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US Navy Close To On-Ship Laser Cannons

samzenpus posted about 3 years ago | from the warm-up-the-wave-motion-gun dept.

Shark 309

An anonymous reader writes "The Office of Naval Research and industry partner Northrop Grumman said they successfully tested for the first time an on-board laser defense system known as the Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD), using it to destroy a small target vessel. The test actually accomplished several other benchmarks, including integrating MLD with a ship's radar and navigation system, and firing an electric laser weapon from a moving platform at-sea in a humid environment."

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309 comments

Cool way to kill people (2, Informative)

DeBattell (460265) | about 3 years ago | (#35773432)

Killing people is OK as long as you use cool technology to do it.

Re:Cool way to kill people (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773442)

Yeah! Why don't they take this off the coast of Somalia and test the targeting on those pirates?

It's a Win/Win! Test targeting system and rid the World of trash!

Re:Cool way to kill people (4, Funny)

Flopy (926705) | about 3 years ago | (#35773498)

They don't have to go all the way there, if they just target the environment, global warming will take care of the pirates.

Re:Cool way to kill people (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773626)

Ummm.. because you'd kill the hostages, too?

Re:Cool way to kill people (2)

poity (465672) | about 3 years ago | (#35773494)

Well if you actually RTFA, it's for ship defense against small boats, i.e. suicide speedboat swarms that countries like Iran have shown to be willing to deploy. My guess is that the typical 20mm cannons are too slow or too short ranged to react to more than a handful of these agile targets before they close in and the laser system is developed to address this weakness.

Re:Cool way to kill people (4, Interesting)

Luckyo (1726890) | about 3 years ago | (#35773750)

Pointless. A simple 40mm bofors (cheap as hell) or a properly set up AA Gatling will do the job far, FAR better against boat swarms. At the same time they are far cheaper, integrate into system with self-auto corrective targeting based on radar signature of gun's own shells, do not require a heavy supply of energy and have significantly fewer points of failure.

This is essentially a theoretical "possible future weapon" exercise - it has nothing to do with actual, realistic modern combat. AT ALL. In the current material technology levels, a laser that would be at least on par with a modern (actually never mind, let's talk on par with a WW2-aged so we don't get too depressed) kinetic gun is at least as far away as commercial fusion.

In other words, it's a huge waste of taxpayers money, that is validated because people that know nothing of actual weapon technology and how it needs to work go "woo, laser cannons, I saw that in the movies!".
Sad really.

Re:Cool way to kill people (3, Informative)

dougmc (70836) | about 3 years ago | (#35773846)

This is essentially a theoretical "possible future weapon" exercise - it has nothing to do with actual, realistic modern combat.

To be fair, there was a time that the machine gun, submarine and airplane fell into this category too.

Though I do have to admit ... the current guns and firearms and such do seem hard to beat.

Re:Cool way to kill people (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773500)

The alternative is to shoot them with a big gun or a missile. Lasers are much more precise and reduce collateral damage significantly. Of course, if civilian casualties aren't important to you this is a waste of time and money.

Re:Cool way to kill people (4, Insightful)

RsG (809189) | about 3 years ago | (#35773502)

Eh, it's the bloody navy. Who exactly are they going to vaporize?

You can complain about cool technology "killing people" in the context of, say, dropping bombs on cities. In that case you've got a clear argument that the weapon in question can and will be used in a way that will leave innocent civilians dead, since it's not like shrapnel knows the difference between the barracks and the orphanage. However, a weapon useful only against military targets, for instance a laser to slag warships, missiles and aircraft, isn't very useful for carrying out war crimes, and isn't likely to mistake a bus-full of nuns for an enemy aircraft carrier.

Bottom line, if the people being killed are hostile armed forces in a time of war, not killing them gives them the opportunity to kill you instead.

Re:Cool way to kill people (0)

Arker (91948) | about 3 years ago | (#35773786)

However, a weapon useful only against military targets, for instance a laser to slag warships, missiles and aircraft, isn't very useful for carrying out war crimes, and isn't likely to mistake a bus-full of nuns for an enemy aircraft carrier.

The 299 people that were on Iran Air 655 might disagree with you on that.

Navies aren't really all that useful for defending the country. Sure, they can be parked off our coast and used for that, but the same effect can be had for a fraction of the cost with ground bases. The only time you really need a Navy is if you want, not to defend yourself, but to sail around the world attacking or threatening to attack other people in their own homes.

Re:Cool way to kill people (1)

RsG (809189) | about 3 years ago | (#35773852)

The 299 people that were on Iran Air 655 might disagree with you on that.

"Isn't very useful for carrying out war crimes" I said. Not "cannot be used".

And anyway, that wasn't either a deliberate act of murder, or an malfunction of the weapon system; that was a combination of bad judgment and misidentification. It wouldn't have made any difference what weapon system the ship had. Any weapon can kill the wrong people if it's aimed the wrong way.

