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The Military United States

Navy Unveils First Active Laser Weapon In Persian Gulf (cnn.com) 370

schwit1 shares a report from CNN: In the sometimes hostile waters of the Persian Gulf looms the U.S. Navy's first -- in fact, the world's first -- active laser weapon. The LaWS, an acronym for Laser Weapons System, is not science fiction. It is not experimental. It is deployed on board the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, ready to be fired at targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew. It costs "about a dollar a shot" to fire, said Lt. Cale Hughes, laser weapons system officer. LaWS begins with an advantage no other weapon ever invented comes even close to matching. It moves, by definition, at the speed of light. For comparison, that is 50,000 times the speed of an incoming ICBM. For the test, the USS Ponce crew launched the target -- a drone aircraft, a weapon in increasing use by Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and other adversaries. In an instant, the drone's wing lit up, heated to a temperature of thousands of degrees, lethally damaging the aircraft and sending it hurtling down to the sea. "It operates in an invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum so you don't see the beam, it doesn't make any sound, it's completely silent and it's incredibly effective at what it does," said Hughes.
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Navy Unveils First Active Laser Weapon In Persian Gulf

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  • t doesn't make any sound, it's completely silent and it's incredibly effective at what it does,"

    But does it make popcorn?

  • USS Ponce? (Score:5, Funny)

    by serviscope_minor ( 664417 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @06:50PM (#54842653) Journal

    Who the hell named that ship?! Are the sister ships the USS Wanker and USS Berk?

  • BWEEM (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cfalcon ( 779563 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @06:51PM (#54842655)

    > "It operates in an invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum so you don't see the beam, it doesn't make any sound...

    Hopefully, future versions will come in a variety of badass colors, and will make a BWEEM noise.

  • by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @06:54PM (#54842677)

    High energy lasers are the only effective way to block incoming Ballistic Missiles from hitting American cities, so the Pentagon should install (high energy lasers) around the edges of North America instead of spending all that money on the Kinetic Interceptor missiles.

    • by Rick Schumann ( 4662797 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @07:01PM (#54842715) Journal
      Why let them get that far inland? Wouldn't it be better if you had some of them stationed off the coastline, patrolling? Ideally, something relatively small (compared to a ship), fully autonomous, self-sustaining, and that blends in with the ocean? Sharks, for instance..
    • Have there been any tests on blocking ballistic missiles with high energy lasers? A ballistic missile is basically a falling rock, so it's not easy to stop.
      • Have there been any tests on blocking ballistic missiles with high energy lasers? A ballistic missile is basically a falling rock, so it's not easy to stop.

        That's why you want to stop it when it's a delicate, rising rock.

      • It was called "Star Wars", though the idea was to set off a satellite based nuke which would pump a set of X-ray laser emitters.

      • If you detonate the warhead it's falling dust. You can overcome the range in air issue by using more power, and that is easily done if land based. Also a home based system doesn't need long range, the missiles are coming towards you. You can overcome the rate of fire issue if you build multiple lasers, and that is easily done if land based. Ships off-shore can be sunk by submarines and sea mines. Aircraft are vulnerable to sub launched anti-aircraft missiles. Land bases are much harder to destroy. Pu

    • by Megol ( 3135005 )

      There are some good descriptions how a ballistic missile attack works - I recommend watching one (or reading about it).

      Short version: stopping a ballistic missile is really hard except in the boost phase (when it places the bus in orbit). Attacking the bus before the projectiles separate is extremely hard for many reasons, attacking the projectiles after they have separated is harder still. A practical ballistic missile will have many fake projectiles plus other countermeasures and hitting even one projecti

  • by hcs_$reboot ( 1536101 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @06:58PM (#54842695)
    And the target used a mirror...
    • by Strider- ( 39683 )

      I know you're joking, but the laser would just burn a hole through the mirror. Even if your mirror was 99% efficient (which most aren't), the mirror would be absorbing 300W within a few square inches, which would cause it to heat up rapidly, becoming less reflective, and very quickly you have a hole in it.

