Navy Rolling Out Laser Weapon

The U.S. Navy announced April 8 that it will deploy a solid-state laser aboard a ship in FY2014, the first time it has deployed such a weapon. "Our directed energy initiatives, and specifically the solid-state laser, are among our highest-priority science and technology programs. The solid-state laser program is central to our commitment to quickly deliver advanced capabilities to forward-deployed forces," Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder said. "This capability provides a tremendously affordable answer to the costly problem of defending against asymmetric threats, and that kind of innovative approach is crucial in a fiscally constrained environment."

In the sequester era, his explanation makes perfect sense: "Our conservative data tells us a shot of directed energy costs under $1," he said. "Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability."

The laser will be deployed on the USS Ponce two years ahead of schedule.

The Office of Naval Research and Naval Sea Systems Command have recently performed demonstrations of high-energy lasers aboard a moving surface combatant ship, as well as against remotely piloted aircraft, according to the Navy.

"The future is here," said Peter A. Morrision, program officer for ONR's Sold-State Laser Technology Maturation Program. "The solid-state laser is a big step forward to revolutionizing modern warfare with directed energy, just as gunpowder did in the era of knives and swords."

The Navy's announcement explained other advantages: "Officials consider the solid-state laser a revolutionary technology that gives the Navy an extremely affordable, multi-mission weapon with a deep magazine and unmatched precision, targeting and control functions. Because lasers run on electricity, they can be fired as long as there is power and provide a measure of safety as they don't require carrying propellants and explosives aboard ships."

"We expect that in the future, a missile will not be able to simply outmaneuver a highly accurate, high-energy laser beam traveling at the speed of light," Klunder said.

Posted by Jerry Laws on Apr 08, 2013


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