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Soon lasers may go from the realm of science fiction to real battlefields.  (Source: LucasFilm Ltd.)
Next-gen solution will supplement today's projectile-based auto-turrets

Perhaps it's the indelible "cool" factor of having a weapon that long has been a dear dream of the science fiction agency.  Perhaps it's practical considerations like range and time to target impact.  But for whatever the reasons, the U.S. armed forces and its contractors remain dogged in their pursuit of real-life laser weapons.

I. Projectile-Equipped Auto-Turrets Pave the Way For Laser Defenses

The current line of thought is to use lasers onboard sea ships and on armored vehicles as automated turrets capable of creating a shield against incoming hostile projectiles.  While ineffective against solid slugs, high powered lasers could successfully detonate more-destructive explosion ordinances -- rockets, mortars, and explosive shells.

Col. Pete Newell, the head of the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force, says that such systems are crucial for defending locations like small outposts in the mountains of Afghanistan from deadly rocket and mortar fire, which are often directed over rocky outcroppings.  States Col. Newell, "No radar can find that."

For now, the Army is looking to field defensive auto-turrets to target such projectiles.  Key to that effort is the Counter-Rocket and Mortar (C-RAM) Land-based Phalanx Weapon System (LPWS).  Developed primarily by the U.S. Navy, but also fielded on land, the C-RAM system has been relatively effective, considering that it's not far from being a glorified tech demo.

Phalanx C-RAM
Proven effective in real-world deployments, the Phalanx C-RAM auto-turret could be enhanced by anti-ordinance lasers. [Image Source: PopGun Reviews]

While the C-RAM's "kill sheet" is relatively small -- 170 mortar and rocket attacks in the battlefield since 2005 -- the Navy says it has proved equally valuable for its early detection capabilities, helping warn of over 2,000 attacks in Iraq and Afghanistan in the last seven years.

The life-saving system is hauled on a trailer.  Precise details are scarce, but it is known to be a scaled down version of the Navy's Phalanx Close-in Weapon System (CIWS).  The sea-based Phalanx CIWS packs a 20mm M61A1 Gatling gun capable of firing between 3,000 to 4,500 high-explosive self-destruct rounds per minute at incoming enemy munitions.

II. More Turrets Incoming

Top defense contractor, Northrop Grumman Corp. (NOC), in February scored a $132M USD contract to install and sustain several of the LPWS units at bases in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The lead designer of the sea-based CIWS, Raytheon Comp. (RTN) (which acquired the project as part of its recent acquisition of General Dynamics), has also scored an estimated $78.3M USD contract to develop the LPWS/CIWS successor, dubbed the Accelerated Improve Intercept Initiative (AI3).

Steve Bennett, project leader for the AI3 says it will be "saving soldiers' lives by 2015."  He comments that the refined anti-projectile system will leverage "technologies from the Sidewinder, Avenger and Small Diameter Bomb II programs as well as leveraging program and IR&D efforts from our key suppliers."

III. Multiple Laser Solutions Vie for Land, Air, and Sea Supremacy

But what about the lasers?

Many commanders remain hopeful that lasers will be a crucial part of future campaigns, as do defense contractors like Raytheon and Northrop Grumman. 

In the air realm The Boeing Comp. (BA) is showing off its advanced YAL-1 Airborne Laser (ABL) system [1][2], a system designed to ward off enemy rockets and even potentially shoot down incoming ballistic (nuclear) missiles.  The chemical laser system has been in the works since 1980s, which could be seen as either a source of optimism given the long string of improvements or pessimism given that it's still not fully battle ready three decades later.

Boeing ABL
Boeing's ABL has been stuck for three decades in development purgatory. [Image Source: Boeing]

Boeing has also showed off a second design, geared towards gunship use, dubbed the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL).  Packed aboard a Hercules C-130H gunship, Boeing is targeting a power of 100 to 300 kW laser with up to 100 shots.  It hit a stationary Humvee in 2009 tests, burning a hole in its front hood.  The status of the project is unclear, with little news since that high profile success.

