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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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  • Re:Hmm (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 01, 2012 @01:02PM (#39541525)

    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.

  • 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: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 Anonymous Coward on Sunday April 01, 2012 @02:07PM (#39542041)

    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:Hmm (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Tyrannosaur (2485772) on Sunday April 01, 2012 @02:58PM (#39542373)

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

    If I extend that "obvious solution" to apply to how to counter, say, nuclear weapons, you'll see why that won't work.

  • Re:Priorities. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Idarubicin (579475) < minus pi> on Sunday April 01, 2012 @03:03PM (#39542413) Journal
    If you're going to quote that report, you could just as easily point to this figure [].

    In inflation-adjusted dollars, defense spending has been higher in the last five budgets than at any other point in the last fifty. The last time the DOD was spending more money in terms of real buying power was World War 2.

  • 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.)

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