. It was created in 1954. Six years later, the first optical laser appeared. Further work is being carried out in the direction of X-ray and gamma radiation.
Attempts to create a combat X-ray laser (Razer) were made in the United States during the Cold War. The X-ray sword project was named Excalibur.
But only such a laser requires truly fantastic energy. And it could only be obtained from a nuclear explosion. Tests of a nuclear-pumped X-ray laser took place in March 1983 at a test site in Nevada. According to some reports, similar studies were carried out in the Soviet Union. But the results were not satisfactory. In our time, the X-ray laser is trying to create on the basis of a different technology. This is the so-called X-ray free electron laser. But it is planned to be used only for civilian purposes. At least for now. Gamma lasers, or "grasers" (from Gamma Ray Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation), are already a potential super-powerful gamma-ray weapon. The researchers who were developing the possibility of creating gamma lasers believe that with their help it is possible to protect the Earth from possible threats from space - for example, from asteroids moving towards our planet. The energy of such a laser will be 100-10,000 times higher than that of optical lasers.
Striking the enemy with sound waves, incapacitating thousands of soldiers without a single bullet, or simply making them flee from the battlefield in panic is the dream of the military of the whole world. The use of acoustic weapons will save on ammunition and show ostentatious humanity.
Just as we do not see most of the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation, we also do not hear a significant part of sound vibrations. Typically, the human ear can perceive sound vibrations in the frequency range from 16–20 Hz to 15–20 kHz. Sound below this range is called infrasound, and above it is called ultrasound. The fact that our ear is not able to hear infrasound does not mean at all that different organs of our body cannot “hear” it. The oscillation frequencies of many processes in our body are in the same frequency range as infrasound.When they coincide, for example, in the case of a deliberate external influence, a sharp increase in the amplitude of forced oscillations occurs. This can lead to disruption of the performance of internal organs or even to their rupture. In the case of the heart, the result can be death. All this provides a theoretical basis for the creation of infrasonic weapons.
But, as a rule, the main developments are in the direction of illegal weapons. Exposure to a person with a sufficiently strong infrasound can cause in one case anxiety, fear and panic, in another - nausea, ringing in the ears, pain. In any case, this forces the person to leave the place where the weapon was used. It would seem that this is where it is worth giving examples of infrasonic weapons put into service or talking about tests. But the information about this is probably a secret sealed with seven seals. They talk about it, but they don't show anything. Perhaps the only real example of the use of such a weapon is the "acoustic bomb" that was used by NATO during the operation in Yugoslavia. The very low frequency fluctuations caused by it led to panic, but only for a short period.
Frequent media reports about the use of infrasonic weapons are in fact referring to other types of acoustic weapons. For example, this is successfully used to break up demonstrations or against Somali pirates. A strong sound with a frequency of 2-3 kHz is a very strong irritant and is capable of disorganizing and throwing the enemy out of mental balance. But, unlike infrasound, it is in the range of audible waves.
Do not forget that the so-called "natural wave of fear" is in the range of 7-13 Hz. Infrasound has a much lower absorption index in various media than other sound vibrations, as a result of which infrasonic waves propagate over long distances. It is infrasound that is the first harbinger of natural disasters: earthquakes, typhoons, volcanic eruptions. So, during earthquakes, infrasound is generated by the earth's crust, which allows many animals to feel it in advance and leave the places of the expected disaster or show visible anxiety if there is no way to leave. A person, as a rule, does not attach importance to an unexpected feeling of anxiety. However, this natural trait is at the heart of the fear-inducing weapon. By the way, infrasound is one of the probable clues to the mystery of the Bermuda Triangle.
The theoretical limit for the initial velocity of an artillery projectile is about 2 km / s. But in practice it is not achievable either. In the new age of high speeds, the military demands more from scientists. And, perhaps, very soon, instead of conventional artillery pieces, electromagnetic cannons will appear. The railgun, or as it is called in the United States, the railgun, from the point of view of physics, is an electromagnetic mass accelerator. Another type of such an accelerator is the "Gauss gun", but this device is considered not quite effective in the case of practical implementation.