At sea, Northrop Grumman is leading efforts with its Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD).  Armed with a $98M USD contract, Northrop Grumman is aiming to install 100-kilowatt lasers on ships.  Last April the system scored a "kill shot" on a small ship, swaying in a choppy sea.  The U.S. Navy is also working on free electron lasers, hoping to produce an in-house one megawatt design, a systems so powerful that it could penetrate armored ships.

Raytheon is working on a rival system.  It has paired the aforementioned Phalanx's artificial intelligence with a battery of six 32 kilowatt lasers to form the Laser Weapon System (LaWS), which shot down four unmanned aerial vehicles in 2010 testing.

IV. HEL MD Looks to Give Enemies Land Projectiles Hell

The latest efforts in laser weapons have been to bring a laser-endowed auto-turret system onto land.  Boeing is working on a contract with the Army’s Space & Missile Defense Command to produce the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD).  A prototype unit was successfully integrated onboard a Oshkosh HEMTT A4 vehicle last summer and underwent low-power testing in the fall and winter.

Boeing DES
Boeing is developing laser war-wagons. [Image Source: Boeing]

Assuming the Army bites on a follow-on contract, Boeing will next engage in field testing in 2013.  Blaine Beardsley, HEL MD program manager at Boeing, spoke to Defense News about the program. 

He emphasized its virtually-unlimited "magazine" and early succes in tracking targets, remarking "[The system was] very successful in acquiring and tracking the object and putting the beam on it.  [Y]ou can drive it out to any location and emplace it quickly and be able to set it up with full 360-degree coverage.  Even while you're utilizing the magazine and engaging targets, you’re charging that magazine."

The new system's test targets included 60 mm and 120 mm rounds.

V. Laser Weapons -- Wither Art Thou?

It's reasonable to take such claims with a degree of skepticism, or even pessimism, given that laser weapons have been a regular promise since the 1980s.

But the advent of high-power solid-state lasers -- a recent development, may prove the salvation of the promising future-weapon.  Unlike gas lasers, which often require toxic chemicals and costly-charges, the solid state laser offers a virtually unlimited number of shots, as long as you can keep it powered and cooled.

Mark Gunzinger, a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, says lasers have the advantage of instant kills -- crucial for anti-ordinance systems.  He remarks, "You don’t have to wait for a kinetic weapon to fly to a target — it goes at the speed of light."

Storm trooper shooting laser
Real-life laser weapons may soon become a reality. [Image Source: LucasFilm Ltd.]

But even if the state of the art can be advanced to the point of having limitless shots and reliable target striking, traditional projectile weapons will still be needed, he argues, "Directed energy weapons can't completely replace kinetic defenses. They’re complementary.  You need both of them because lasers have limitations in bad weather and so forth."

Ultimately the best counter to the laser -- a crucial future weapon -- may be yet another future weapon -- the rail gun.  By delivering slugs at hypersonic speeds, future rail guns' ordinance may be too fast for a laser defense system to hit.  And even if the laser system was fast enough to react, it would likely be unable to harm the projectile, as rail guns aim to deliver solid slugs with equivalent destructive force to explosive munitions.  The laser need to be able to set off an explosive in order to "kill" an incoming round -- for now, at least.

Source: Defense News



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RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/14/2012 3:02:00 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
Not that simple - heat will still build up (no surface is 100% reflective across the full spectrum) and that in turn will damage the reflective surface leading to increased heat build up...

It snowballs and your mirror fails...
The op raises a reasonable point though. While your analysis is most definitely correct, one would assume that munitions could be coated in some sort of heat-resistant, lightweight, reflective space-age composite.

Of course, I doubt you'd have to worry about that with shells from Afghani insurgents, but if you were fighting with, say, China, it might become a concern.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Reclaimer77 on 5/14/2012 3:45:52 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The op raises a reasonable point though. While your analysis is most definitely correct, one would assume that munitions could be coated in some sort of heat-resistant, lightweight, reflective space-age composite.


But you couldn't do this to the seeker head for obvious reasons, and that's the vulnerable component a laser would destroy.

Plus this probably wouldn't be done simply because it would make the cost of said munitions prohibitively expensive to actually use. It would take something a lot more exotic than a tin foil wrapping to defend against lasers.

