Star Wars to become reality as US Navy on course to arm ship with laser
The laser directs a beam of energy that can burn through a target or fry sensitive electronics
Tuesday 18 February 2014
Some of the US Navy’s futuristic weapons sound like something out of Star Wars, with lasers designed to shoot down aerial drones and electric guns that fire projectiles at hypersonic speeds.
The Navy plans to deploy its first laser on a ship later this year, and it intends to test an electromagnetic rail gun prototype aboard a vessel within two years.
For the Navy, it’s not so much about the whizz-bang technology as it is about the economics. Both are cheap compared with missiles and smart bombs, and they can be fired continuously.
“It fundamentally changes the way we fight,” said Captain Mike Ziv, programme manager for directed energy and electric weapon systems for the Naval Sea Systems Command. The Navy’s laser technology has evolved to the point where a prototype to be deployed aboard the USS Ponce this summer can be operated by a single sailor, he said.
The solid-state laser weapon system is designed to target “asymmetrical threats”. These include aerial drones, speedboats and swarm boats, all threats to warships in the Persian Gulf, where the Ponce, a staging base, will be deployed.
Rail guns fire a projectile at six or seven times the speed of sound – enough velocity to cause severe damage. The Navy sees them as replacing or supplementing old-school guns.
But both systems have shortcomings. Lasers tend to lose their effectiveness if it’s raining, dusty, or if there is turbulence in the atmosphere, and the rail gun requires vast amounts of electricity to launch the projectile.
Producing enough energy for a rail gun is another problem. The Navy’s new destroyer, the Zumwalt is the only ship with enough electric power to run one. The stealth ship’s gas turbine-powered generators can produce up to 78 megawatts – enough electricity for a medium-sized city.
The Navy’s laser directs a beam of energy that can burn through a target or fry sensitive electronics.
The targeting system locks on to the target, sending a beam of searing heat. “You see the effect on what you are targeting, but you don’t see the actual beam,” Capt Ziv said.
Other countries are developing their own lasers, but the US Navy is more advanced at this point.
“It’s fair to say there are other countries working on this technology,” Capt Ziv said.
“I would also say that a lot of what makes this successful came from the way in which we consolidated all of the complexity into something that can be operated by [a single sailor],” he said.
- 1 Moscow voted the world's unfriendliest city
- 2 The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
- 3 I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality
- 4 More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
The excuses your boss is most likely to believe when you call in sick
Bono's group has made more money from Facebook investment than from all his music
Three-year-old ultra-Orthodox Jewish children told 'the non-Jews' are 'evil' in worksheet produced by London school
Wikipedia rocked by 'rogue editors' blackmail scam targeting small businesses and celebrities
More than 11,000 Icelanders offer to house Syrian refugees to help European crisis
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches, it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don’t change Europe’s attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...
£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...
Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...