backtop


Print 84 comment(s) - last by XSpeedracerX.. on Apr 18 at 10:10 AM


The laser was mounted aboard the USS Paul F. Foster, a decommissioned U.S. destroyer-class warship.  (Source: Destroyers Online)

The laser strikes the engine of the moving motorboat.  (Source: ONR via BrightCove)

On fire the ship is now crippled as it is struck by four foot waves.  (Source: ONR via BrightCove)

Northrop Grumman and the U.S. Navy hope to use similar lasers against small aerial targets and unarmored boats in the near future.  (Source: Northrop Grumman)
The era of laser warfare may have just begun

United States Navy ships each year face many threats.  While large threats mandate heavy munitions or rockets, the majority of threats are from small motorboats with armed occupants.  Dealing with these threats is tricky -- larger munitions are potentially lethal and expensive.  But using smaller munitions places the ship's crew at risk.  Thus the non-lethal accuracy of a laser weapon would be a highly desirable tool for the U.S. maritime warriors.

Sailors' dreams of having such a weapon at their disposal advanced a step forward to reality, with Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC) and the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) completing the first live test [press release] of a solid state weapon laser at sea. 

On Wednesday the USS Paul Foster, a decommissioned destroyer, was retrofitted with Northrop Grumman's 15-kilowatt solid-state high-energy laser (HEL) prototype.  The laser creates a high-energy burst of light by running electrons through specially designed pieces of glass or crystals.

The eventual goal of the $98M USD Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD) is to install 100-kilowatt lasers on ships.  But the smaller 15-kilowatt system proved it might be sufficiently deadly for some applications.

Motoring into the U.S.'s Pacific testing range near San Nicholas Island off the coast of central California, the ship set its aim at a large inflatable motorboat, moving a mile away.  Firing a pulse of light, the experimental laser struck a crippling blow [video] damaging the engines and setting them on fire.  The target was crippled, floating dead in the ocean.

The success was not easy.  The scientists had to deal with ocean waves that could reach four feet in height.  And they had to deal with the day's humidity and the salty air over ocean waters.

But adverse conditions did not stop the laser from finding is mark with a killing shot.  Describes Rear Adm. Nevin Carr [profile] in an interview with Wired's Danger Room, "I spent my life at sea and I never thought we’d see this kind of progress this quickly, where we’re approaching a decision of when we can put laser weapons on ships.  When we were doing the shot and the engine went, there was elation in the control room.  It’s a big step, a proof of principle for directed energy weapons.  [Ten kilowatt beams like the test laser] can be operated in existing power levels and cooling levels on ships today."

The U.S. Navy could see deployment of lasers to warships over the course of the next decade, though their installation will require new crew training and the development of new battle tactics to fully leverage their capabilities.  Small lasers could be used effectively both against airborne targets like UAVs and against small ships that lack thick metal plating.

Northrop Grumman's rival Raytheon Comp. (RTN) has successfully killed UAVs with a laser system that couples six solid-state lasers with an output of 32 kilowatts.

In the more distant future (the 2020s, specifically) the Navy is working on a "superlaser", a megawatt-class laser capable of cutting through 2,000 feet of steel per second and offering battle-sinking power.  The more powerful ONR laser is called the Free Electron Laser.  Leveraging a new technique called free electron injection, the project has made significant progress already.

Adm. Carr comments, "This is an important data point, but I still want the Megawatt death ray."

The U.S. Navy is not alone in its thirst for laser guns.  The U.S. Air Force is also testing new laser designs that could be mounted to helicopter gunships and used to cripple UAVs, missiles, Humvees and lesser vehicles.

 



Comments     Threshold


This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: I may seem callous, but...
By omnicronx on 4/11/2011 10:56:25 AM , Rating: 4
Seems like overkill to me, you want to blow up a little zodiac, use one of the many large guns mounted all around the ships in question.

Disabling a small draft like this is not exactly an easy thing to do.. so I can see the need for something like this..