And a navy is absolutely useful for defence, go ask the Brits. Force projection beyond coastal waters is a key aspect of a sound defensive strategy.

Re:Cool way to kill people (2)

Arker (91948) | about 3 years ago | (#35774004)

"Isn't very useful for carrying out war crimes" I said. Not "cannot be used".

But for the price, it isnt useful for anything else either. Unless you consider enriching "defense" contractors useful of course.

And anyway, that wasn't either a deliberate act of murder, or an malfunction of the weapon system; that was a combination of bad judgment and misidentification

I didnt say it was anything but an accident. However it was the sort of accident that could only happen because we poured enormous amounts of resources into building a massive Navy which we certainly didnt need for defense, and then sent it halfway around the globe to bully other nations.

Here's the thing, if you go across town packing weapons intending, for example, to extort money from someone, and in the process you accidentally wind up killing the neighbor kid, it's still considered murder, even though you had no intention whatsoever of killing the kid and it was just a tragic accident. Because it's a tragic accident that would never have happened, if you hadnt been engaged in another felony at the time.

And a navy is absolutely useful for defence, go ask the Brits.

When have the Brits found their Navy useful for defending Britain, in proportion to its cost? The Spanish Armada, perhaps? That was another time entirely, and even then it's clear that the British Navy was primarily a tool for acquiring, controlling, and defending their vast overseas Empire, not their homeland.

The last time they were under attack, back in WWII, they held clear naval superiority over the Germans, but it helped little if any. The Battle of Britain was fought almost exclusively by land-based forces. No doubt their Navy would have been quite useful had the Germans tried to launch an amphibious invasion, and we can even speculate that the Germans might have been more likely to have tried that had the UK not had an impressive Navy, but it's still a fact that the funds that went to build that Navy could have built far more cost-effective land-based defenses instead, if defending their homeland had been the goal, rather than "force projection" which is not a defensive goal but an explicitly aggressive one.

Uses of a Navy (1)

Oxford_Comma_Lover (1679530) | about 3 years ago | (#35773930)

> The only time you really need a Navy is if you want, not to defend yourself, but to sail around the world attacking or threatening to attack other people in their own homes.

They can also be useful for defending or threatening to defend other people or supply lines. Keeping oil flowing into our economy, for example. Keeping industrial output flowing.

Power is most effective when one does not have to use it. A US carrier group is a massive military threat to almost any country in the world. It is more useful as a deterrent than as an offensive weapon. Moving a carrier group is sometimes as much a political as a military exercise.

A navy is also useful (though financially inefficient if that were their only mission) for giving humanitarian aid. We have a lot of hospital beds on those ships, and in the wake of natural disasters they can be quite helpful.

Finally, they are useful for projecting large amounts of power far from your own shores--when you are surrounded by thousands of miles of ocean that someone must cross to get to you, that is useful even defensively.

Re:Cool way to kill people (2)

blackbeak (1227080) | about 3 years ago | (#35773826)

and isn't likely to mistake a bus-full of nuns for an enemy aircraft carrier..

You mean that actual nun incident [bbc.co.uk] you reference was just an identification error? The one that caused protesters to chant "Washington Guns Killed American Nuns" during Alexander Haig's commencement speech at Syracuse? [google.com]

Those nuns were targeted, and should it suit someone in the right position to send a laser blast into a bus full of nuns, you can bet they will do it with no qualms at all.

The clear argument that weapons will be used improperly is that historically use of weapons is primarily at the sole discretion and behest of extremely self interested parties and serves only their own greed.

Re:Cool way to kill people (1)

RsG (809189) | about 3 years ago | (#35773904)

People have been using "bus load of nuns" as a shorthand for "group of innocent people" since long before 1980. Nuns rank right alongside orphans as obvious innocents.

So no, I was not referencing "that actual nun incident". This is the first I've run into that particular case, though I might well have seen it before and simply forgotten it.

I'm not even going to try and untangle the run on sentence at the end of your post. Other than to remark that you clearly need to check the soles of your shoes for soapboxes.

Give credit where credit is due... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773448)

The got the idea by watching the frikken sharks...

Counter-measures (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773452)

...seems like a guy with a mirror could really make this backfire.

Re:Counter-measures (1)

kvezach (1199717) | about 3 years ago | (#35773480)

Sure, if he can find a perfectly reflective mirror. Even if it's 99.9% reflective, the 0.1% will destroy the mirror in short order.

Re:Counter-measures (1)

RsG (809189) | about 3 years ago | (#35773542)

Also, lasers don't bounce back at the attacker they way they do in fiction. A mirror is essentially armour against lasers, but unless you can aim the beam back in the time it takes for the mirror to melt, it isn't a weapon reflector.

