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US Navy Champions Latest Laser Technology for 'Revolutionizing' War Making

- Jon Queally, staff writer

The US Navy is once again promoting lasers as the newest technology to 'revolutionize modern warfare,' claiming the mounted heat-concentrating weapon can down an enemy drone or a small armed boat for less than $1 per shot.

A tubular Laser Weapon System, called LaWS, the weapon would be mounted on naval battleships for forward operating missions.

As the following video footage released from the Navy shows:

Agence France-Presse reports:

The laser system will be deployed in 2014, two years ahead of schedule, aboard the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport ship retrofitted as a waterborne staging base, the Navy said Monday.

Chief of Naval Research Admiral Matthew Klunder said the cost of one blast of "directed energy" could be less than $1.

"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," he said in a US Navy statement.

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Naval Sea Systems Command successfully tested high-energy lasers against a moving target ship and a remotely piloted drone.

"The future is here," ONR official Peter Morrision said.

"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 laser runs on electricity, so the weapon "can be fired as long as there is power," and is a lot safer than carrying explosives aboard ships.

The use for such a weapon? Wired.com blogger Spencer Ackerman writes:

It just so happens that the LaWS’ ability to track and kill surveillance drones and swarming fast boats matches with Iran’s development of surveillance drones and swarming fast-boat tactics. And it just so happens that the Ponce will spend most of 2014 deployed in Iran’s backyard. Neither Klunder nor Eccles will come out and say it exactly, but the maiden deployment of the LaWS has immediate implications for the U.S.’ ongoing sub rosa conflict with the Iranians — and provides a new weapon for the Navy at a time when it’s had to scale back its aircraft carrier presence off of Iran’s shores.

“Any country that operates the kinds of threats this system is designed to deal with should pause and say, ‘If the United States Navy can take a challenge like that and muster the scientific expertise from industry, academia and inside the government and pull together a solution that can be fielded as rapidly as this one’s been fielded, and go from a test environment directly to a forward-deployed unit for demonstration in the field and in the Fifth Fleet,’” Eccles said, “they should recognize that when we say ‘quick-reaction capability’ we truly deliver on a quick reaction capability.”

Within initial limits. The Navy won’t say just how many kilowatts of energy the LaWS’ beam is, but it’s probably under the 100 kilowatts generally considered militarily mature. The fact that LaWS can kill a surveillance drone and a fast-attack boat has more to do with the vulnerabilities of those systems than it its own prowess. It cannot stop an anti-ship missile, and its beam, about the circumference of a dime, will do little more than singe a fighter jet. And there remain significant challenges with cooling a shipboard high-energy laser, a necessary safety feature.

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