I bet Greenpeace is trembling in their eco friendly wet-suits right now ;)


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By Reclaimer77 on 4/11/2011 12:45:30 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Disabling a small draft like this is not exactly an easy thing to do.. so I can see the need for something like this..


Oh it's easy, just not cost effective. There are any number of things in the arsenal that could easily take out small craft at range, but they cost about 10 million a pop, give or take.

Lasers are perfect for Navy warfare because the massive energy source needed is already built in; the nuclear reactor.

Once we have lasers that can punch a hole through an armored warship below the waterline, hey, I'm all for this stuff. Don't see why some people are such haters.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By 91TTZ on 4/11/2011 2:24:05 PM , Rating: 2
What would you be using that costs $10 million each? There are numerous other things that will do the job for much cheaper.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By Reclaimer77 on 4/11/2011 2:39:36 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
What would you be using that costs $10 million each? There are numerous other things that will do the job for much cheaper.


Well I was assuming non projectile weapons. You know, anti-ship sea skimming missiles. Cruise missiles etc etc.

Or was I really supposed to assume this technology is really being developed so we can only use it against things the size of bass boats? No. It's going to be mached up bigger and bigger and advanced until, eventually, it WILL be competing directly with much less cost effective solutions. Like the before mentioned guided projectiles.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By 91TTZ on 4/11/2011 4:58:05 PM , Rating: 4
It's not really going to compete against the other guided missiles since it's going to be very range limited.

Since a laser only goes in a straight line, you're going to run into limitations with enemy ships being over the horizon when they're far away. You'll probably be limited to 20 miles or so.

If a ship is shortly beyond that, they could shoot a RIM-67 Standard at it ($400k) which is good for about 60 miles, or they could use a Harpoon ($1.2 million, good for over 60 miles), or they could use a Tomahawk (about $1.4 million) that's good for about 1,300 miles.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By Reclaimer77 on 4/11/2011 7:01:49 PM , Rating: 3
So let's say at 20 miles you have a few options. Lob stupid shells at the target, hoping to get a hit. Fire a million dollar missile, let's not forget the cost of the launcher systems and sub-systems and support systems...

OOOORRR warm up the megablaster!

I think saying this would "not" compete is being a bit presumptuous. Although, touche', I could be being a bit too optimistic.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By tayb on 4/11/2011 7:21:32 PM , Rating: 2
It's range limited in the sense that Walkie Talkies and phones were once range limited. Who knows what distances we will be able to achieve with this kind of technology but I would seriously doubt the first iteration of the device maxes out the distance.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By MrTeal on 4/11/2011 10:21:17 PM , Rating: 2
I think every scientist on this project who's not a member of the Flat Earth Society is probably aware of the maximum range of this weapon.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By Reclaimer77 on 4/12/2011 7:31:59 AM , Rating: 2
The same was said about radar. Now we have over-the-horizon Radar technology.

Never underestimate man's ability to push the limits of something.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By Paj on 4/12/2011 7:54:56 AM , Rating: 2
Thats only because the radar signal bounces off the ionosphere. I doubt a laser beam could do that without attentuating badly, if at all.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By vol7ron on 4/12/2011 10:58:54 PM , Rating: 2
I want to use Cerebro and kill all the mutants


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By rcc on 4/13/2011 6:13:45 PM , Rating: 2
They'll use flying jellyfish with big mirrors.


By voodoochile123 on 4/15/2011 1:10:30 AM , Rating: 2
I agree, there is a solution to everything. Maybe some kind of mirror/booster fitted to a UAV would be the first step. But who knows what the boffins will come up with. It's obvious to me that some day, not too far away, this will be fitted in to a plane, so line of sight won't be as big of an issue. Then it will be on a satellite etc.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By corduroygt on 4/11/2011 2:27:27 PM , Rating: 1
A trained sniper and a M82 should be able to take out that boat for much cheaper though :)


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By Reclaimer77 on 4/11/2011 2:41:39 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
A trained sniper and a M82 should be able to take out that boat for much cheaper though :)


What if they are miles away and in heavy sees? I would like to see the sniper who could pull that off.