Not that I'm terribly in favor of laser weapons, I'm indifferent to them. I still think Rail-Gun technology is superior and more likely to be perfected and miniaturized in the future. Lasers have no kinetic or explosive component, so I believe them to be an inferior weapons platform.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By JasonMick (blog) on 5/14/2012 4:00:41 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
But you couldn't do this to the seeker head for obvious reasons, and that's the vulnerable component a laser would destroy.
True, but the seeker head is often a few inches in diameter on a missile that is up to feet in length.

Further, if the body of the missile is protected from the laser, the AI algorithm now has to

A) Be able to recognize that in a split instant
B) Overcome the angular dependence that would be introduced by only being able to target the nose of the flier.

Given those limitations, I would say "just target the nose" would be easier said than done. :)
quote:

Plus this probably wouldn't be done simply because it would make the cost of said munitions prohibitively expensive to actually use. It would take something a lot more exotic than a tin foil wrapping to defend against lasers.
Depends -- if we're talking cruise missiles, they cost around $1.41M USD a pop anyways.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/03/25/cruise-mi...

$100K for a couple square feet of high-tech anti-laser coating may seem outrageously pricey, but when you consider how much a seeking missile costs to begin with, the cost becomes more reasonable.

As you state, the material would likely be an exotic composite (think Space Shuttle's reflective coating). But still, missiles are extremely expensive, so this countermeasure is not necessarily cost prohibitive.
quote:
Not that I'm terribly in favor of laser weapons, I'm indifferent to them. I still think Rail-Gun technology is superior and more likely to be perfected and miniaturized in the future. Lasers have no kinetic or explosive component, so I believe them to be an inferior weapons platform.
Agreed... rail guns have no limitations in inclement weather, other than the inherent danger of firing in low visibility.

Likewise, it's going to be awful hard for a laser to stop a solid metal slug going at hypersonic speeds.

And when you consider that slug costs orders of magnitude less than a high tech seeking missile with countermeasures (as I outline above), yet delivers equivalent accuracy and destructive power, you can quickly see why the rail gun is arguably the holy grail of future weapons.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Smilin on 5/14/2012 5:22:54 PM , Rating: 3
Current railguns essentially self destruct in a handful of shots. They are fast sure, but not instant. If you need to hit a nearby moving target (say an aircraft or incoming shell) some ballistics calculations will do but if you need to hit a distant moving target (inland vehicle convoy) then inflight adjustments will be needed. Getting electronics and actuators to accomplish this are possible for propellant based weapons but getting such gear to survive the acceleration in a railgun shot isn't going to happen soon.

Also for lasers: No there isn't a coating that would be 100% effective. Get the laser into the UV range and the photoelectric effect will kick in for any metal. This will occur even on a 100% polished surface. Some not metallic coatings might require frequencies in the upper UV range but I'm pretty sure we have lasers already capable.

Best defense wouldn't be reflection. Some ablative shielding would be more effective and I'm sure lightweight materials suitable for flight wouldn't be hard to come up with.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Reclaimer77 on 5/14/2012 6:09:18 PM , Rating: 2
What are you talking about? If something like the Phalanx system can mate a Naval tracking radar to a minigun and shoot down missiles with simple shells, you don't think a Railgun with it's hypersonic velocities could do just as good if not better?

quote:
They are fast sure, but not instant.


LOL umm, Bugs Bunny was "fast". Railguns are insane. 5,000+ MPH, and that's only the test unit.

quote:
some ballistics calculations will do but if you need to hit a distant moving target (inland vehicle convoy) then inflight adjustments will be needed.


Umm again, I don't know what you're talking about. Check my math here but assuming a velocity of 5,000 MPH is 7,333 feet per second, that means a Railgun slug fired at a target five miles (26,000 feet) away would have a travel time of only 3.6 seconds. You don't need in-flight adjustments for today's modern fire control computer systems to make that shot.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Smilin on 5/14/2012 9:05:05 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
What are you talking about?


Do you ever think stuff through before you fly off the handle?

No, I don't think a railgun would do it better. Know why? Because the guys who build railguns and lasers chose the laser. But I'm sure some intarwebs fellow like yourself knows better.

