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03-09-2013, 01:42 AM, (This post was last modified: 03-09-2013, 02:51 AM by macfadden.)
MARAUDER is, or was, a United States Government research project. It is an acronym of Magnetically Accelerated Ring to Achieve Ultra-high Directed Energy and Radiation. It was first reported on August 1, 1993.

The objective appears to be the firing of 1 meter diameter toroids of magnetically contained plasma. The toroids behave in a similar manner to spheromak plasma reactors. As of 1993 the project appeared to be in the early experimental stages. The weapon was able to produce doughnut shaped rings of plasma and balls of lightning that exploded with devastating effects when hitting its target. The projects initial success led to it becoming classified and no more details of how it developed after 1993 are available.

A directed-energy weapon (DEW) emits energy in an aimed direction without the means of a projectile. It transfers energy to a target for a desired effect. Intended effects may be non-lethal or lethal. Some such weapons are real, or are under active research and development.

The energy can come in various forms:

Electromagnetic radiation, in lasers or masers
Particles with mass, in particle beam weapons (Technically a form of micro-projectile weapon)

Particle beam weapons can use charged or neutral particles, and can be either endoatmospheric or exoatmospheric. Particle beams as beam weapons are theoretically possible, but practical weapons have not been demonstrated. Certain types of particle beams have the advantage of being self-focusing in the atmosphere.

Plasma weapons fire a beam, bolt, or stream of plasma, which is an excited state of matter consisting of atomic electrons & nuclei and free electrons if ionized, or other particles if pinched.

The MARAUDER (Magnetically Accelerated Ring to Achieve Ultra-high Directed Energy and Radiation) used the Shiva Star project (a high energy capacitor bank which provided the means to test weapons and other devices requiring brief and extremely large amounts of energy) to accelerate a toroid of plasma at a significant percentage of the speed of light.

The U.S. Defense Strategic Defense Initiative Organization put into development the technology of a neutral particle beam for strategic defense applications. In mid 1989, it was to be part of the Beam Experiments Aboard a Rocket (BEAR) in New Mexico.

In Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Dec. 15, 2008, Sandia National Laboratories broke ground on the $40 million Ion Beam Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base. It will house six accelerators and is scheduled for occupancy in 2010.
03-09-2013, 02:49 AM, (This post was last modified: 03-09-2013, 02:50 AM by macfadden.)
Quote:Compact toroid formation, compression, and acceleration
Research on forming, compressing, and accelerating milligram-range compact toroids using a meter diameter, two-stage, puffed gas, magnetic field embedded coaxial plasma gun is described. The compact toroids that are studied are similar to spheromaks, but they are threaded by an inner conductor. This research effort, named MARAUDER (Magnetically Accelerated Ring to Achieve Ultra-high Directed Energy and Radiation), is not a magnetic confinement fusion program like most spheromak efforts. Rather, the ultimate goal of the present program is to compress toroids to high mass density and magnetic field intensity, and to accelerate the toroids to high speed. There are a variety of applications for compressed, accelerated toroids including fast opening switches, x-radiation production, radio frequency (rf) compression, as well as charge-neutral ion beam and inertial confinement fusion studies. Experiments performed to date to form and accelerate toroids have been diagnosed with magnetic probe arrays, laser interferometry, time and space resolved optical spectroscopy, and fast photography. Parts of the experiment have been designed by, and experimental results are interpreted with, the help of two-dimensional (2-D), time-dependent magnetohydrodynamic (MHD) numerical simulations. When not driven by a second discharge, the toroids relax to a Woltjer--Taylor equilibrium state that compares favorably to the results of 2-D equilibrium calculations and to 2-D time-dependent MHD simulations. Current, voltage, and magnetic probe data from toroids that are driven by an acceleration discharge are compared to 2-D MHD and to circuit solver/slug model predictions. Results suggest that compact toroids are formed in 7--15 [mu]sec, and can be accelerated intact with material species the same as injected gas species and entrained mass [ge]1/2 the injected mass.

