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Navy To Deploy Lasers On Ship In 2014 402

Posted by samzenpus
from the point-and-click dept.
Velcroman1 writes "The Pentagon has plans to deploy its first ever ship-mounted laser next year, a disruptive, cutting-edge weapon capable of obliterating small boats and unmanned aerial vehicles with a blast of infrared energy. Navy officials announced Monday that in early 2014, a solid-state laser prototype will be mounted to the fantail of the USS Ponce and sent to the 5th fleet region in the Middle East for real-world experience. 'It operates much like a blowtorch ... with an unlimited magazine,' one official said."
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Navy To Deploy Lasers On Ship In 2014

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  • by ChipMonk (711367) on Monday April 08, 2013 @05:26PM (#43395231) Journal
    Next up, sharks.
    • by ackthpt (218170)

      Next up, sharks.

      What makes you think they won't name the series of Laser gunboats after sharks?

      • What makes you think they won't name the series of Laser gunboats after sharks?

        Because the only cool names in the military are on the unit patches the soldiers wear. Everything else is an acronym for something that sounds like a Terminator T-1000 accessory.

        • by ackthpt (218170)

          What makes you think they won't name the series of Laser gunboats after sharks?

          Because the only cool names in the military are on the unit patches the soldiers wear. Everything else is an acronym for something that sounds like a Terminator T-1000 accessory.

          Not so. During WW II the submarines were named for fish. That was fairly cool.

        • by BlueStrat (756137)

          Because the only cool names in the military are on the unit patches the soldiers wear. Everything else is an acronym for something that sounds like a Terminator T-1000 accessory.

          Not only subs and ships as others have mentioned. Aircraft, both fighters and bombers, got very cool names, as did tanks and other armored vehicles. WW2 saw the Flying Fortress, Thunderbolt, Mustang, and Lightning aircraft names for the Allies, with names like Wurger (the "Shrike" or "Butcher Bird" Focke-Wulf 190A series, and the name was very well-earned with FOUR MG-151 20mm cannons standard, along with two 13mm MG-131 machine guns, and the fastest roll-rate of any fighter of the time) for the Germans, an

      • Next up, sharks.

        What makes you think they won't name the series of Laser gunboats after sharks?

        Because they named the first one 'Ponce' [urbandictionary.com]!

    • by dunng808 (448849)

      What, no photon torpedoes?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by JavaTHut (9877)

      Next up, sharks.

      Erm, nope. Next up, Somali Pirates with mirrors

      • by AK Marc (707885)
        In reality, a 99.9% effective glass mirror hit with 10,000 Watts will "absorb" 10W of heat in a very thin film not designed for withstanding direct heating . It'll quickly char and become useless as a mirror.

        More effective of a system would be a water-cooled hull of shiny metal. And what happens if you spray a fire-hose directly at the laser? You'll heat water, but not get much heat to the intended target. I don't see the laser being very effective against ships. It talks mainly about aerial targets,
  • A fleet of these and all the missiles North Korea wants to waggle at the US will mean nothing.

    • >> A fleet of these and all the missiles North Korea wants to waggle at the US will mean nothing.

      Unless the missles work. Or the lasers don't.

    • Re: Not unexpected (Score:4, Informative)

      by waimate (147056) on Monday April 08, 2013 @05:36PM (#43395317) Homepage

      From TFA: "close in" and "slow moving". So as long as the North Koreans can arrange to have their rockets hover over US ships on clear days, yeah, nothing to worry about at all.

      • by AmiMoJo (196126) *

        Exactly, lasers just can't deliver enough energy fast enough to take out missiles or anything but the slowest aircraft. Range is also a major problem because the light is refracted and dissipated in the atmosphere. It's a demonstration of the technology, with the hope that it can be developed into something more useful.

        As for NK's missiles, if they have the range to hit the US then they are virtually impossible to stop. Shooting down ICBMs is pretty much impossible to do reliably, unless you are able to som

        • You should learn to google. There are multiple publicly documented examples of laser doing just that.

          These were conducted in pretty 'ideal' conditions, clear sunny days, and from stationary immobile platforms, but it's been done and verified to work to at least some level.

        • by sjames (1099) on Monday April 08, 2013 @07:49PM (#43396487) Homepage

          Obviously, for piloted aircraft they just order all hands on deck with laser pointers.

        • Re: Not unexpected (Score:5, Informative)

          by lgw (121541) on Monday April 08, 2013 @08:18PM (#43396685) Journal

          Exactly, lasers just can't deliver enough energy fast enough to take out missiles or anything but the slowest aircraft. Range is also a major problem because the light is refracted and dissipated in the atmosphere. It's a demonstration of the technology, with the hope that it can be developed into something more useful.

          The ill-fated ABL program solved both the energy and refraction problems, but that was a larger and more expensive laser (you can overcome atmospheric dissipation almost entirely if you can shape your lens on the fly to exactly counter the distortion of the atmosphere, which I believe is old hat for spy sats).