The railguns they are developing are not to replace the vulcans on R2D2s. They are being developed as long range naval guns capable of hitting inland some 200 to 250 miles. Travel times would be 30-60 seconds. It would punch through god knows what but won't hit a moving target without guidance systems.

Current airborne lasers doing missle interception have an effective range of some 150-350 miles and hit instantly.

A railgun's speed is going to minimize wind and such but it won't be viable against long range vehicle sized moving targets until they can get guidance systems to survive the shot.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Reclaimer77 on 5/14/2012 9:10:10 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
The railguns they are developing are not to replace the vulcans on R2D2s. They are being developed as long range naval guns capable of hitting inland some 200 to 250 miles. Travel times would be 30-60 seconds. It would punch through god knows what but won't hit a moving target without guidance systems.


That's TODAY. They will eventually be miniaturized and the problems solved. Or do you suppose all metallurgy and materials research is suddenly going to stop?

To say railguns won't hit moving targets is pure ignorance. They aren't hitting them now, but they most certainly WILL be.

Muzzle velocities will also increase over time. What is 6,000 mph today will become 11,000 mph+ in the future.

Lasers aren't without their problems either, remember? I think both have a ways to go. But I believe Railguns to be more practical and realistic than laser based systems for actual combat use.

Plus they are so freaking cool. Lasers are sooo 1980's, didn't you hear? :P


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Kyuu on 5/14/2012 11:13:27 PM , Rating: 2
So your argument to issues raised with railguns is "they'll get better, R&D duh", but your argument with regards to a material to defend against a laser weapon is "there is no light material with a high melting point that can reflect a broad spectrum of wavelengths effectively and zero materials research can take place to possibly make one"?

Oh-kay then.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Reclaimer77 on 5/15/2012 1:11:32 AM , Rating: 2
The whole argument is silly. People do not armor missiles against attack. When you understand what kind of lasers we're going to be dealing with, you should logically arrive at the same conclusion.

If this was the case, anti ship sea-skimming missiles would be wrapped in Kevlar and composites and steel plates to protect from flak cannons, Phalanx mini-guns, and other anti-missile counters. Why do you think nobody does that?


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Smilin on 5/15/2012 10:46:11 AM , Rating: 3
quote:
The whole argument is silly. People do not armor missiles against attack from kinetic or explosive weapons


There fixed that for you.

Missles, aircraft and other devices that require light weight to function don't handle traditional armor well but armoring against lasers may indeed be possible.

The tiles on the Space Shuttle would make an excellent starting point.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Reclaimer77 on 5/15/2012 12:11:12 PM , Rating: 3
There's only one material I can think of that could withstand something like the Navy's laser. And even then who knows for how long. It's called Starlite I believe? And the man who invented it is an idiot that refuses to sell the formula or even market the product because he wants to do it all on his own. Or he's going senile, whatever.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/5158972/Star...

It's almost criminal that this isn't a widely available material today. It's uses and benefits to mankind seem almost unlimited.

But I digress.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Smilin on 5/18/2012 10:35:24 AM , Rating: 2
Cool link, thx!


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Smilin on 5/15/2012 10:03:35 AM , Rating: 3
Yes, today.

You seem to be wanting this railgun vs laser debate and you're basing your argument on the assumption that railgun R&D will continue and overtake lasers yet laser R&D will stop.

I happen to think railguns are indeed much cooler than lasers...I've been playing BattleTech since it was a board game. (PPC + Gauss combo was a nice balance of weight and heat :P )

I'm not going to let my preference lure me into obviously flawed logic though.

quote:
Lasers aren't without their problems either, remember? I think both have a ways to go. But I believe Railguns to be more practical and realistic than laser based systems for actual combat use.


Putting all future speculation aside (so you can stop making up your dream facts) laser weapon systems are currently deployed. Railguns are not. You've lost your 'practical and realistic' argument.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By AssBall on 5/14/2012 9:22:37 PM , Rating: 2
quote:
it won't be viable against long range vehicle sized moving targets


That's what the skeptics said about rocks when we started throwing them. Then spears, arrows, muskets, rockets. I'm pretty sure we can figure it out if we were doing it 30 thousand years ago.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Reclaimer77 on 5/14/2012 9:27:00 PM , Rating: 2
lol Yeah.