  • Looks like new weapons arise to face Russian and North Korean threats. Actually, probably not really "new" weapons - they were kept hidden in case of a real conflict. The new president in charge decided to exhibit them.
    • They've been working on these for a long time. Still have kinks on them.
      Initially the work in the 1980s was with chemical lasers but because those are hard to handle, now they're using solid state fiber lasers. Why didn't they use those before? Poor efficiency meant a regular ship couldn't power one with any decent output. Even here notice they're talking about drones.
      I remember hearing years ago that you need at least a 100 kW laser to have something approaching battlefield capability and 1 MW would be bet

    • by MikeMo ( 521697 )
      The development, testing and deployment of this system has been widely and publicly reported for years.
    • by Strider- ( 39683 )

      To quote Dr Strangelove: "Of course, the whole point of a Doomsday Machine is lost, if you *keep* it a *secret*! Why didn't you tell the world, EH? "

      Keeping the existence and capabilities of your weapon systems a secret doesn't work very well to deter your enemies. By letting your enemies know you have it, you force them to spend significant resources countering your own system.

      When it all comes down to it, war is kinetic economics.

  • The laser beam itself, yes ... But what about the tracking/aiming system latency and mount system? The gimbal has to track the trajectory precisely and slew with it. And that gets more complicated if the target is wobbling.

    • by Ogive17 ( 691899 )
      I read something a day or two ago stating it's point and shoot... the weapon does travel at the speed of light so there's really no reason for anything fancy. Basically, if the target is in the cross hairs when you pull the trigger, you'll hit it.
  • ... has already written a song about it.

    Translated: "I fought the LaWS and the LaWS won."

  • PLEASE (Score:5, Funny)

    by ArylAkamov ( 4036877 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @08:16PM (#54843169)

    Can we shoehorn an L in there somewhere so it's the LAWLS?

  • by Streetlight ( 1102081 ) on Wednesday July 19, 2017 @08:50PM (#54843287) Journal
    Here are some of the quotes for the original CNN article by the lieutenant in charge of the system or things not said:

    "...we don't worry about range..." The energy of the "shot" delivered should drop with the square of the distance from the target. If the laser's target is moving away from the laser device as it heads towards some destination, it's possible that the energy delivered might not be enough to destroy it.

    "All the $40 million system needs to operate is a supply of electricity, which is derived from its own small generator, and has a crew of three. No multi-million-dollar missile, no ammunition at all." and "It's about a dollar a shot" I don't know if the $40 million is the cost per device or the development cost. The three operators also get paid whether they're using the device or sleeping, though they will likely have other duties. Nevertheless, this one shot cost at least $40 million +. The second will result in a cost of $20 million per shot. And, what's the lifetime of the hardware, replacement of end-of-life parts costs and other maintenance costs? It'll take many more than 40 million shots to get down to $1 per shot.

    "I can aim that at any particular spot on a target, and disable and destroy as necessary" Moving targets can take a circuitous and rapidly change directions. The aiming system, presumably RADAR or some such, must be able to follow such a target and likely uses a mechanical motor driven gear system for that. Can the aiming system follow that spot during the target's travels?

    The article doesn't say whether this uses a pulse laser or a continuous laser. If pulsed, what's the recycle time? A fast moving target may reach its target during the recycle time if that's the case.

    How does this system work on targets obscured during rain, fog, cloudy weather or dusty conditions? Light beams become scattered under these conditions and the ability to deliver a destructive energy blast could be hampered.

    Of course, the effectiveness of this device will be determined while used under combat conditions with simultaneous multiple, fast moving offensive weapons approaching the laser device. Likely the navy will have several redundant defenses on its valuable targets.
    • by asifyoucare ( 302582 ) on Thursday July 20, 2017 @12:25AM (#54844091)

      re 'The energy of the "shot" delivered should drop with the square of the distance from the target.'

      It's a laser! The energy of the shot will not follow an inverse square law - it will dissipate slowly due to slight incoherence and absorption.

  • This ship and laser have been in the gulf and other areas since 2014. What makes this story news now?
  • Now we just need a few sharks with the lasers.

    When I get my hands on those laser-sharks, my fortress will finally be complete!

Lo! Men have become the tool of their tools. -- Henry David Thoreau

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