But an instant-travel laser with complicated computer tracking and targeting? Oh yeah baby, that's the money shot :)


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By ZimZum on 4/11/2011 8:41:58 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
A trained sniper and a M82 should be able to take out that boat for much cheaper though :)


Name me the sniper that can hit a target in a boat while that boat is also moving and being bounced up and down by the waves of the ocean. While the boat the sniper is on is also bouncing and likely also moving under engine power.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By DougF on 4/12/2011 12:29:48 AM , Rating: 1
Umm, I do seem to recall an incident where three US Navy SEALS hit three targets on a small boat from a larger ship, and at the same time...does that qualify?


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By Nik00117 on 4/12/2011 10:11:10 PM , Rating: 2
http://blog.al.com/spotnews/2009/04/snipers_take_o...

It can actually be done...

You know truth be told why not station 3-4 snipers on every ship? Keep them on duty and when something goes up they fire away. I don't know how much their bullets cost but even if it costs $10 and the extra sea pay is another say $100 a month for a 6 month deployment and 1 round fired that's $610...A bit cheaper then all the other situations we've been given...

If it's anything better then a small watercraft...Well then blow it up.

My dad was always scored the highest in his marksmanship qualifications, he was no sniper mind you but he was a good shot...far from the best...I've seen him shot a bird which was flying at 100 yards away with a .22. I Trust our snipers are better shots then my dad. With that being said I'm confident they are up to par for the mission.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By dsx724 on 4/11/11, Rating: -1
RE: I may seem callous, but...
By FITCamaro on 4/11/2011 2:55:16 PM , Rating: 1
The power required to generate a laser pulse like this you can't just fit in a van(much less the laser itself). 15MW. Aka enough power to power several city blocks. Until we get suitcase nuclear reactors, I think we're good. And it's not like you can just hook it up to the power lines.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By zmatt on 4/11/2011 4:58:54 PM , Rating: 2
lol reading fail. Its a 15kw laser, not a 15mw laser. It's about as power hungry as a powerful microwave oven. A 15mw laser would be a powerful weapon.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By MrTeal on 4/11/2011 5:04:17 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It's about as power hungry as a powerful microwave oven.


I would hate to eat at your house.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By rcc on 4/11/2011 5:13:43 PM , Rating: 2
a 15 mw laser isn't much good except as a short range laser pointer. A 15 MW laser OTOH would be....interesting.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By 91TTZ on 4/11/2011 5:19:06 PM , Rating: 2
15MW over what time period? You can certainly charge capacitors and have them output 15 MW for a brief instant.

As far as energy storage, 1 gallon of gasoline could power a 15 MW device for about 2 seconds.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By drycrust3 on 4/11/2011 3:58:59 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
This technology should not be develop due to the risks of proliferation.

To late! History shows that often new ideas are developed in several places around the world around the same time, not just in one place. For example, prior to World War 2 RADAR was developed by both the British and the Germans, and at the end of the war both the British and the Germans had jet fighters. So don't be surprised if at least one other country has something in a similar or more advanced state of development.
As we saw with the American aviator who was ridiculed by military strategists for promoting the idea of dive bombing warships, I think his name was Mitchel, just because you don't want a weapons technology to be used for moral reasons or because you think it is impractical, doesn't mean people that don't like you will have the same thoughts.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By rcc on 4/11/2011 5:43:22 PM , Rating: 3
It was William "Billy" Mitchell. And without him we'd have been in deep trouble at the beginning of WWII.

