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The Military Technology

Navy Planning To Build Laser Cannon In Four Years 195

Posted by samzenpus
from the sea-the-future dept.
CowboyRobot writes "The US Navy is months away from requesting bids from contractors to construct a laser weapon for its ships, now that the technology is feasible. 'The key point came last April, when the Navy put a test laser firing a (relatively weak) 15-kilowatt beam aboard a decommissioned destroyer... the Martime Laser Demonstrator cut through choppy California waters, an overcast sky and salty sea air to burn through the outboard engine of a moving motorboat a mile away.'"
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Navy Planning To Build Laser Cannon In Four Years

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  • Hmm (Score:3, Funny)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:54PM (#39541459)
    So Navy's of tomorrow will have their ships covered in mirrors. Now, someone tell me why this won't work... because it seems like a really obvious way to divert a laser beam.
    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by houstonbofh (602064) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:57PM (#39541477)
      High power lasers will smoke a typical mirror. There are reflective surfaces that could work, but you have to keep them perfectly clean. Not happening at sea for long... However, a laser will be easier to track back than a tracer round...
      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:24PM (#39541707)

        High power lasers will smoke a typical mirror. There are reflective surfaces that could work, but you have to keep them perfectly clean. Not happening at sea for long... However, a laser will be easier to track back than a tracer round...

        Maybe, maybe not.

        If the laser light doesn't scatter much, the only one who can track it back to its source is the target.

        But only AFTER getting blasted.

        Of course, you could look out for the fricken' shark in the first place... ;-)

        • by tqk (413719)

          High power lasers will smoke a typical mirror.

          Maybe, maybe not.

          If the laser light doesn't scatter much, the only one who can track it back to its source is the target.

          I'm not so sure either of these are correct. First, all you need to do is deflect the beam, not reflect it. "Point that thing at me, and one of your satellites is going to burn up!" Or, if you can split the beam into smaller pieces with multiple mirrors arranged around a cone pointed at the beam, you're done.

          As for the second, I'd expect to see a plasma trail along the length of the beam consisting of steam and fried dust. That ought to be easily detectable.

      • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:24PM (#39541709)

        If this stays as a (relatively) short range weapon, which is likely given the way lasers work in the atmosphere, then I doubt that being able to trace the beam back to its source will matter much. A modern US destroyer is over 500 ft long. Based on the one mile range listed in the summary, it would be clearly visible, even to the naked eye.

        • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Funny)

          by DurnikBob (682904) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @03:00PM (#39542381)
          Do you mean "your remaining eye"?
        • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Interesting)

          by icebike (68054) * on Sunday April 01, 2012 @04:19PM (#39542995)

          If this stays as a (relatively) short range weapon, which is likely given the way lasers work in the atmosphere, then I doubt that being able to trace the beam back to its source will matter much. A modern US destroyer is over 500 ft long. Based on the one mile range listed in the summary, it would be clearly visible, even to the naked eye.

          Further, something big enough to take out an outboard motor, even scaled up, is at best, a point defense weapon (cruise missiles, very small surface craft, close in helicopters, etc.) Even something 10 times as powerful does not completely disable a frigate sized surface vessel before it can return fire with missiles, guns, and torpedo.

          However, looking at the video, the time it takes to burn thru a thin-skinned outboard motor, on a boat that was barely moving, and making no effort to avoid the engagement, suggests that there is a long way to go before this could be a missile defense.

          So the use case shrinks even further.

          Most anti-ship missiles tend to cluster around a speed of 1000 km/h [wikipedia.org], which means they cover that last km in .27 seconds. And some US missiles arrive at over 4000 km/h.

          Unless a massively scaled up version can track an incoming missile traveling that fast, and engage it, burn it, or blind it in that .27 seconds, its use as fleet CIWS seems limited at best. The only saving grace is the last km is usually (but not always) a head on straight in attack, making tracking easier.