I like how he brings up range in a discussion about Rails vs Lasers. Last time I checked a laser couldn't hit something beyond the horizon.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Smilin on 5/15/2012 9:51:21 AM , Rating: 2
Last time I checked lasers can be airborne.

"lol yeah" indeed.

I've made valid points here man. You seem to jerk off in the bathroom to railgun weekly or something.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Reclaimer77 on 5/15/2012 11:44:58 AM , Rating: 2
The airborne laser? You mean the longest running golden goose in the history of our country? The one that's failed in nearly every test to bring down the target?

quote:
I've made valid points here man.


Yes and so have I. We both get cookies I guess! :)


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Smilin on 5/15/2012 9:48:27 AM , Rating: 2
Boy it sure is easy to make your point when you just lop off half of my sentance to create the context you wish for. Here is the rest of that quote:

quote:
until they can get guidance systems to survive the shot.


Muskets didn't start hitting anything until they got rifled. Rockets didn't start hitting anything until they provided uniform thrust (and later guidance)...and railguns aren't going to hit distant targets until they get guidance.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Fritzr on 5/15/2012 10:49:14 AM , Rating: 2
Try telling battleship gunners that they can't hit anything because their platform is bobbing in the water, the target is over the horizon and their 1 ton dumb shell has no terminal guidance.

Hunters have a similar problem. A moving target won't be there when the bullet/arrow/spear arrives.

Simple solution found millennia ago ... you aim at the place you expect the target to be at when the shot arrives...defense is to dodge...Not dodging at just the right time is the reason long range dumb rounds are considered effective.

Napoleon would disagree with your remark on muskets as would a great number of soldiers who died after receiving musket fire. Rifling reduced the grouping of the shot allowing smaller targets to be hit at long range. It did nothing for terminal guidance.

There were many battlefield rockets (still are) that have no guidance and primitive drives with little or no acceleration control...they exist because they are effective for their intended mission (killing targets)

Railguns are artillery (current designs) or hand cannon (think gauss rifle). Terminal guidance is unnecessary if the gunner is able to aim the weapon.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Smilin on 5/15/2012 11:04:17 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Try telling battleship gunners that they can't hit anything because their platform is bobbing in the water, the target is over the horizon and their 1 ton dumb shell has no terminal guidance.


They won't hit with the first round. A Mk 38 fire control system will track that first round with radar and the second round will hit (being fired even before the first lands). In the meantime those gunners better hope the target isn't firing back with guided munitions like an Excalibur.

I get the idea of ballistic calculations ok? Give me some credit.

What I'm saying is when something takes 30-60 seconds to reach a target the target may move in a manner not predictable at the time of firing. This problem becomes even more pronounced when you're trying to deliver pinpoint kinetic energy instead of an explosive that has a radius. A railgun round hitting 50 feet from me wouldn't be pleasant but it's not going to kill me like 1000lbs of explosives would.

As for Napoleon..I'm sure he would recognize my hyperbole for what it was.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Fritzr on 5/15/2012 11:52:27 AM , Rating: 2
The deadliest anti-armor rounds are kinetic or contact explosive designed for penetration kills. They are not area effect munitions. They are quite effective against moving targets and can be fired accurately from moving platforms.

The only part that a railgun changes is the excellerant. explosive mixtures for traditional weapons vs maglev tech for railguns. The shell still delivers a kinetic payload that is charged by 'firing' the weapon.

Whether the shell is a ton of high explosive or a few kilos of depleted uranium, it is useless if it cannot be delivered to the target.

LoS railguns will not need ranging shots any more than LoS artillery does. The ballistics of the weapon are known and are accounted for when aiming. Over the horizon shots are similarly aimed by caculating, distance, direction and ballistics. If you get the math right, the second shot won't be fired at the same target. The ranging shot is used to verify the accuracy of the data the gunner has available.

Kinetic kill weapons with high tech, high cost terminal guidance will be highly specialized, limited use weapons. There will be applications for them, but LoS railguns and battleship grade railguns are probably not where you will find them. Railguns are not limited to kinetic kill rounds, though an LoS weapon can use them quite effectively as the history of hand cannons has shown.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Reclaimer77 on 5/15/2012 12:05:11 PM , Rating: 1
You're just so full of shit. This isn't WWII anymore. "Ranging shots" are practically a thing of the past. With the incredibly accurate and predictable ballistic properties of a Railgun, your first shot WILL hit. And that's the only shot you're going to need.

quote:
I get the idea of ballistic calculations ok? Give me some credit.


