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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 DanNeely on 1/24/2011 12:06:48 PM , Rating: 5
Reflection isn't 100% effective. At 1MW even a single percent of the power will vaporize the reflective layer if it hits a narrow enough are for long enough.

eg At 1% effectiveness (99% light reflected), and a 5.56mm diameter footprint on the target it would deliver the same energy as an m16 bullet in 1/6th of a second.

RE: Pew pew?
By MrTeal on 1/24/2011 12:27:58 PM , Rating: 5
99% reflectivity is also very, very high. If you go out and buy a decent quality telescope, the aluminum coating on its mirror might be in the range of 90% effective. You can pay a little more for enhanced Al coatings that might give about 94% reflectivity or so. To get into 99% reflectivity, you have to go with dielectric coatings that are incredibly expensive. You can get laser mirrors that are 99.9+% reflective, but those are precision ground glass mirrors that are kept very clean and aren't subjected to undue mechanical stress, not missile casings going 700mph.

Saying put on a mirror coating isn't anywhere near enough to stop a 1MW laser. You can easily weld with less than a kilowatt.

RE: Pew pew?
By Brainonska511 on 1/24/2011 3:39:24 PM , Rating: 4
And those numbers are also for specific wavelengths of light. Reflective coatings would have be designed to reflect the wavelength of light the laser is using, and I image, that would not be widely divulged.

These coatings could also be 90% reflective at one wavelength, but completely transparent at another wavelength.

RE: Pew pew?
By DanNeely on 1/24/2011 4:08:07 PM , Rating: 2
It's not just a question of keeping it secret. IIRC Free electron lasers are relatively easy to tune, so narrowly targeted protective schemes would be useless.

RE: Pew pew?
By DanNeely on 1/24/2011 4:07:00 PM , Rating: 2
I picked an extremely high value deliberately. Even at that level anything approaching a tight, sustained beam, will deliver enough energy to wreck the coating and burn strait through the underlying layer.

RE: Pew pew?
By Samus on 1/24/2011 9:24:15 PM , Rating: 2
Debris from sub-sonic flight will damage/coat even a 99.9% reflective layer with enough moisture or residue to make the laser effective.

Good luck Russians. Decades behind us, as usual.

RE: Pew pew?
By ArcliteHawaii on 1/25/2011 1:29:34 PM , Rating: 4
The obvious solution for ICBMs isn't reflective coatings, but cheap dummy warheads, chaff, and debris. This is the same solution the Russians came up with for defeating Reagan's Star Wars initiative. Throw enough targets into the sky, and overwhelm the defensive system. Any defensive system, missile or laser, needs time to track, identify, target, and fire.

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