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1. Greek Fire
Archimede’s legendary boat-burning heat ray
When Rome’s Republican forces attacked his hometown during the Siege of Syracuse of 214 BC, Archimedes designed and built a number of fearsome war machines to defend the city. One of these was Archimede’s Heat Ray.
2. Zephyr Drone
The US military is on the brink of eternal flight with the Zephyr drone
UK-based aerospace and weapons defence company QinetiQ present the Zephyr, an unmanned solar-powered surveillance device. In record breaking test flights, the Zephyr spent more than seven days flying at high altitudes, charging batteries during daylight and gliding by night, opening the possibility for ‘eternal’ flight and constant surveillance of the enemy.
3. Solar Frontline
The US Marines go green on the frontline
Camping and battling in the relentless heat of the Arabian Desert or amongst the baking hot hills of the Hindu Kush the US Army is fighting to secure the world’s resources. Now the military wants to reduce its carbon footprint by harnessing the sun’s energy; the Ground Renewable Expeditionary Energy System (GREENS) is the answer. GREENS provides constant solar-powered energy for the army’s camps and electricity for battlefield equipment, turning the modern US marine into a mean, green killing machine.
4. Death Lasers
Space-based solar death lasers of the future
This concept weapon, proposed by US scientists, harvest the sun’s energy to power a constellation of chemical lasers mounted on a space station. Stored in battery cells, the solar power can be unleashed as a high-energy laser bean to fry ground, sea, air or space-based targets. Imagine the Death Star from Star Wars, but rather than vaporising Princess Leia’s home planet of Alderaan, this weapon is aimed at burning up planet Earth.
5. Space Mirror
Massive space mirror turns up the heat
The Solar Energy Optical Weapon (SEOW) is a similar weapon to the previous laser system, but instead of storing the sun’s power it uses a vast collection of space-based mirrors to focus sunlight into a beam, aiming the light and heat on enemy targets. Because of light diffusion, the power created probably wouldn’t be lethal, but the weapon could be used for disruption or weather control, making the enemy uncomfortably hot and sweaty or warming up his beer, for example.
6. Nazi Sun Gun
The Third Reich’s ultimate weapon of mass destruction
US plans for space-based super weapons may well take much inspiration from the Nazi Sun Gun. The gun was similar to Archimede’s Heat Ray, further developed by rocket science pioneer Hermann Oberth, with the planned contraption expanded to a massive scale and set in orbit around the Earth. A three-and-a-half-mile wide mirror would focus the sun’s rays on any place on the planet’s surface. Like a schoolboy using a magnifying glass to burn ants in the backyard, the Nazis would be able to raze cities and boil oceans in their visions of the future.
7. Cold War Microwave
Cold War microwave technology aims to burn and terrify the Soviets
In 1978, at the height of the Cold War, the US military proposed the Solar Power Satellite (SPS). This involved a series of satellites placed in geostationary orbit 40,000 kilometres above the Earth. These satellites would collect solar power and transmit it to stations on the planet’s surface in the form of a microwave beam. This could provide energy or act as a weapon. Each satellite would be the size of Manhattan Island, and in its position would be able to survey and attack anywhere in one hemisphere, half the planet, targeting individuals with anti-personnel blasts or jamming communications with interference.
8. Teen Heat
Eric Jacqmain’s solar death ray
Eric Jacqmain wasn’t content with bothering insects with a magnifying glass. Instead, the 19 year old built his very own backyard solar death ray. He did this by gluing 5,800 tiny mirror tiles to a standard fibreglass satellite TV dish. The mirrors focus sunlight into an awesomely powerful beam, melting rocks, burning holes in metal and vaporising anything unfortunate enough to fall into its path. Jacqmain, dubbed a ‘new Archimedes’, estimates that at the critical point of focus his death ray is heating to a temperature equivalent to 5,000 suns. Unfortunately, his death ray ‘committed suicide’ by self-combusting, also incinerating his parent’s shed where it was stored.
9. The Solex Agitator
Bond’s nemesis’ solar super weapon
One example of a fictional solar device is the Solex Agitator from the James Bond novel and film, The Man with the Golden Gun. The villain of the piece is a Francisco Scaramanga, a Cuban Assassin and ‘the man with the golden gun’ of the title. The plot revolves around Scaramanga trying to get his hands on the Solex Agitator, the ‘Ultimate Energy Source’, which turns sunlight into power capable of levelling cities and destroying nations. Even super-villains can be environmentally considerate.
10. Solar Nukes & Landmines
The Pentagon promotes environmentalism with solar power nukes and landmines
The Pentagon has announced how it plans to make US nukes and landmines mainly solar powered in the very near future. ‘Starting February 20122, up to 20 US nuclear weapons and facilities will be operational using mostly the sun as their source of power’, states Admiral Charles Bollinger, a high-ranking official in the Pentagon’s sustainable technology program. Elsewhere, the US Army is powering anti-personnel mines by attaching small solar power cells that discretely poke out of the ground near the mine.