And so what if the target can be armoured against laser fire? It can also be armoured against conventional weapons, and yet I don't see battleships making a comeback anytime soon. Armour, like all design decisions, is about trade offs, often weighed against cost and mobility.

Re:Counter-measures (1)

postbigbang (761081) | about 3 years ago | (#35773730)

The whole stealth aircraft program works on the principle of radar diffusion. Coat your craft accordingly, and the effectiveness goes way down. Seems like most of the bad guys don't have enough money for the reseach that it would take to do it. So the weapon works for a few years until a rational defense is found and can be afforded.

The whole thing goes to hell if the enemy uses the techniques found in those drug-carrying subs-- kevlar instead of steel, and therefore, tough to detect.

Retroreflectors (2)

mangu (126918) | about 3 years ago | (#35773838)

Also, lasers don't bounce back at the attacker they way they do in fiction. A mirror is essentially armour against lasers, but unless you can aim the beam back in the time it takes for the mirror to melt, it isn't a weapon reflector.

Would you believe TWO mirrors [wikipedia.org]? Well, actually six mirrors, because it's 3d, but you get the idea.

Re:Counter-measures (1)

geobeck (924637) | about 3 years ago | (#35773980)

Also, lasers don't bounce back at the attacker they way they do in fiction.

The most effective reflective armor wouldn't attempt to bounce the beam back (the Wobbuffet defense). If you had highly reflective armor placed at a very low angle, the beam would strike a much larger area, reducing the concentration of energy in addition to reflecting it away.

Of course, the problem would be that you now have a powerful laser beam aimed at an angle into the air--less concentrated than it was, but still enough to damage any of your planes that may be in the area.

Re:Counter-measures (1)

Cyberax (705495) | about 3 years ago | (#35774044)

"Also, lasers don't bounce back at the attacker they way they do in fiction. A mirror is essentially armour against lasers, but unless you can aim the beam back in the time it takes for the mirror to melt, it isn't a weapon reflector."

Not a problem. Just use http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corner_reflector [wikipedia.org]

Reagan era Star Wars program still breathes. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773456)

Another step forward for Ronald Reagan era "Star Wars" technology. The major problems with the Reagan program were not with whether it was possible or not - they were with the idea being so far ahead of the available tech.

Re:Reagan era Star Wars program still breathes. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773570)

Ronald Reagan seemed to think that real life should be like the B-movies he starred in.

P.S. He neither invented the laser nor the idea of using it against enemy vessels.

P.P.S. Fuck off.

Frickin' Laser Beams (0)

PCRanger (1166501) | about 3 years ago | (#35773460)

This must mean we're pretty close to having sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their frickin' heads...

Obligatory (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773484)

If they're already using dolphins for mine detection... when can we get these lasers on some sharks?

Not bad (-1, Troll)

DeBattel (2038034) | about 3 years ago | (#35773488)

But can it detect pirates automaticly [tinyurl.com]?

Goatse (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773508)

Warning: Don't click that link.

(Posting anon to avoid claims of karma whoring)

Re:Goatse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773556)

Warning: Don't click that link.

(Posting anon to avoid claims of karma whoring)

If you tell me not to think of elephants, what do you think is the first thing to pop into my head?

Beware: Shock Site/Image: NSFW

Re:Goatse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773588)

Frankly, if you see a warning not to click a link, and click it anyway, you deserve whatever mental scarring you get. If you must click a suspect link, do it in a tiny window, such that you're spared the worst when the inevitable ass fills the screen, and you only get one half cheek.

Re:Goatse (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773742)

Warning: Don't click that link.

(Posting anon to avoid claims of karma whoring)

I tried to post warnings about the goaste loving jerk yesterday but was modded into oblivion as a karma whore. Go figure. I couldn't post often enough as AC to keep up with his many accounts.

Re:Not bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773536)

Better than you, you arse bandit.

Re:Not bad (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773632)

Hey mac. Yeah, you, with the gaping ass fetish.

I know you think it's funny to put deceptive links to your depraved fap material out there. Makes you feel better about your small penis, or the fact that your mother never loved you, or maybe your crippling anxiety about sex. I dunno, whatever floats your boat.

But hows about you do that where the grown ups don't have to watch, okay sweetie? You wouldn't masturbate in a public park, or at least you wouldn't do it twice after that nice judge let you off with community service, and getting people to look at a twisted distended anus like that is not unlike going outside without your mandatory paper bag; it's a disservice to eyesight is what I'm saying.

Mod up (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773688)

That was cruel... but I still laughed.

Proof (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773510)

it didn't happen unless there is a video about it. :P

Just sail over the horizon _then_ fire your guns (3, Insightful)

petes_PoV (912422) | about 3 years ago | (#35773514)

A line of sight weapon is only useful if you can see the enema. If they happen to be distant enough that the earth gets in the way, you've got nothing. Meanwhile, they can still fire shells at you which follow a nice, ballistic trajectory. Whether of not the laser weapon is accurate enough, powerful enough or lucky enough to hit a small, supersonic target will be an interesting experiment. I await the results with a non-zero (barely), positive interest.

