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Roger E. Moore
2005-Oct-07, 02:34 AM
In the July 13, 1959, issue of Missiles and Rockets magazine (pages 16-17) are details of a Pentagon project to develop "death rays, anti-gravity machines and magnetic walls" for use against incoming ICBMs. (A similar announcement appeared in Aviation Week about this time, but I have lost the issue.) Project Defender absorbed the resources of over 30 private firms in developing these systems with a target date of 1969.

Does anyone have further reference material on this program? Drop a note here if possible. Thanks.

Count Zero
2005-Oct-07, 04:49 AM
I've never heard of that program, but by 1959 the US and Soviet Union had ABM development well under way. The Soviet "System A" made its first successful interception on March 4, 1961.

The US ABM program centered around the Army's "Nike-Zeus". This evolved into the "Nike-X" and eventually the "Spartan" missile. The long-range "Spartan", along with the short-range "Sprint" were part of the "Safeguard" ABM system, which was built in the mid-70's, but almost immediately retired.

Part of the problem was that the Nike-Zeus/-X/Spartan (http://www.paineless.id.au/missiles/) interceptors used large nuclear warheads detonated at high altitude. When conceived in the late '50s, the idea was that the intense charged particle burst would fry the electronics in the warhead's guidance and detonation circuits. In effect, this created an intense electromagnetic shield that would damage any warheads that passed through it. This may be where the magazine got the idea of "magnetic walls."

High-altitude nuclear testing in the late '50s & early '60s demonstrated that this would work, but it also revealed bad side effects. Not the least of these was Electromagnetic Pulse (EMP) that affected electronics, telephone and power networks. Also, the same cloud of charged particles that killed the warheads also damaged satellites and disrupted long-range radio communications. Most important, from a military standpoint, the cloud was opaque to radars, which meant that each interceptor that detonated would make subsequent targets harder to see. An enemy with unlimited resources could launch missiles in waves until the system blinded itself. This vulnerability to saturation was the leading technical argument against the "Safeguard" system, leading to its cancellation.

The Russians had (and have) a different take: Defense against limited or accidental attack is better than no defense at all. The A-35 (NATO code-name "Galosh") entered service in the early '70s. "Galosh" was a long-range interceptor like Nike-Zeus/-X/Safeguard. By the early '90s, the A-35 had been superceded by the two-tier A-135 system (similar to "Safeguard"), which consists of the long-range "Gorgon" and short-range "Gazelle" interceptors. This system still defends Moscow to this day.

Wolverine
2005-Oct-07, 09:55 AM
This is news to me as well; Count Zero's post above matches my understanding of the involved history.

And here's the new generation (http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/military/abl/flash.html).

Roger E. Moore
2005-Oct-07, 10:49 AM
When conceived in the late '50s, the idea was that the intense charged particle burst would fry the electronics in the warhead's guidance and detonation circuits. In effect, this created an intense electromagnetic shield that would damage any warheads that passed through it. This may be where the magazine got the idea of "magnetic walls."
If I recall correctly, the Aviation Week notice (which I remember was phrased as a "call to industry" to develop the above systems) mentioned "force fields." I believe they were going for the E. E. "Doc" Smith SF devices, not radiation bursts alone.

This would make a great rumor if you could connect it with the rumors of exotic Nazi secret weapon projects being acquired by the U.S. in a "Paperclip" type operation at the end of WW2.

publiusr
2005-Oct-07, 04:11 PM
The last issue of APR www.up-ship.com deals with the myth of NAZI uberweapons like the anti-gravity saucer that Nick Cook at Janes fell for.

Go to www.astronautix.com and look up the ABM missile called "Sprint" and prepare to be blown away.

Alasdhair
2005-Oct-07, 05:55 PM
It doesn't quite have the brown-trouser coefficient of Pluto/SLAM (http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/app4/slam.html). That was seriously nutty.

genebujold
2005-Oct-07, 06:19 PM
In the July 13, 1959, issue of Missiles and Rockets magazine (pages 16-17) are details of a Pentagon project to develop "death rays, anti-gravity machines and magnetic walls" for use against incoming ICBMs. (A similar announcement appeared in Aviation Week about this time, but I have lost the issue.) Project Defender absorbed the resources of over 30 private firms in developing these systems with a target date of 1969.

Does anyone have further reference material on this program? Drop a note here if possible. Thanks.

Yes, but I would have to have killled you in 1969 and resurrected you now to be able to talk to you about these matters.

Sorry.

However, I will be posting to more contemporary questions below, should you still be interested.

genebujold
2005-Oct-07, 06:23 PM
Part of the problem was that the Nike-Zeus/-X/Spartan (http://www.paineless.id.au/missiles/) interceptors used large nuclear warheads detonated at high altitude. When conceived in the late '50s, the idea was that the intense charged particle burst would fry the electronics in the warhead's guidance and detonation circuits. In effect, this created an intense electromagnetic shield that would damage any warheads that passed through it. This may be where the magazine got the idea of "magnetic walls."


Part of the solution was to utilize the immense energy created by the nuclear explosion to create a "shaped" EMP utilizing primarily physical means to broadcast the EMP in a desired direction, and thus avoid knocking out everything else around it.