What’s the difference between ball lightning and a ufo? Good question. we sent DAVID HAMBLING to find out why military scientists are taking an interest in the answer.

Something is happening on a highway cutting through the US southwestern desert. A string of cars has pulled over on the hard shoulder, the drivers standing together and pointing into the distance. Another car is flagged down as it approaches. “You have got to see this,” urges the breathless onlooker. “It’s aliens for sure.”

He points to a bright light moving in the sky. It is not an aircraft, a star, or anything else any of them have seen before. The driver is in the uniform of a Major in the USAF. He gives a wry smile. “Don’t worry,” he says. “It’s probably one of ours.” If the Major was referring to ball lightning and not an advanced craft, he might be right.

Ball lightning is the most curious of unexplained phenomena. Witnessed by as many as five per cent of the population, it was dismissed as an optical illusion for many years. Then, after repeated sightings by accredited scientists, it gradually won acceptance as a real, if mysterious, effect. It appears as a glowing sphere, ranging in size from a tennis ball to a football. It floats around slowly, and after a period of several seconds it disappears, either silently or with a bang and a shower of sparks. Generally yellow or blue, it can leave a strange smell of ozone. It is often associated with thunder storms or electrical apparatus.

The problem is that although we know what it looks like, there is no scientific agreement over what ball lightning actually is. Several competing and radically different theories are battling for acceptance. The contest might be resolved if someone could convincingly create ball lightning in the laboratory. This has never been done, or at least not officially. The military interest in ball lightning dates back several decades in both the US and Russia, and the fruits of their research have largely remained secret.

One theory may have had confirmation in 1943, when Allied bombers over Germany started spotting strange lights that would approach and track them. No larger than a basketball, the lights sometimes appeared to interfere with the aircraft’s electrical system but were otherwise harmless. Some have tried to claim that these lights – nicknamed ‘foo fighters’ – were some form of Nazi secret weapon. However, the descriptions of foo fighters (the size of a basketball, shimmery gold colour) match ball lightning very closely.

Alleged 'foo fighter' photo, now largely considered a fake.

The timing is also significant, as they seem to have started appearing when the Germans deployed radar, and it is quite likely that they were caused by the interaction between German systems, or the combination of the German radar and the airborne H2S radars carried by allied aircraft.

From the few tantalising scraps of information available, it seems that there are devices which can produce varieties of artificial ball lightning. Some exist only in the laboratory, others are prototypes and some have been fielded already. They comprise an arsenal of unorthodox weapons, from missile shields and soft bombs to high-powered lasers and ion torpedoes.

It has long been suggested that ball lightning could be caused by microwaves1. According to this theory, the concentration of charge in a thundercloud leaks out as electromagnetic radiation powerful enough to ionise the air, creating distinctive globes of light and that ozone smell.

On 2 April 1993, the front page of the newspaper Izvestia carried a story on President Bush’s proposed sharing of Star Wars technology. In exchange for details of the American SDI system, the Russians offered information on their own plans. These included high-power microwave generators whose beams were directed to intersect at high altitude. At the point where the beams cross, the combined field is so intense that air molecules are ripped apart to create plasma, the stuff of lightning. The microwaves would maintain a ‘plasmoid’ – a stable ball of plasma – in the path of an oncoming missile. Running into it at high velocity, the missile would be destroyed by a combination of thermal, magnetic and ærodynamic effects.

Western analysts were dubious, but the Russians are known to have experimented extensively with high-powered microwave weapons, and they are some years ahead in this area2. It has even been suggested that some Russian installations identified as phased-array radar could have microwave projection capability. This might provide some local defence for Moscow; not an invulnerable shield, but enough to sow doubt in any opponent considering a first strike against the Kremlin. The same principle was tried as an experimental form of street lighting in the Soviet Union in the 1960s3. The project was abandoned because of the plasmoid’s tendency to be attracted to passing aircraft.