          The equally ill-fated DDX program promised huge amounts of power to feed lasers and railguns, but I believe the type of engine that was proposed has since been abandoned, so I'm not sure where you could get enough power to take out a distant, large missile. It should still be fine for CIWS though.

          As for NK's missiles, if they have the range to hit the US then they are virtually impossible to stop. Shooting down ICBMs is pretty much impossible to do reliably, unless you are able to somehow hit them all during the boost phase.

          Not all long-range missiles are created equal. Sure, if NK is using a still-working Russian cold-war era ICBM, with all of its countermeasures, that's a hard target during re-entry. But they won't be launching "missiles", nor getting the advantage of MIRV, if they only have one warhead (which is one more than they likely have). If it's some homebrew NK-built missile, then it will be the easiest possible target (and last I heard we can hit those now), on the slim chance it even makes it across the ocean. Not a danger to ignore, by any means, but we've relied on deterrence for 60+ years now - any actual missile defense is gravy.

        • by LWATCDR (28044)

          Shooting down an ICBM is not impossible. Hard yes. If North Korea shot off an ICBM at the US we would multiple chances of shooting down. First would be with a sea based SM-3 then with the GMDs in Alaska and California and if we are lucky THAADs and then PAC-3s. We would not take on shot at it but I would say there is a very good chance that we could stop an NK ICBM since it would probably lack decoys and other penaids and there would not be hundreds of them.
           

    • by bloodhawk (813939)
      There is a world of difference between a close, slow small boat and a ballistic missile. Even if NK have made the worst possible missiles they won't be close enough or slow enough for this to have any effect whatsoever.
    • Re:Not unexpected (Score:5, Interesting)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday April 08, 2013 @05:49PM (#43395505) Journal

      TFA(although horribly light on details) specifically mentions that these devices are too feeble and short ranged to pose any threat to such larger missiles. TFA also expresses uncertainty about hitting fast moving targets(I'd hope that the tracking capabilities are at least not-worse than existing CIWS hardware; but if it takes several seconds to set the target on fire, that would entail a greater delay...)

      In fact, short of being a tech demo for something that might eventually be mature, it isn't entirely clear what this system can do that any of the better regarded WWII-era light cannon(retrofitted with modern targeting systems) couldn't...

      • Re:Not unexpected (Score:5, Informative)

        by CrimsonAvenger (580665) on Monday April 08, 2013 @05:58PM (#43395601)

        In fact, short of being a tech demo for something that might eventually be mature, it isn't entirely clear what this system can do that any of the better regarded WWII-era light cannon(retrofitted with modern targeting systems) couldn't...

        What it can do is not run out of ammo.

        CIWS has 1550 rounds in its magazine - about 20 seconds of fire. At which point you'd better be praying that the other side doesn't have anymore missiles to toss at you, since you can't reload a CIWS quickly....

    • by PopeRatzo (965947)

      A fleet of these and all the missiles North Korea wants to waggle at the US will mean nothing.

      I pray that our leaders are not insane enough to believe that.

      And I hope that an impenetrable anti-missile shield is never invented. We don't need one fewer reason to try to sort out our problems as civilized people. Arrogance+Invulnerability=Disaster for somebody.

  • Small Boats (Score:5, Funny)

    by Sponge Bath (413667) on Monday April 08, 2013 @05:28PM (#43395255)
    Somali pirates begin to feel the heat. Original recipe or extra crispy.
    • by khallow (566160)
      A 50 cal (and analogous weapons in metric) is sufficient heat for pirates. So why are there still pirates?
      • by Catbeller (118204)

        The ocean is big, and pirates are very small. Hard to spot. Sort of like muggers; not many, but they pop up anywhere. Also, Somali businessmen are financing theses operations for profit - ransom is lucrative. This isn't about kids on a boat. This is big business (while it lasts).

  • TFA says:

    Video released by the Navy shows the laser lock onto a slow-moving target, in this case an unmanned drone, which bursts aflame in mid-flight. The drone soon catches fire and crashes into the sea below.

    But how well does it work against a fast moving target that's actively trying to evade a laser lock or even spinning to prevent a continued lock on any particular part of the target? Would a polished/mirrored skin work as a countermesure? How long does it need to be locked on the surface of the target to cause damage?

    • Have they figured out how to stop a cohesive beam of light once it has missed the target? Didn't think so.

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        Have they figured out how to stop a cohesive beam of light once it has missed the target? Didn't think so.

        That's a good point, but it seems easier to predict what the laser is going to hit when it misses the target than 100 rounds/second of 20mm Phalanx rounds. I don't think the current lasers in the KW range are a danger to spacecraft, so if you can't see anything behind the target, it should be safe to shoot. But if you're close to shore and you fire your Phalanx guns toward shore, you might be raining Phalanx rounds onto a shoreside town.

    • by Type44Q (1233630)

      or even spinning to prevent a continued lock on any particular part of the target

      Well, THAT should be easy enough for the Iranian engineers to accomplish; all they need to do is equip their boats and UAV's with a single engine mounted off-axis... :p

  • Lasers ... cutting edge ... I see what you did there.
  • disable" or "damage" would be more accurate descriptions based on the article and photos.

