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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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Always have to laugh...
By Shadowself on 1/24/2011 2:44:56 PM , Rating: 2
at statements like this:

The goal of the Navy missile program is to create a laser with one megawatt of power.

The U.S. Navy had a working prototype that was approximately 100 MW peak power back in 1981. I know. I worked on it. Unfortunately it was never fielded. It was solid state, not chemical. Unfortunately it was only about 1+ joules per pulse.

What is necessary is 1,000s of joules per pulse. So you really need 10s of megawatts over a significant fraction of a second in order to bring something down. A 100 MW, 10 nsec pulse, like the aforementioned system, won't do it.

A FEL could do this. A couple nice things about FELs is that you can vary the pulse duration as well as vary the frequency of the LASER itself. Both are nice parameters for play when devising a weapon.

RE: Always have to laugh...
By Jaybus on 1/25/2011 1:20:05 PM , Rating: 2
They mean 1 MW average power, not peak power. The FEL is a CW (or quasi-CW) laser. The 1981 laser you mention is a high peak power pulsed laser. 10^8 W * 10^-8 s = 1 J for the 1981 pulsed laser. 10^6 * 1 s = 10^6 J for the FEL. The FEL is not thousands of times more powerful. It's a million times more powerful than the 1981 laser.

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