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.