Apparently not. The reason for ranging shots and ballistic calculations is that traditional ordinance, no matter how advanced, still has many variables that effect accuracy. First off the recoil on ship sized cannons is significant. Secondly you're dealing with exploding chemicals to propel a shell, the speed at which they burn and the rate of gas-expansion simply cannot be exactly equal for every shot. This combined with the recoil actually causes the barrel to quake and torque very slightly, but enough to cause slight aiming deviations. And of course you have travel time, lots of it.

Railguns have NO recoil, will fire exactly the same every time, and have absurdly low travel time at realistic ranges. Gee can you guess what this does for ballistic calculations? They get a hell of a lot simpler.

quote:
A railgun round hitting 50 feet from me wouldn't be pleasant but it's not going to kill me like 1000lbs of explosives would.


/facepalm

Yes, you absolutely would be dead or several injured at the least. Do you understand physics? A railgun slug isn't just going to harmlessly dig itself into the ground. The massive kinetic energy and heat of the round is going to cause a blast similar to a bomb hitting the ground and the same shock-wave effect.

Good grief man. I suppose you think you can stand 50 feet from a meteor impact as well. Since it's not a bomb, you should be fine right? Wrong! Where did you learn physics?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1q_rRicAwI&feature...

Observe please, and educate yourself. This was just a test slug, not even a warshot. It doesn't just punch a hole through something, it causes it to EXPLODE instantly and violently!


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By JDHammer on 5/15/2012 1:04:59 PM , Rating: 2
This is awesome, I finally get to throw a comment in:

I guess so we're veering into Startrek / Mechwarrior age, but it seems more Mechwarrior than Startrek, so maybe the next best thing we'll start seeing are: Autocannons, followed by Gauss Rifles, then most likely, 100T BattleMechs. Hopefully by then we'll have ventured into space beyond this galaxy...


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Smilin on 5/18/2012 11:07:29 AM , Rating: 1
quote:
You're just so full of shit. This isn't WWII anymore. "Ranging shots" are practically a thing of the past. With the incredibly accurate and predictable ballistic properties of a Railgun, your first shot WILL hit. And that's the only shot you're going to need.


Flying off the handle again...and now insulting.

They didn't have radar enhanced ballistic computers in WWII. The first shot today is not a ranging shot. However it is tracked with radar as it begins its trajectory so that deviations in flight from calculated values can be determined. The second shot will be fired *after* a calculation adjustment, but *before* the first shot hits the ground (so it can't very well be a ranging shot can it?)

quote:
Railguns have NO recoil, will fire exactly the same every time, and have absurdly low travel time at realistic ranges. Gee can you guess what this does for ballistic calculations? They get a hell of a lot simpler.


Railguns fire a lighter weight round but you're not getting rid of newtonian physics I'm afraid. And no, it does nothing for ballistic calculations (didn't you just accuse me of not getting it?). The calculations would be the same but there would be less influence from undeterminable variables (like wind variations along flight path)

quote:
Yes, you absolutely would be dead or several injured at the least. Do you understand physics? A railgun slug isn't just going to harmlessly dig itself into the ground. The massive kinetic energy and heat of the round is going to cause a blast similar to a bomb hitting the ground and the same shock-wave effect.

Good grief man. I suppose you think you can stand 50 feet from a meteor impact as well. Since it's not a bomb, you should be fine right? Wrong! Where did you learn physics?


facepalm indeed. I do understand physics. The interesting bit here is energy being a square of velocity. There will be a lot of energy imparted on the target and it will indeed cause an explosion like shockwave (similar to tungsten kinetic energy penetrators today). Energy from a blast also degrades with the square of distance. So yeah being 50feet away wouldn't be pleasant but you're not going to kill a target with such a miss.

quote:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1q_rRicAwI&feature...

Observe please, and educate yourself. This was just a test slug, not even a warshot. It doesn't just punch a hole through something, it causes it to EXPLODE instantly and violently!