          • Actually, that thin-skinned outboard is MUCH thicker than ANY missiles framing. As far as the boat goes, if it was moving on the ocean at say 30 MPH or better and it hit it, then I am impressed. The reason is that with computer tracking, a laser, or several lasers, will be able to hit a missile in one or more spots and blast it quickly. And if the chip is fast enough, it will be able to take out supersonic missiles. Of course, add in heavy rain or a snow-storm, and suddenly, lasers may not be such a grea
          • by Mattsson (105422)

            One thing to consider about any weapon-grade laser is that, apart from deforming or vaporizing the target, it will probably also blind any military personnel, civilian or animal not wearing protective goggles in a rather wide area.
            Thus, I personally think that laser weapons (including defensive laser weapons) should be banned internationally with severe actions against any nation who use them.
            They should be treated the same way as biological and chemical weapons.

      • Well they should be able to cover the special mirrors in a easily flammable clean burning layer so that every surface that gets hit instantly melts/vaporises away and is 100% clean.

        • by dwywit (1109409)

          Yes, and what about salty seawater spray that gets deposited on the mirrors and then dries, leaving a reflective white crust ........oh, never mind.
           
          Didn't Larry Niven use a cloud of water vapour to attenuate laser energy - can't remember if it was a "Known Space" book, or Footfall.

          • by tibman (623933)

            Niven's Louis Wu used water vapor to diminish the available sunlight to Slaver Sunflowers. The nearby flowers would reflect light at an object (don't remember what it was, but it flew) that was wrapped in a superconductor line/fabric that extended down into a stream/lake. The flowers were creating the very cloud that would eventually kill them.

            • by dwywit (1109409)

              That wasn't what I was thinking, but I've remembered it now - it was in one of the "Ringworld" PC games that one of the characters uses a spray-can of fog to defeat a security laser.
               
              The slaver sunflowers would toast anything that flew over them - mostly birds, but also the occasional Kzin.

      • by hey! (33014)

        High power lasers will smoke a typical mirror. There are reflective surfaces that could work, but you have to keep them perfectly clean. Not happening at sea for long...

        Perfect defense against the laser isn't really the point. There's a range of conditions under which a laser of a given power can work fast enough to be effective against a quick moving target. Even painting something white would tend to narrow those conditions. Tests done in the 50s with nuclear heat flash showed that structures painted white survived while adjacent unpainted structures burst into flame.

        Look at the the video in TFA. Note especially the cut in the editing; it would appear that it took some

        • by icebike (68054) *

          Look at the the video in TFA. Note especially the cut in the editing; it would appear that it took some time for one of the black outboard engines of a stationary boat bursts into flames. The laser they're talking about building is only 7x as powerful as the one used in the demonstration. It's questionable whether such a laser could have that particular effect against a fast moving boat, much less something like a missile.

          Exactly my thoughts.

          It seems to me that the use case for burning thru hull plating (to take out inboard engines) seems pretty unlikely.

          Optically guided missiles might succumb to having their sensors fried at well beyond the range that a burn-through could happen. Interdiction use (coast guard) might make more sense, making the bridge of a running vessel a pretty inhospitable place to be without using naval gunfire and risking the lives of all on board.

        • Actually, by getting lasers on ships quickly, more R&D will be done. That will lead to a decent ABL and hopefully a tank/stryker mounted laser. Basically, once the demand is there, then companies will want to be the next one there with a better product. Hopefully, those companies will not sell it to China or to those nations that will sell this to China. As it is, our F-16 and other tech has been GIVEN to china by a 'friendly' nation.
      • by c0lo (1497653)

        High power lasers will smoke a typical mirror. There are reflective surfaces that could work, but you have to keep them perfectly clean. Not happening at sea for long... However, a laser will be easier to track back than a tracer round...

        Water; plenty around. Heat capacity: 4.18 J/(g*K).

        1 kg of water at 25 C against 100kW => approx 3 secs to reach boiling point. I think I can pump a bit more than 1 kg of water (eventually mixed with some ink to absorb better) along the line of your incoming laser beam. Doesn't need to be totally aligned, just to intersect your beam for some length.
        Alternatively, use a jet of water mixed with a medium that's highly dispersive on your wavelength (I don't know, possibly just air bubbles).

        (it is said tha

    • Re:Hmm (Score:5, Informative)

      by KnightMB (823876) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @12:58PM (#39541487)

      So Navy's of tomorrow will have their ships covered in mirrors. Now, someone tell me why this won't work... because it seems like a really obvious way to divert a laser beam.

