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U.S. To Test Mine-Zapping Laser Cannon

The United States army will soon conduct trials of a Star Wars-style cannon that will clear surface-laid mines by zapping them with a high-powered laser, New Scientist magazine said Wednesday.

Dubbed Zeus, the laser cannon is mounted on the top of a Humvee all-terrain military vehicle and operated from the cab.

A low-powered laser will "illuminate" each mine, and the operator will then switch on the main beam which will either explode or evaporate the explosives in the device which can be up to 250 yards away from the vehicle.

The magazine said the trials, expected to take place on the army's proving ground near Waynesville, Missouri, would be the first chance to see if the theory works in practice.

Although the weapon does not work on buried mines, it could be effective against surface-laid devices and munitions such as unexploded shells and cluster bombs.

As such it would have been very useful to land troops who formed the advance parties of the U.S.-led anti-terror coalition when they first moved into Afghanistan late last year to prepare airfields and clear roads ahead of the main force.

A key limitation to date, the magazine said, has been preventing the main laser from overheating as industrial strength lasers are cooled by continuous water flow that would be impossible in a vehicle operating under battle conditions.

However, it said developer Sparta of Huntsville, Alabama, had overcome the problem by developing a closed-cycle cooling system for the laser that can unleash up to 2,000 watts of zapping power on its target.

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