The advantages of railguns over conventional artillery are, of course, obvious. The goal set by the American military for the developers is to create an electromagnetic cannon capable of accelerating a projectile to a speed of 5.8 km / s. Such a gun should have the ability to hit a target with a diameter of 5 meters, located at a distance of 370 kilometers in six minutes. This is 20 times higher than the firing rates of artillery weapons currently in service with the US Navy. In addition, one must understand that such projectiles do not contain explosives, their unprecedented armor-piercing power lies only in the kinetic energy of a projectile fired at an ultra-high speed. The ships on which it is planned to place such weapons will be safer due to the smaller amount of explosives on them.
It should be said that the railgun does not have to become a toy in the hands of the military. When the speed reaches 7, 9 km / s (the first space speed), it can be used to launch satellites into low-earth orbit.
Railguns are also being developed in Russia. The first public tests took place this summer at the Shatura branch of the Joint Institute for High Temperatures of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Demonstration tests achieved a projectile speed of 3.2 km / s. But, according to the President of the Russian Academy of Sciences Vladimir Fortov, who was present at the tests, the maximum that was extracted from the device was 11 km / s. True, in our case, scientists do not talk about the military use of the railgun. According to Fortov, the scientists of the Academy of Sciences face three tasks: obtaining a system with high pressures and studying the Universe with their help, protecting the planet from high-speed space bodies and putting satellites into orbit.
As the name implies, a railgun (electromagnetic gun) uses electromagnetic force to accelerate a projectile. The railgun is a pair of parallel electrodes (rails) connected to a powerful direct current source. The projectile, which is part of an electrical circuit (conductor), gains acceleration due to the Lorentz force pushing it out and accelerating it to ultrahigh speeds.
Any transmission of information at a distance is based on one or another physical phenomenon. Radio communication uses radio waves with a wavelength of 0.1 millimeter as a signal carrier. Experiments in the field of laser communication are underway. It will be especially in demand for the transmission of information in outer space. If someday we discover tachyons (if at all possible) and can put them at our service, then tachyon communication, transmitting information at a superluminal speed, will become the basis of ultra-long-distance space communication. But this is already the future of the next century's Star Wars. Now scientists are faced with more prosaic tasks, they would have to deal with submarines.
Neutrino is a neutral fundamental particle belonging to the class of leptons and participating only in weak and gravitational interactions. Leptons include, in particular, an electron, but do not include a proton and a neutron, these are already baryons. The peculiarity of the neutrino is that it interacts extremely weakly with matter. This particle does not cost anything to fly through our planet, and nothing will delay it. For communication with submarines, which have been on alert for months in the depths of the ocean, such a connection is perfect. Sea salt water is a good jammer for radio signals. And to emerge in order to accept it means to allow the enemy to discover himself. For communication with submarines, ultra-long radio waves are now used, the length of which is more than ten kilometers. In our country, the 43rd communications center of the Russian Navy (radio station "Antey") provides communication with submarines. Due to its gigantic size, the radio station received the name "Goliath". True, not here, but in Germany, from where it was taken out after the war as a trophy.
So, neutrinos are able to overcome any distances and obstacles. Even if it is necessary to deliver a signal to the lunar base on the back of our satellite, it will calmly pass through the moon. It is only this positive feature that does not allow for the time being to fully tame this particle. Practically not interacting with the substance, it also does not lend itself to "capture" in full. How the neutrino connection will be realized in reality is still unknown. But there are some very interesting proposals on this matter. For example, researchers from Virginia Polytechnic University suggest establishing one-way communication with submarines for a start. The transmitter will be a storage muon ring, which will provide a neutrino flux with an intensity of 1014particles per second.Having passed through the planet, an insignificant part of the neutrino must react with matter (the nuclei of atoms in the water molecule), as a result, high-energy muons are formed, which, in turn, will cause a faint glow in the water (Cherenkov radiation). This is what will be registered by supersensitive photodetectors on the submarine.
The transmission rate for such a channel will be 10 bits per second. This is a lot when compared with what we have now. A radio channel using very low frequency (VLF / VLF) myriameter (wavelength 10–100 km) waves has a bandwidth of 50 bits per second. But in order to receive such a signal, the submarine must either swim up to a depth of 20 meters, or release a buoy with an antenna on a long cable. This entire procedure increases the risk of detection of the submarine and limits its maneuverability. When using decametric waves (10,000–100,000 km) of extremely low frequency (ELF / ELF), the boat may not float, but the signal transmission rate is only 1 bit per minute.