      Because a mirror does not reflect 100% of the energy, some will be absorbed, thus the laser will eventually burn through it. Super efficient mirrors are easy counter anyway, just lob some "buckshot" at the target to shatter the mirrors, then burn the ship up with the laser :-)

      • by jovius (974690)

        Wouldn't the obvious solution be to create ships which absorb incoming energy and re-use it for their own use?

      • More importantly: the moment the mirror surface warps or burns, it stops reflecting. So after the initial laser hit, there's a sudden spike in energy adsorption as the reflective material fails.

        Any practical reflective material is also going to be polished metal, so this would happen pretty quickly.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Mirrors are not perfect, especially those exposed to the elements. Even a 99.9% reflective mirror (which would be impossible on a ship) would heat up quickly and discolour, and then all bets are off. Also lasers can use a wide range of frequencies outside of visible light which adds to the difficulty.

      • How quickly? More quickly than a computer-controlled mirror could be rotated to reflect the laser back at its source? If a surface could reflect 60% of the energy and angle it back at the source, I could see that causing problems. But I'm just typing as I think, and I doubt the potential benefit of protection against laser weapons outweighs the costs (monetary and strategic) of outfitting a ship with such a system.

    • by Joce640k (829181)

      So Navy's of tomorrow will have their ships covered in mirrors..

      Nah, they'll be covered in hi-tech retro-reflective coatings. The great thing about laser beams is they have no inertial mass...

    • Re:Hmm (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Nidi62 (1525137) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @02:05PM (#39542029)

      So Navy's of tomorrow will have their ships covered in mirrors. Now, someone tell me why this won't work... because it seems like a really obvious way to divert a laser beam.

      Because the navies of tomorrow (or at least ours will) will also be armed with rail guns. Mirrors won't do much to stop that, and even if there's conventional armor underneath, the rail gun projectile, if it hits, will make them all but useless against a laser.

    • by goombah99 (560566) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @02:12PM (#39542073)

      This is a precision weapon for neutralizing things like Iranian speed boats or Yemeny boat bombs. You don't know if they are threat or not and so rather than blow up everything you disable it and if you make mistake you don't cause death or accidental wars. A laser can't fire over the horizon so it's not useful ship to ship or even ship to airplane. it's even somewhat hard to burn a spinning missile, especially if it is trying to avoid being tracked. (though it might be useful for that if they have enough juice.)

      They discontinued the airborne laser program which to me makes more sense. Planes can't carry a lot of bomb weight but they have enormous power plants. Their modern mission are becoming increasingly precision oriented. With a laser can loiter and fry things as long as their fuel hold out. Plus like ships they have lots of cooling available.

    • I wish people would cut this out.

      Have you ever seen a high-energy mirror? It's not something you pick up at Bed, Bath & Beyond. They are expensive, they are fragile, they must be kept completely clean. The reflective surface has to be on the *front* of the mirror, not the rear, because there aren't materials transparent enough to pass high-energy laser light through without absorbing enough of it to react unpleasantly and spoil the reflection. So if there's something like a fingerprint, or a dust spe

    • by Kupfernigk (1190345) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @04:44PM (#39543143)
      Some military equipment has long been covered in ablative paint. Laser strikes, creates cloud of of particles which diffuse the beam preventing further damage. The identification of materials with suitable oxides or nitrides is left as an exercise for the reader.
    • 1. Sandcasters [wikia.com]. (Yes, I played Traveler back in the day). Projectors that spout clouds of reflective/ablative substances to absorb a portion, if not all, of the energy of the beam.

      2. Optical chaff. Similar to (1). but purely optical. And we already have RBOC launchers. [fas.org].

      Because if we're developing offensive laser weapons, GUARANTEED we're working on countermeasures against the day that the Russians or Chinese or whoever deploy their own shipboard offensive lasers. . .

  • I'm Confused.... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Catmeat (20653) <mtm&sys,uea,ac,uk> on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:03PM (#39541539)
    “Subsonic cruise missiles, aircraft, fast-moving boats, unmanned aerial vehicles” — Mike Deitchman, who oversees future weapons development for the Office of Naval Research, promises Danger Room that the Navy laser cannons just over the horizon will target them all.

    I'm confused. Surely the one thing a laser canon can't do is target things from over the horizon.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      He's using "just over the horizon" as a figure of speech, in the sense of time; i.e., the laser cannons that will be built in the near future. It's a poorly written sentence though, so the confusion is understandable.

