Sep 282015

I’ve been pondering the Casaba Howitzer weapon system for a decade now. When I re-issued Aerospace Projects Review V2N2 some years back I published a few images of what I thought it might look like; since then I’ve done some rethinking. As to the weapon itself, and exactly how it worked, and how well it worked… I’ve got no data, and no good idea of how to make it work, so that hasn’t changed. But the control systems for the weapon? Those have evolved in my thinking.

Here’s an overall view of my idea for a Casaba Howitzer preparing to fire:


And here’s a layout drawing of the same:

PAX-0004 Casaba 1st gen-Model

Feel free to discuss.

The full-rez version of the layout drawing is available in the second Pax Orionis installment. If interested, check out the Pax Orionis Patreon.


 Posted by at 7:50 am
  • James

    I wonder if you were going to use them would it be better to fire them from a multi tube system kind of like a MLRS that can be loaded and unloaded from a magazine or from a cannon?

    Seems if you had something like 6-8 of them in a launcher you could barrage launch them and either increase your coverage area of if the targeting is good enough configure them to all concentrate on one spot.

    • Scottlowther

      The problem with barrage launching them is that you want them far, far apart from each other when they go off. Xrays, neutrons, gamma rays, thermal/optical flash and mechanical impulse would all do bad things to another CH that has not yet fired.

      • guest

        Unless you can detonate them all simultaneously. Which I suspect would be a tremendously impressive trick, given the hard X-rays propagating about the target area at c.

      • James

        Yea as guest said. I was thinking either all at once or have them fired so that the are on on trajectories that leave them far enough away to be safe.

        Hell crazy idea. You could load a whole bunch on a booster in space and then launch it. It accelerates Fast then launches its payload.

      • loupgarous

        Molybdenum grease might be a great sacrificial coating for clustered Casaba-Howitzer devices. The grease binding would evaporate if a charge detonated too close – protecting what was underneath, and the molybdenum is sufficiently high-z to attenuate gamma flux. Bremmstrahlung, however, might be an issue with ANY sort of metallic shielding against ionizing rays. One would have to work that out. The X-ray portion of the EM emissions from a CH is most potentially troublesome. Mechanical impulse – assuming the CH is launched away from the cluster of unfired weapons in advance, you’re not going to see a great deal of that because the weapon’s fired in the vacuum of space, with material from the detonation in a narrow cone or cigar-shaped locus pointed AWAY from the unfired weapons.

  • Uxi

    Though I’ve always been a bit more intrigued by thrust propulsion bombs (sort of like the Michael “spurt” bombs), these definitely seem more grounded and doable being the natural end point of the orion propulsion research, though. I wonder if your estimate of 50% energy is too conservative. Certainly some lost to heat and x-rays. Staggeringly powerful for 3-5kt devices.

  • sferrin

    What is this thing, a nuclear shaped-charge? Those are Berserker killers IIRC. 🙂

    • B-Sabre

      More like a nuclear self-forging fragment projectile weapon. And the fragment is a slug of plasma moving redunkulous velocities.

  • B-Sabre

    The guy below has a discussion, about the device, but he thinks it’s not a “Casaba Howitzer.” He’s seen it as “Casaba-Howitzer”- that is, two separate but related projects.

    • Scottlowther

      While I don;t have any Casaba Howitzer reports, I do have a several-page bibliography of CH reports written by General Dynamics back in the day. Yes, I’ve requested them via FOIA. Yes, declassification was refused. Yes, I’m’a gonna try again.

      • publiusr

        Now, this differs a bit from what you want to push the Orion craft, correct?
        You don’t want a jet at the plate–so the traditional pulse unit is better at asteroid intercept than this. The CH is what you want to breach another Orion with.

        That said, a spacecraft bus with the standard Orion charge won’t look much different than this, except for the additional equipment like what we saw on the Deep Impact bus.

      • mmc

        Have you checked FOIA 14-101?

        • Scottlowther

          I have now. Thanks for the heads up!

  • Bold Gambit

    Perhaps somewhat off topic
    Could something like this be used planet side as a sort of nuclear claymore? If so how close could such a weapon be used to friendly forces and still be safe?

    • Scottlowther

      The original Casaba Howitzer was not a shaped charge nuke; the nuke at the heart of it still produced a spherical blast and more-or-less spherical distribution of radiation (thought the radiation was intercepted by “stuff” on the Front Towards Enemy side). So if you have a five kiloton CH, you don’t want to be anywhere near any side of it.

      If a CH is fired within the atmosphere, the jet of plasma it produces will quickly be dispersed by the atmosphere. There will one hell of a bloom off to one side, but the jet won’t have much of a range. *Exactly* what that is I can’t begin to estimate.

      • Bold Gambit

        I guess my dreams of tactical nuclear claymores frying T-80s as they swarm into West Germany remain out of reach. Oh well, there is always Assault Breaker. Impressive weapon though, Casaba Howitzer.

        Side note: Do you think CH are part of whatever Palisades of Fire is? I know it was a missile defense program between Safeguard and SDI, and that Edwar Teller was involved with it (seems to be a seperate project from the X-ray lasers he advocated) but my google-fu has yet to turn up anything more than passing references.

  • loupgarous

    Great article, Scott! This is an awesome resource for those of us interested in the most extreme ideas in directed-energy weapons.

    Now that the Russians are preening themselves on their air defense and going “Ve inwented it first” on maneuverable re-entry vehicles (something the US design community had worked with for quite a while), perhaps the ultimate deterrent to their posturing would be Jerry Astl’s write-up of a military Orion consisting of a huge, nuclear blast-resistant spacecraft packed with 50-100 re-entry vehicles and a few hundred penetration aids of various types. Swamping the A-135 ABM system around Moscow would be very doable that way.

  • I’m wondering if there’s much point to hinging the IR scope out of the way of the blast plate. Would the scope pose much of an obstacle to the CASABA projectiles? If it’s light enough, I’m guessing it might even get vaporised before the projectiles travel very far through it. And it’s mostly empty space anyway.

    • Scottlowther

      While I’m not privy to any design data, it seems to me that you wouldn’t want *anything* in front of the weapon, at least for a distance of about the diameter of the plate. Getting a good collimated “beam” would require a whole lot of precision, in both manufacture and the actual nuclear plasma forging process; putting even lightweight stuff in the way *might* meddle with the process. Put the scope a little further ahead and the beam would be formed, and would go through the scope like it wasn’t there.