  • Government spending is bad, unless of course you are mounting infrared lasers on Navy ships to shoot down Zeroes. Banzai!

    Austerity my tired buttocks. They just don't like that, what was it, 48%. Spending is good when you fund jobs programs that make layzers.

    Next up: lasers on planes, which will make targeted assassinations done so much more quietly.

    • by Fallen Kell (165468) on Monday April 08, 2013 @05:58PM (#43395597)
      Lets see:

      CIWS ammo 1 second fire: ~$250
      Solid State Laser: ~$1

      Yeah, no reason at all for the new system....
    • by ScentCone (795499)
      It costs $1 to shoot it. If Captain Ahmed is driving a small boat at your battleship, you can light it up with one of these for a lot cheaper, and with better results, than letting loose with a hundred grand worth of depleted uranium belt-fed minigun ammo from the Phalanx or something similar. You can use these just to smoke the outboard on Captain A's launch and then do with him what you will.
  • by Nyder (754090) on Monday April 08, 2013 @05:45PM (#43395471) Journal

    I always thought blowtorches has tanks of fuel, not magazines of fuel. Damn public school education!

    • by Entropius (188861) on Monday April 08, 2013 @06:01PM (#43395633)

      Well, we have a congresscritter who thinks that magazines are the things that come out of the end of the gun, so you're ahead of the curve.

    • by rts008 (812749)

      Well old-timer, when I attended public school in the 1960's and 1970's, we learned about this literary concept called the metaphor.
      Funny thing about that metaphor trick, it wasn't new then, and it's still used today.

      Damn public school education!

      Indeed.

  • by nortcele (186941) on Monday April 08, 2013 @05:56PM (#43395573) Homepage
    Oh Yeah? We not aflaid of laser. We have bigger better laser. Two of them. Will cut earth in half.
  • by steveha (103154) on Monday April 08, 2013 @05:57PM (#43395581) Homepage

    I've read a few articles about the future directions the US Navy wants to take for ship technology. Basically, they want the ship to have a huge amount of electrical generation capacity onboard, then multiple redundant busses to route the power all over. Propulsion will be giant electric motors driving propellers or waterjets. Power can also fire railguns and now lasers.

    If they have multiple generators as well as multiple redundant busses the ships might not have any single spot where damage could put the ship out of commission.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Integrated_electric_propulsion [wikipedia.org]

    Railguns and lasers also have the nice property that they don't explode when hit. A magazine full of gunpowder, or a rack of missiles with liquid fuel, could explode when hit; but railgun projectiles just sit there, and the laser doesn't even have any consumables other than the electricity.

    Let's just hope they don't use Windows 8 for the power management computers.

    • by Ungrounded Lightning (62228) on Monday April 08, 2013 @08:55PM (#43396941) Journal

      ... future directions .. for [US Navy] ship technology. ... they want the ship to have a huge amount of electrical generation capacity onboard, then multiple redundant busses to route the power all over.

      Note that it's the Navy that's funding the polywell fusion generator research. If that works out, you're talking a nuclear fusion power plant that would fit in even very small ships, taking far less room than existing engine systems, producing hundreds of megawatts output per unit, with efficiencies of 60% or greater nuclear-reaction-energy-to-electricity, from minute amounts of hydrogen and boron fuel, with negligible, easily-shielded, radiation from low-level side-chain reactions.

      This would be ideal for such a ship.

  • by linatux (63153) on Monday April 08, 2013 @06:00PM (#43395623)

    Definition of ponce
    noun

            1: derogatory an effeminate man.

            2: a man who lives off a prostitute’s earnings.

    • by AK Marc (707885)
      Indirectly named for explorer Ponce de Leon. Doesn't seem too unusual, named for a city named for a person of note.
    • by dkf (304284)

      Now we know why Village People did the song In the Navy.

  • USS Ponce [urbandictionary.com]? Really...?
  • "The very existence of flamethrowers proves that some time, somewhere, someone said to themselves, 'You know, I want to set those people over there on fire, but I'm just not close enough to get the job done.'" --George Carlin

  • by DulcetTone (601692) on Monday April 08, 2013 @09:26PM (#43397151) Homepage

    These probably are not meant to kill anything but suicide attack boats.

    CIWS and even 5-in guns with optimized shells are not good at killing agile craft at ranges beyond point-blank. When a small target with judiciously applied armor jinks, it is almost unkillable until the time of flight comes under 3 seconds (about 1-2 km), as any "motivated" use of the rudder causes a wild displacement in deflection that makes perfect aim mean a perfect miss on every shot. The "best" fire control in such a condition is a pattern of fire about the projected aim point, and this actuarial risk is moderate to a determined enemy who has numbers on his side: the guy you fire at goes defensive and becomes all but invulnerable while his friend bore in with rudders centered and throttles opened wide.

    These weapons, if they can keep their power up with enough regularity, will bleed a swarm attack at the intermediate range, leaving the ballistic weapons for the few that might have bobbed past.

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