    • Re:I'm Confused.... (Score:4, Informative)

      by scream at the sky (989144) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @02:36PM (#39542221) Homepage

      “Subsonic cruise missiles, aircraft, fast-moving boats, unmanned aerial vehicles” — Mike Deitchman, who oversees future weapons development for the Office of Naval Research, promises Danger Room that the Navy laser cannons just over the horizon will target them all. I'm confused. Surely the one thing a laser canon can't do is target things from over the horizon.

      I think he is using the word horizon as a metaphor for "coming soon" not a target on the literal horizon. Sloppy wording for sure, it took me a moment to process as well.

  • by joe_frisch (1366229) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:11PM (#39541609)

    If the attacking boat has a corner cube reflector there is a good chance of blinding people on the defending ship. Since the system needs to be ready for use without warning, the crew would need to always wear laser goggles.

    You can protect a missile with an ablative shield - the sort used for re-entry vehicles. This doesn't need to be high tech - wood works surprisingly well (used by the Chinese for spacecraft years ago).

    You could use a more diffuse beam to blind the crew of an attacking boat, but I think that violates the Geneva convention.

    I'm also very skeptical about the 1MW -> 20' of steel / second. At a kilometer away, you probably have a spot size of around a centimeter. (it depends on wavelength, optics, etc, but that is the right ball park. Iron vaporization energy is 300KJ/mole or about 6KJ/gm. A 1cm long by 10M piece of iron is 1000 cc's or ~10^4 grams. So that's 60MJ to vaporize, or a minute, not a second to burn through. Of course the plume of iron vapor will disrupt the incoming beam so it will take a lot longer. This also assumes you can keep the beam perfectly focused.

    The is also the question of whether a complex device like an FEL can be kept always ready to fire within a second. The light is much faster, but its not clear that when you include the time to ready and aim the weapon that the time to hit the target is faster than for a high speed gun.

    • by rubycodez (864176)
      wrong, the gas jet ejects merely molten material, much less total energy required than to vaporize the mass of iron. also, since this is near range weapon, we just won't target any Edmond Scientific corner cube reflector the enemy happens to be holding or mounted
      • by rubycodez (864176)
        and, coming from CAE/CAM background that happened to include laser cutting, I can tell you lasers in the mere hundreds of watts range eat wood like candy, totally different situation than heating missile shield by unit area by orders of magnitude.
        • Interesting. Do you have a feel for how much power drills how big a hole how fast? I would have thought that the wood would carborize and that would tend to protect the under layer, but I believe any actual data you have.

          • by rubycodez (864176)
            wood cutting is normally done with focused beams, though, so not a good gauge of unfocused applications. cutting 1" wood from both sides with 1300 W focused lasers proceeds at about 200 inches / minute. You can find engraving machines of 1/8 to 1/4" hardwoods, again focused, with tens of watts.
      • Its a tricky problem to figure out how fast you can drill a hole. The energy is all absorbed at the surface. You are right that some material melts, but once the hole is much deeper than it is wide, it will be difficult for the molten material to get out. You could easily wind up with a jet of boiling metal exiting the hole, and probably blocking the input beam (I don't know if dense iron vapor is transparent, but I expect not). All this really is just an aside - the main application doesn't involve drill

    • by DerekLyons (302214) <.moc.liamg. .ta. .retawriaf.> on Sunday April 01, 2012 @03:30PM (#39542623) Homepage

      If the attacking boat has a corner cube reflector there is a good chance of blinding people on the defending ship. Since the system needs to be ready for use without warning, the crew would need to always wear laser goggles.

      Assuming the corner cube reflector is a front surface mirror, and has no dirt or dust or scratches or flaws - yes. Otherwise, the mirror is going to get smoked. Equally, it takes about thirty seconds or less for the crew to get under cover or to at least look away... so, no need for the crew to ever wear laser goggles except for the handful that must look in the direction of the target. (And you can cut the time down even further if you just want them to look away.)
       

      You can protect a missile with an ablative shield - the sort used for re-entry vehicles. This doesn't need to be high tech - wood works surprisingly well (used by the Chinese for spacecraft years ago).