Nothing I haven't seen before.

BTW if you want to respond turn down the tool-ness a bit would you mind?


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By eldakka on 5/15/2012 3:39:52 AM , Rating: 2
quote:

If you need to hit a nearby moving target (say an aircraft or incoming shell) some ballistics calculations will do


Yep. And having some mass behind the projectiles will make them more effective at defeating incoming targets.

quote:

but if you need to hit a distant moving target (inland vehicle convoy)


Wait, what? I thought we were talking about Point Defense weapons. You know, the last mile or 2. What does hitting distant moving targets have to do with PD?


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Smilin on 5/15/2012 10:15:36 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Wait, what? I thought we were talking about Point Defense weapons. You know, the last mile or 2. What does hitting distant moving targets have to do with PD?


Hitting a distant target has nothing to do with point defense. When did I say it did?

Since you brought it up though: Raytheon is working on a PD laser system. I've not heard of a railgun in development for PD but I would be fascinated if you know of one you could share with us.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By tamalero on 5/15/2012 4:34:44 PM , Rating: 2
Think on this for a second..

a) how much energy needs to be able to fully destroy a missile (aka, make the laser effective)

now think this:

b) how much constant power the laser beam will fire to the target.
c) how much % of the energy is reflected by that anti laser compound.

now imagine this.. you only have X amount of time to destroy the missile.. your Phalanx Laser system can fire an Y output power per second.
if the reflective coating manages to protect the missile and reflect most of the energy during this critical approaching part.. your phalanx system either has to rely on the usual minigun weaponry.. or it will be DESTROYED.

now you have also take into consideration.. CLOUDS.. RAIN..

each of your replies to other people in here...almost makes it sounds like the laser will always hit the target with 100% full perfect power output.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Smilin on 5/18/2012 5:22:53 PM , Rating: 2
Current missles aren't designed with any form of defense against lasers but that will change. Just putting a longer empty nose cone on would help a great deal. Reflectivity isn't going to be a defense as well discussed above.

For clouds and rain you're talking about something that can vaporize metal so it will "tunnel" through falling rain pretty easily. It will indeed degrade the output some considering you'll be shooting through 10-20 *miles* of rain.

With the ones they are putting on Phalanx lasers I'm don't believe they have the adjustable lenses like on the Boeing YAL-1. With that in mind I think the sheer distance and air distortion is going to have a bigger impact than rain. A Phalanx laser will only reach 100% perfect power on the target once the target has gotten pretty close.

I'm not sure how long a laser would have to remain on target but there is plenty of time available (for a single missle):
-The Phalanx guns on the Carrier I worked on were about 75' off the water.
-Consider a skimming missle that has an altitude of 50'
-That gives about 22 miles worth of line of sight
-The incoming missle will be detected beforehand (search radars are some 150+ feet up) and illuminated with fire control radar the moment it breaks horizon
-The russian KH-35 is typical of an anti-ship missle it would need to defend against. As with many it's turbojet and subsonic at about 0.8 mach.
-22miles at 0.8mach gives about 130 seconds to shoot down the target (check my math on that...having watched mach1 flight that seems long)

In a battle you could count on two Phalanx guns being on the side of the ship where the attack is coming from. Consider about 100 incoming missles spaced to arrive within a 30 second period. There will be more but you can count on fighters and battlegroup cruisers to handle some.

So (130sec+30sec)/100missles * 2 guns .. Assuming you could magically hop target to target with no delay that would give 3.2 seconds per missle.

I don't think that would cut it. You're going to have to supplement with the sparrow III and vulcan based phalanx guns or you'll have a sunk carrier.

The big limitation you didn't mention: Accuracy. Sure the laser is 100% accurate but the radar you're using to track the target with isn't. Having the laser miss here and there or otherwise dance around on the target seems it would be a problem. That missle is coming head on and is 1-2' in diameter max. That's a small target 22 miles out.

Having watched the traditional vulcans fire it's like a damn shotgun and each "pellet" is an explosive incidiary round particularly good at killing fragile fuel laden aircraft. They don't have a 22 mile range but will certainly take out things closer.