American military scientists followed a similar path using lasers in the 1980s4. Using intersecting beams of infrared or microwave frequency, they found they could create a glowing sphere. Repeating the laser pulses produced a continuous light with a loud crackling, hissing sound. This light could be moved around by moving the beams, but what intrigued the scientists most was that the sound could be altered by changing the laser pulses. With some refinements it could be modulated at will, with high enough fidelity to carry a human voice. In 1991, it was proposed that the talking fireball should be put to use in the Gulf, appearing as the Voice of Allah and calling on Iraqi troops to overthrow Saddam Hussein. The idea was rejected by military planners5, but the technology is still available.

Another theory about ball lightning holds that it is something like a fluorescent light, where impurities in the air glow under the right stimulus, probably the electric field associated with a thunderstorm. This effect is being put to use in astronomy to improve the resolution of telescopes.

Turbulence in the Earth’s atmosphere distorts light passing through it. This makes the stars twinkle – romantic lighting for lovers, but a frustration for astronomers who want to see the stars clearly. ‘Adaptive optics’ offers a solution; instead of a fixed mirror, the telescope uses a flexible one which shifts constantly to cancel out atmospheric distortion.

To do this, it takes information about atmospheric distortion by looking at a reference star and comparing its distorted image with its true appearance. These reference sources are known as guide stars but, unfortunately for the astronomers, they form only about one per cent of the sky, too rare for adaptive optics to work practically. So, when the scientists at the Lick Observatory near San Jose in California need a reference star, they make it themselves.

By pointing a laser into the sky, they can create an artificial star 70 miles (113km) overhead6. The key is the frequency of the laser, which is exactly the right wavelength to stimulate a band of the atmosphere called the sodium layer. This contains sodium ions which absorb energy from the laser and release it in the form of visible light. Some of the resulting ‘guide stars’ can be bright enough to see with the naked eye.
Needless to say, adaptive optics have been put to military use. Just as it warps starlight, atmospheric distortion will scatter a laser beam, an effect which can be cancelled with adaptive optics. At the forefront of Ballistic Missile Defence planning is the Airborne Laser (ABL), a modified Boeing 747-400F freighter armed with a powerful laser. The ABL will carry out its first live firing test this year, and current plans call for a fleet of laser aircraft to be operational in 20087.

The ABL is undoubtedly state-of-the-art and incorporates an adaptive system that is 10 times faster and has twice the number of active elements as the system at the Lick Observatory. The guidance involves a Beacon Illumination Laser. In theory, this relies on light reflected from the target missile, but since this could be thwarted by painting the missile black, a laser guide star is likely to be deployed as a backup. This would be far more powerful and sophisticated than the civilian version. Like the laser dots used by high-tech marksmen, the guide star from the ABL would dart across the sky to pinpoint the target, performing manœuvres impossible for a material craft.

Another idea about ball lightning is that it actually comprise a burning gas, or a suspension of burning powder (probably carbon or silicon) created by a lightning strike, or even of plasma remaining after the lightning. This theory has the advantage that it does not require abnormal radiation or electric fields as the preceding theories do; but it does pose the obvious question of how a cloud of burning gas or plasma can remain stable for any length of time.

There is a familiar example in which gas stays in a coherent mass rather than dispersing. It’s called a smoke ring. To physicists it’s an example of an annular vortex, possessing some unusual physical properties; one of these is stability. If the ring is less dense than the medium surrounding it (such as warm smoke in cooler air), it can hold together as long as it keeps its spinning momentum.

Vortex rings occur everywhere in nature, from tiny ones in the blood flow through the heart to gigantic ones in the atmosphere sustaining weather systems. Volcanoes can blow steam rings which last for several minutes. It is not unlikely that lightning could do the same. A cloud of minute burning particles or plasma could be sucked in and remain stable for some time in a high-velocity vortex ring.