      Put an ablative shield around the missile - and you've taken a good chunk out of it's range and payload as the shield now occupies weight and volume formerly dedicated to those things. That, or you've increased the impact on the launching platform as the missile is now larger and heavier. (As well as somewhat more expensive.) Keep in mind the wooden heatshields used by the Chinese were impregnated with (modestly high tech) epoxy, they weren't bare wood as the char has almost no strength.
       
       

      The is also the question of whether a complex device like an FEL can be kept always ready to fire within a second. The light is much faster, but its not clear that when you include the time to ready and aim the weapon that the time to hit the target is faster than for a high speed gun.

      No need for a second, ten to fifteen will do. (And I'll note that the claim that it needs to be a second is yours, not TFA's or the Navy's.)
       
      (tl;dr version: Once again, the world doesn't work like most Slashdotters think it does, and Slashdotters haven't thought of something that actual knowledgeable people missed.)

      • by joe_frisch (1366229) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @04:43PM (#39543139)

        You are right that the mirror will be destroyed pretty quickly, but for a short time it will be reflecting light back at the ship.

        The 1 second was my assumption. I was thinking that the main advantage of the FEL over a conventional gun was the faster travel time for use against nearby fast-moving targets. In that case I think you need a really fast response time. I guess it depends on whether we are talking about inbound missiles or boats. For a boat, I agree you have lots of time, but then I don't see an advantage of the laser over a chain gun. For a missile you probably don't have much reaction time - probably only a few seconds if its a low altitude cruise missile. If you do have time, then again it seems a chain gun would work.

        You are also right that adding ablative shielding to missiles will add weight. It would take some work to figure out how much is needed against a MW laser for a ~sonic speed missile.

        I help design and commission the world's largest FEL (SLAC / LCLS) - they are quite complex and finicky machines. The FELs the navy is considering are a different type of machine (most likely superconducting recirculating linacs like the TJNAL FEL) but they remain very complex machines (Operating a SC linac on a rolling ship sounds very difficult to me).

          Its not impossible to imagine one that could be kept ready for rapid use (1 or 30 seconds doesn't make a lot of difference), but it will be a LOT of work.

        I have a reasonable understanding of the technology, but freely admit that I know nothing about the military application.

        • Keep in mind that the Navy has decades of experience in designing and operating complex machinery that must be ready to operate on a moments notice on a ship moving in a seaway... Consider that even SpaceX requires a few days to get one of their modestly complex rockets ready and launched - while the Navy can ripple off 24 missiles in less than half an hour from the order to fire to the last missile away... The first generation certainly won't be that fast, but the times will improve with each subsequent

    • by fnj (64210)

      If the attacking boat has a corner cube reflector there is a good chance of blinding people on the defending ship. Since the system needs to be ready for use without warning, the crew would need to always wear laser goggles.

      First, an attacking small craft is NEVER going to appear on the high seas close to a major naval vessel like like an apparition, "without warning".

      More importantly, do you really think any people stand out on the deck on any major US Navy vessels (aircraft carriers aside) when combat is going on? Or that these ships have any portholes? Or that the few people on the bridge who are behind glass would not be wearing laser goggles when they need them? The old days of hundreds of people on the deck of a battlesh

      • All good points, but then what is the value of the laser weapon over a conventional gun?

        • by fnj (64210)

          I don't see any, but I'm not privy to all the classified facts. Presumably it shows enough promise to for development to at least be pursued on the chance it would be a worthwhile part of the weapons mix.

  • Oops, that cruise liner way off in the distance just got torched... sorry...

  • by frankmu (68782) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:17PM (#39541653) Homepage
    Will the Wave Motion Gun be next?
  • by Animats (122034) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:22PM (#39541699) Homepage

    The Navy wants this so that, when they're dealing with a small boat that's causing a problem, they have an option between "ignore" and "blow them out of the water". Somalia pirates, smugglers, boats getting too close (see USS Cole) - things like that.

    • I don't see this as an intermediate option. Its very likely to blind the crews, and maybe kill them if the engines explode, this really isn't a non-lethal weapon. Isn't a warning shot followed by a conventional lethal attack better?

  • US DOD - "Fixing our economy one giant military expenditure at a time."