As I recall, the nobles and knights of the medieval period tried to outlaw crossbows for similar reasons. It put a powerful ranged weapon in the hands of relatively untrained people. It takes years to train a skilled military archer; and weeks to train an effective crossbowman.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By drycrust3 on 4/12/2011 6:54:33 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
It was William "Billy" Mitchell. And without him we'd have been in deep trouble at the beginning of WWII.


I thought his name was Billy Mitchell, but I wasn't sure.
quote:
And without him we'd have been in deep trouble at the beginning of WWII.

My recollection was Billy was ignored until the wisdom of his arguments was forced upon those who should have listened.
Again, that just proves that just because you ban something doesn't mean that your ban is universal.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By dsx724 on 4/11/2011 6:49:13 PM , Rating: 1
This weapon allows for untraceable targeted killings from miles away that conventional and nuclear weapons cannot. Output power of 25KW over a fraction of a second will easily be fatal to humans. You can fit a megawatt class generator into a van. There should be treaties banning the development of such weapons before they become a threat to our society. Providing funding for overcoming the technical challenges limiting this tech is like pouring fuel on the fire.

The next time the president has to go anywhere, they would need to search every facility within a five mile radius or drive him in an M1


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By Reclaimer77 on 4/11/2011 6:50:48 PM , Rating: 2
You're being absurd.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By Pessimism on 4/12/2011 10:12:29 AM , Rating: 2
No, he's not. As this tech develops, others will copy it. A whole new class of defensive tech and countermeasures will be needed.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By Reclaimer77 on 4/12/2011 3:53:30 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
No, he's not. As this tech develops, others will copy it. A whole new class of defensive tech and countermeasures will be needed.


First off, you don't just McGyver up a home laser to assassinate someone with. Just trying to build one will get your red flagged as many of the materials needed are restricted. And his claim that a van can hold the power source, ok sure, maybe. But how are you going to GET that power supply? Wal-Mart?

Secondly, the idea that suddenly assassinations will skyrocket due to lasers is absurd. Rocket launchers are far easier to acquire and are just as deadly. How many RPG attacks have been used against a U.S President, to use his example?

Why bother spending millions on something, assuming you can even get your hands on everything required, when in all cases a .50 cal sniper rifle or hand held rocket launcher is cheaper, more effective, and easier to obtain and dispose of?

Stop fearmongering.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By MrTeal on 4/12/2011 12:57:14 PM , Rating: 3
A van is pretty small for 1MW. This is a 1.4MW generator
http://cfaspower.com/GTG_1545_50Hz.jpg

Also, I'd like to see a report that 15kW for a fraction of a second would be fatal to a human. Even if the fraction is 1/2 and assuming no atmospheric attenuation and 100% absorption, that's only 7.5kJ of energy, enough to heat 1 kg of water 1.8 degree C. If it got you in the eyes you'd be blind, and if the spot size were small enough you'd get very serious burns, but death would probably take longer.

Now, even if 15kW was lethal, how big is the weapon? This isn't some crappy laser pointer, the size of the optics needed to collimate a laser to a small dot a mile or more range is huge. This won't be a portable weapon any time in the near future.

Compare that to a 50cal sniper rifle. In capable hands it's range is over a mile, it can be moved, set up and shot by one person if need be. Available now, and yet society has survived.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By Reclaimer77 on 4/12/2011 3:59:53 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
Compare that to a 50cal sniper rifle. In capable hands it's range is over a mile, it can be moved, set up and shot by one person if need be. Available now, and yet society has survived.


Exactly. And there's NO protection against it. No body armor on the planet can stop a .50


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By epobirs on 4/14/2011 8:41:32 AM , Rating: 3
Or it could just be used to fill a house with popcorn until comes bursting out the windows.


RE: I may seem callous, but...
By bobny1 on 4/12/2011 7:04:27 AM , Rating: 1
and how much tax payers money went into that Zodiac used in the test?. Ear marks?. Noway!


"My sex life is pretty good" -- Steve Jobs' random musings during the 2010 D8 conference














botimage
Copyright 2014 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki