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Navy laser program moves ahead
Laser program is under review

Lasers hold a great deal of promise for the battlefield – they are able to strike at the speed of light giving a better chance of hitting a fast moving target on short notice on the battlefield.

The U.S. Navy has been working on a laser system that will eventually be mounted on ships to replace the rapid firing cannons that are designed to shoot down missiles and other threats at close range. A laser system to replace the rapid-fire guns has been in development by the Navy since the 1980's reports, and the laser system has hit a new milestone.

The goal of the Navy missile program is to create a laser with one megawatt of power. Last month, the research teams working on the project at the Los Alamos National Lab demonstrated that they could create lasers with the power needed for the Navy. A preliminary review of the program began last week and is being conducted by the Office of Naval Research.

Dinh Nguyen, senior project leader for the Free Electron Laser program said, "Until now, we didn't have the evidence to support our models."

The research team used a new injector design to shoot electrons through a series of magnetic fields and was able to generate the power needed for a viable weapon. The laser program is called the free-electron laser of FEL.

Office of Naval Research program manager Quentin Saulter said, "The FEL is expected to provide future U.S. Naval forces with a near-instantaneous laser ship defense in any maritime environment throughout the world."

The laser began as a 14-kilowatt prototype, and the research team then moved on to producing a 100-kilowatt laser. The test with the new injector has put the research team 9-months ahead of its 2011 testing schedule.

The U.S. Air force is also working on laser systems that will be mounted inside aircraft to destroy missiles in flight. The Air Force ended development of an airborne chemical laser early last year in favor of solid-state lasers.

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RE: Pew pew?
By Dribble on 1/24/2011 11:43:55 AM , Rating: 1
Depends on quite how reflective the missiles shell is, and quite how well it absorbs heat too (some space shuttle style heat shielding would work well).

Whatever it will take longer to heat up if much of the heat is reflected hence a lot depends on how well the laser can stay on the target. Then the missile can counter this by dodging and rotating to stop the laser being able to heat any one spot.

RE: Pew pew?
By FaaR on 1/24/2011 8:46:30 PM , Rating: 2
Space shuttle-style insulation is extremely fragile (enough so that the styrofoam-like insulation material used on the external fuel tank becomes a serious danger to the vehicle during launch should a fragment strike the heat shield tiles. It's also very porous and thus prone to water absorbtion and so on. That means it'd blow up from the inside from steam pressure if struck by a laser...

Such a material would never stand up to the rigors military hardware need to be able to withstand. Also, various insulation tech will add weight and bulk to the weapon, reducing performance. And it might not be sufficient anyway, as a powerful enough laser will destroy the target regardless (vaporize any insulation/reflective coatings etc).

RE: Pew pew?
By Jaybus on 1/25/2011 12:29:50 PM , Rating: 2
Reflectivity is not constant, but varies as a function of wavelength, as does absorbance. A mirror that reflects 95% of 550 nm green visible light may only reflect 20% of 380 nm UV. Polished AL might be good, but no way they get more than 90% reflectivity. You have to remember that 10% of a MW is 100 kW. It would have to be a nearly perfect mirror. Highly unlikely to avoid the laser using a reflective coating.

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