  • "Lux eradico"

    After that railgun motto nonsense, I would't be surprised if they went for: "icking-fray aser-lay"
  • by wisnoskij (1206448) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @02:12PM (#39542069) Homepage

    On a lower setting it can cook a perfect hotdog or marshmallow instantly.

  • The article says that one reason the ultimate goal of a 1MW laser is not feasible right now is because no ship can power it, and even a 100KW laser may stress the power systems on current ships.

    However, you can fit 2MW worth of generating capacity in a single 48 foot 30 ton container [cumminspower.com] (and I'm sure a 500' destroyer could find some place to stash this generator), so the power demands much be much greater than the delivered power of the laser suggests.

    So, how much power does it take to drive a 1MW or 100KW las

    • With a superconducting recirculating LINAC driven FEL, I expect you could get 10-25% wall plug efficiency, but the present systems are way below that because there has so far been no need to optimize efficiency. OTOH, a superconducting linac on a moving platform like a ship raises all sorts of technical issues (for example the cavities are typically suspended by wires.......).

      BTW: the above is a guess. Would take a real design study to get a solid number.

    • and I'm sure a 500' destroyer could find some place to stash this generator

      I wouldn't be too sure of that. I served on a Knox Class Frigate [wikipedia.org] back in '72, when they were still called Destrolyer Escorts. At 438' long, they're about the size you're talking about and there was very little of that space that wasn't already in use for something important.
      • by wagnerrp (1305589)
        Simple. You run bleed lines off that boiler to a secondary turbine hooked up to a generator. On more modern ships, you pull shaft power straight off the gas turbines.
        • Yes, but what do you take out (or leave out, in new construction) to make room for that generator? Space is always at a premium in a warship because it's a waste of resources and money to make them any larger than they have to be.
      • Older ships are ideal for automating, leading to reduced crew requirements, which means less space required.

        To be honest, I am amazed that we are not doing nuke-powered destroyers. It actually makes sense to move to that. Not only gives us more range, but lowers costs, and can provide much more energy.
        • Moving to nuke-powered destroyers would be a great idea for a number of reasons. Having ample power for laser-based weapons is just one of them. Not needing to refuel every few days is another one. And, of course, if you don't need the oil tanks, you've got lots more room for food and other supplies, meaning that ships can stay on station longer without having to worry about having enough to eat. I don't think automation's going to happen very much, however, because in the long run, you need people who
          • Look at the DDX. Loads of automation there. Likewise, china and Russia are doing that as well.
            • Interesting, but the key word here is "experimental." You need crew to keep the automation working, crew to repair it when the ship takes a hit and more crew to take care of the techs so that they have time to do their jobs. And, I'll believe that the DDX is practical if and when they go into service. Not that I think that the idea can't work, I'm just reserving judgement.
  • Maybe 10-15 years ago I worked with an American (then working in the UK) who formally worked on a Boeing Stealth plane design that never came to fruition. He struck me as pretty much lacking any imagination so I couldn't imagine him making this up but here goes...

    He said there were several planes, mainly on the Navy side that no one knew anything about (we had been discussing the Aurora i.e. did it exist or not). Bizarrely, he reckoned one was only armed with high energy weopons. He wouldn't say anything
  • While it is good to get lasers going, I think of far more value will be rail-guns. These not only shot further, but do a great deal more damage with less energy. The only downfall is that it requires ammunition, but they are small.

    Regardless, the DOD should be looking at adding laser and railguns to their M1A1 or perhaps even a modified Styker.

    At the same time, we need to get energy beaming going a distance. With that, it would allow a ship to help another ship, or a back-field carrier to help a forward
  • by slew (2918) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @08:15PM (#39544657)

    A professor that I took a class from once mentioned in a lecture the primary difficulty of scaling a laser cannon.

    With standard munitions, you send something over to the other ship and it blows up and releases all of its energy over there.
    With a laser cannon you blow something up in your own ship and send a light beam over there with whatever laser efficiency you have.

    Today, laser efficiency is about 30%, the math isn't very favorable.

  • The Navyâ(TM)s surface ships donâ(TM)t yet have the power generation necessary for spooling up a megawatt-class laser â" or at least not if they donâ(TM)t want to potentially be dead in the water.

    Reminds me of "Star Wreck".

    Of course the weapon in general is Real Genius too.

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