The primary basis of the design involved a simple set of magnets, coils, and shaping antenna so as to "broadcast" the signal much the way a microwave relay station sends a signal.

genebujold
2005-Oct-07, 06:32 PM
It doesn't quite have the brown-trouser coefficient of Pluto/SLAM (http://www.designation-systems.net/dusrm/app4/slam.html). That was seriously nutty.

Apparently, we had the solution to propel an aircraft for more than 60,000 miles morre than 42 years ago, and at Mach 3+, to boot.

Why are we still burning Jet-A???

Yo, folks - doesn't this grab your attention? Forty-two YEARS ago?

Come on!

Why aren't ALL airplanes and trains running on nuclear by now???

Van Rijn
2005-Oct-07, 07:50 PM
Why aren't ALL airplanes and trains running on nuclear by now???

A few reasons:

Shielding is heavy. For an aircraft, the reactor would be mostly unshielded. The (small) crew would be as far away as possible behind a shadow shield. There would be no passengers. Installing the reactor on the aircraft and boarding it before flight would require special procedures. And even if everything works, usually, there is still the possibility of crashing a reactor on somone's head.

If you want to keep something in the air, mid-air refueling makes much more sense.

As far as trains go, if you want a "nuclear" powered train, just use an electrified rail and a power plant.

Eta C
2005-Oct-07, 07:57 PM
Apparently, we had the solution to propel an aircraft for more than 60,000 miles morre than 42 years ago, and at Mach 3+, to boot.

Why are we still burning Jet-A???

Yo, folks - doesn't this grab your attention? Forty-two YEARS ago?

Come on!

Why aren't ALL airplanes and trains running on nuclear by now???

Well, given that this scheme spewed radioactive waste on the areas it overflew (the link refers to that as one of its attack mechanisms in addition to the bombs it deployed) I'm perfectly happy that we're still burning Jet-A. I wouldn't want to live near the airport that serviced aircraft propelled with a reactor similar to SLAM's, much less ride in one. Could a cleaner design be developed? Perhaps, but it still doesn't strike me as particularly viable.

Alasdhair
2005-Oct-07, 08:11 PM
That's true: the project was finally cancelled when someone had an attack of sanity trying to work out where and how it could be flight-tested. (Although they did do ground tests of the reactor: it turned out to be not quite as "dirty" as they had thought it might be.)

Roger E. Moore
2005-Oct-09, 09:31 PM
An overview of Project Defender and U.S. missile defense in general (http://www.cbo.gov/showdoc.cfm?index=5679&sequence=2)

Most histories of Project Defender are very brief and make no mention of exotic technologies being considered for use in missile defense. Here is an exception that still doesn't mention specifics. (http://www.carroll.edu/about/pressreleases.php?id=2357)


In thumbing through my collection of old magazines and photocopies, I found the following, which seems to indicate that anti-gravity devices and force fields had been dropped from consideration by 1961:

"Proposals for a design study of a radiation weapon or 'death ray' using high-energy light beams of optical masers have been requested from industry by USAF's Rome Air Development Center. Proposals are due early next month." ("Industry Observer," Aviation Week and Space Technology, October 23, 1961, page 19).

Lasers obviously made the grade, and recent developments have finally created "Star Wars"-type laser weapons that can be mounted on aircraft by the year 2007. You wonder what sort of thinking went on about the other exotic technologies, though. Force fields and antigravity machines would have been cool. Alas.

genebujold
2005-Oct-12, 12:43 AM
Ahh - cooler heads have prevailed. Definately, the idea of leaving a trail of radioactive dust is unacceptable.

Yet with increasingly looming oil shortages, some form of nuclear for flight ops may be the only way to sustain them.

Popular Mechanics detailed one, far less-polluting solution a while back that may be a contender. Hydrogen is just too big for jets! Too much volume for the bang (and way too many problems handling the very low temps).

Reverting to a small, but powerful nuclear reactor generating heat in the tail, to be transmitting to the fan engines via lines (steam?) certainly captures my nostagliac sense of hummor. It's like a steam train all over again, only this time with jet airplanes.

Hope it works!

- Steve

publiusr
2005-Oct-12, 05:49 PM
They'd be better off with Sprint, Spartan and Nike Zeus than what they have now.

Halcyon Dayz
2005-Oct-14, 12:28 AM
It would probably more efficient, and safer, to use the energy from
a reactor to synthesise jet-fuel.
(You wouldn't have to lift all that heavy equipment in to the air)

genebujold
2005-Oct-15, 01:47 AM
Lasers obviously made the grade, and recent developments have finally created "Star Wars"-type laser weapons that can be mounted on aircraft by the year 2007.

Actually, they've been flight-testing the ABL for a while, now:

http://www.deagel.com/news2/new-phase-of-abl-payload-flight-testing-completed_ns000162dp.aspx

Here's some more detailed information on the fire control computer:

http://www.boeing.com/defense-space/military/abl/news/2004/010004_fire.html

publiusr
2005-Oct-19, 06:12 PM
I always thought it would make more sense to put the laser turret in place of the intake of the third engine of an L 1011 or DC-10/MD-11. The tail engine would be removed, and laser elements would be put in its place.

I think the reason the turret is on the 747's nose is so it can have unimpeded airflow, but that is a lot of weight on that nose wheel. If it gives out, guess what hits the runway first? By putting the turret on top, you don't have to hack at the nose. Everyone seems to be going for these ugly twinjets anyway, so why not get rid of the third engine...