Fact is folks smarter than us intarweb know-it-alls are putting these things into service. They'll work.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Reclaimer77 on 5/14/2012 6:31:25 PM , Rating: 2
Well Jason the Navy's goal is to produce a laser that can burn through 2,000 feet of ship armor-class steel per second. So I would really like to see whatever magical material you can fashion to a missile that could withstand that and also be light enough to allow the missile to be useful. I don't think a mirror is going to cut it because glass has a pretty low melting point :P. Hell pretty much anything has a low melting point with a 1-megawatt laser pointed at it lol.

The Free Electron Laser being tested is also a multiple-wavelength weapon. Meaning it would be extremely difficult to defend against given that it can be adjusted on the fly for maximum effectiveness.

quote:
Given those limitations, I would say "just target the nose" would be easier said than done. :)


At the speed of light? Well if you say so...

Okay how about we target the rear instead and simply destroy the thrust nozzle and make the fuel explode? What about the fragile control surfaces? Will those be magically protected too or will we just burn them away and watch the missile crash?

I'm still not crazy about lasers but if we actually did succeed in making a 1-MW free-electron laser, I think it would pretty much be game over for anything it's pointed at.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By AssBall on 5/14/2012 6:59:11 PM , Rating: 2
Whatever happened to particle beams? Why not just plasmafy the gold then accelerate it to .1 speed of light? I can see plasma weapons having crappy range after some electron collection but by then it is like what 10 miles away going still a fraction of lightspeed.

I get that a slug will have more impact energy and can be outfitted with explosives, but i'd think plasma would be pretty destructive too.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Reclaimer77 on 5/14/2012 7:19:20 PM , Rating: 2
I think the problem with plasma is that in atmosphere you just couldn't keep the energy into a cohesive form long enough to do damage. It's effectiveness would diminish exponentially with range very quickly.

quote:
Whatever happened to particle beams?


Well the Navy's free electron "laser" is essentially just that. It doesn't use mirrors or crystals or inverted prisms. It just accelerates electrons and blasts them out.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By DennisB on 5/15/2012 6:53:36 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
Well Jason the Navy's goal is to produce a laser that can burn through 2,000 feet of ship armor-class steel per second.

That's bull. It's 20 feet per second and only for milliseconds which amounts to just a quarter an inch of steel on a stationary target.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By mudgiestylie on 5/15/2012 4:32:30 PM , Rating: 2
System that can defeat megawatt laser: a torpedo. Lasers aren't going to be effective at hitting things below a few meters of water. If you design a laser several times more powerful, just add a couple more meters of depth. Even if you could destroy a deep target, good luck tracking it. Design a sea skimming missile ( a large one) that drops a torpedo over the horizon. Boom, billion dollar laser boat disabled.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Calin on 5/15/2012 1:54:33 AM , Rating: 2
Rail guns have very limited targeting ability against "close" targets on the reverse slopes due to the very high speeds involved (in many cases artillery plunging fire was delivered with smaller than usual powder charges). However, this breaks the only advantage of the railguns


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By delphinus100 on 5/14/2012 8:48:05 PM , Rating: 2
Still, the things you can do to make yourself more resistant to laser attack (reflective surfaces, ablatives or whatever) may cripple you in other ways. More weight, less stealth, shorter operating ranges, etc.

I mean, you can beef up a tank with more armor, but it will tend to destroy mobility...


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By Smilin on 5/14/2012 9:11:04 PM , Rating: 2
The armor versus warhead war is a long and interesting one.

Seems its getting harder and harder for the armor to leap back ahead. I suppose lasers are going to supplant armor in some roles...but not against other lasers (heh, maybe in year 2100 they'll fire one back out of phase.)


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By AnnihilatorX on 5/15/2012 7:19:04 AM , Rating: 2
It's much easier to disrupt the tracking and targetting capability of a laser point defense than defend against the laser itself.


RE: Mirror, Mirror...
By bupkus on 5/15/2012 10:52:00 AM , Rating: 2
quote:
if you were fighting with, say, China, it might become a concern.
China could easily overwhelm missile defense systems by releasing tons of cheap metal kitchen utensils masking their wareheads which could also be designed to look like cheap metal kitchen utensils.


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