The ability to keep a ball of high-temperature gas together and project it at high speed opens up interesting possibilities for weapons. One of these was studied under a project called MARAUDER in 1993 at the USAF’s Phillips Laboratory8. Marauder stands for Magnetically Accelerated Ring to Achieve Ultra-high Directed Energy and Radiation – surely a prize-winning acronym. Utilising the awesome Shiva Star power system, experiments spat out toroids (donut-shaped rings) of plasma9. Other experiments have involved containing toroids (in strong magnetic fields) to produce hot nuclear fusion, but the aim of Marauder was to project a minute plasma toroid at high velocity.

As with lightning, the tiny, hot core of the toroid would be surrounded by a glowing ball of excited air. On striking a solid target, the toroids produced “extreme mechanical and thermal shock” and a pulse of electromagnetic radiation. These ‘ion torpedoes’ would be highly effective against missiles and aircraft. They would also be useful for zapping command and control centres as the electromagnetic pulse will scramble or destroy electronic equipment such as computers.

Having shown early promise, this technology now seems to have dropped out of view. It may be that the idea has simply not been pursued. It is also possible that it has disappeared ‘into the black’ and is now important enough to be veiled in secrecy, as happened with Stealth in the 1970s. If this is the case, then it is anyone’s guess how far these ideas have advanced.

Yet another theory holds that ball lightning is an electrical discharge involving a fine suspension of particles or filaments in the air, lighting up in a similar way to an electric light bulb. A leader in the field is Dr James Corum, whose work on electric fireballs is well known. Using a powerful Tesla coil, he has produced tiny, short-lived balls of light under laboratory conditions. Though small, they behaved in many ways like classic ball lightning. Dr Corum has been involved with finding military applications for his work in the past 10.

Dr Corum’s research suggests that electric fireballs can be created in which a large concentration of carbon or vaporised metal particles encounter a region of powerful electrical fields. During Desert Storm, Iraqi power lines were shorted out by the BLU-114B, a bomb which scatters lengths of conducting carbon fibre. A much more sophisticated weapon was used against Serbian power stations in Operation Allied Force – a bomb which produces a cloud of fine carbon dust11. Known as a ‘soft bomb’ because it does not use explosives, the device causes short-circuits, arcing and fires, forcing power-generating equipment to be shut down very swiftly. It is reported that the weapon has an effective radius of several hundred feet, and that the high energy arcs can cause small explosions. It would be interesting to see whether these arcing effects resemble a swarm of ball lightnings buzzing around the generator halls and bursting in showers of sparks. However, although the Pentagon acknowledges the existence of the soft bomb, it has explicitly refused to provide details.

After passing through several gates manned by armed guards, the man in uniform arrives at the heart of the military base. As he gets out he is greeted by a colleague.
“Did you see the show from the highway? Pretty good, huh?”
“Not bad.”
“That should take their minds off the really sensitive projects.”


In the spirit of kitchen-table inventors, a number of pioneering amateurs have been looking into how to create artificial ball lightning, using a candle and a microwave oven. We strongly advise against trying this yourself, and the writer and FT take no responsibility for your experiments.

The experiment goes like this: place a lighted candle or toothpick in the microwave for a few seconds, then take it out and start the microwave.

The result is a small luminous ‘plasmoid’ floating to the top of the microwave. Some of the best photographs of this effect may be found at Proof of the microwave-ball lighting theory? Or something else entirely? Links to these experiments can also be found at:

According to recent research, humans are not the only ones who can make ball lightning.

Snapping shrimps (Alpheus heterochaelis) can create balls of plasma with a temperature of 5,000°C (9000°F). When the shrimp snaps its outsize claw, it makes a stream of tiny bubbles which expand and then collapse. It is this collapse which produces the plasma balls. However, with a range of three millimetres and a duration of less than a billionth of a second, it is unlikely that it has much effect beyond a flicker of light 12.

Introduction to spheromaks (PDF) Timeline of spheromak developments and reference to MARAUDER on p.16.

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