Afterthought: presumably the torpedo manufacturers aren't too worried, either.

Re:Just sail over the horizon _then_ fire your gun (2)

imsabbel (611519) | about 3 years ago | (#35773528)

Yawn.

First, if you see your enema, better go to a better doctor.

Second, its not a replacement for artillery (thats going to be the job of railguns), but of phalanx systems. Operational range would only be a few km, so plenty in line of sight.

Re:Just sail over the horizon _then_ fire your gun (1)

circletimessquare (444983) | about 3 years ago | (#35773592)

i'm looking at 'A' and 'Y' on my keyboard. nope. maybe a mistake like enemu or enemt. but you had to write enema on purpose. which is odd, as your post seems serious

Re:Just sail over the horizon _then_ fire your gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773624)

Wow. Just wow. You're really so living in your own little world, that you can't even imagine there being *other* layouts out there?

Re:Just sail over the horizon _then_ fire your gun (3, Interesting)

SunTzuWarmaster (930093) | about 3 years ago | (#35773796)

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dvorak_Simplified_Keyboard [wikipedia.org]
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keyboard_layout [wikipedia.org]

Hate to break it to you cowboy, but out of over 60 keyboard layouts the only ones with a and y anywhere near each other are the Bulgarian and Ukrainian. Given the incredible meaning differences in the words and unconventionality of use (rules out non-native speaker issues), and the unlikeliness of the layout, it is incredibly unlikely that this mistake is made by anything other than: a) intentional, or b) force of habit.

Both of those conclusions are... odd.

enema + dvork (5, Funny)

decora (1710862) | about 3 years ago | (#35773848)

i think the internet has officially acheived its original purpose.

to create a discussion thread that goes from laser weapons, to enemas, to dvorak keyboard arguments, without any intervening replies.

absolutely unbelievable. bravo to you, sirs. bravo.

Re:Just sail over the horizon _then_ fire your gun (1)

Briareos (21163) | about 3 years ago | (#35773932)

Hate to break it to you cowboy, but out of over 60 keyboard layouts the only ones with a and y anywhere near each other are the Bulgarian and Ukrainian.

I also hate to break it to you but there's keyboard layouts beyond QWERTY out there, like QWERTZ [wikipedia.org] - German, Hungarian, Swiss, Bosnian, Croatian and Slovene layouts make mistyping an A for a Y a breeze...

np: Battles - IPT-2 (EP C/B EP)

Re:Just sail over the horizon _then_ fire your gun (1)

xehonk (930376) | about 3 years ago | (#35773968)

> Hate to break it to you cowboy, but out of over 60 keyboard layouts the only ones with a and y anywhere near each other are the Bulgarian and Ukrainian.

Nice try, but there is an entire category with keyboards where the Y and Z keys are swapped in the article you linked:

4.2 QWERTZ

Re:Just sail over the horizon _then_ fire your gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35774048)

There are keyboards that are not QUERTY but QUERTZ - so the last line begins with YXCV... now look at the same characters....

Re:Just sail over the horizon _then_ fire your gun (2)

mijelh (1111411) | about 3 years ago | (#35773650)

The article says the laser is a defensive weapon to be used against small boats, and they actually say that its going to work together with, and not as a substitution to "kinetic energy weapon systems". I don't think you need to defend yourself against a small boat which is too far to be seen, if nothing else because there is probably no way to know if they are hostile or not.

Re:Just sail over the horizon _then_ fire your gun (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773718)

Just fire on it first, then it's automatically hostile! Don't you know anything about American Foreign Policy? Those small boats must be liberated!

Just reflect the beam with a mirror (1)

markus_baertschi (259069) | about 3 years ago | (#35773518)

I alway think defending against such lasers is quite easy and low-cost: Just put up a good-quality mirror and the beam gets reflected. If you aim well, you could even attack the ship with its own laser-beam.

Markus

Re:Just reflect the beam with a mirror (1)

grouchomarxist (127479) | about 3 years ago | (#35773554)

This has discussed before in other articles about lasers. The problem with mirrors is that they old reflect a % of the energy of the laser and are soon damaged to the point where they no longer reflect at all.

Re:Just reflect the beam with a mirror (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 3 years ago | (#35773708)

Reflective chaff is cheap and plentiful. Just use more chaff and the target is safe. The cost of chaff per laser power is an asymmetric defense that renders these lasers just another way to bankrupt the US. Which has been the defensive strategy of our enemies in the field for at least a decade now. And it's totally worked, while they remain in the same condition they started in, or better.

Re:Just reflect the beam with a mirror (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | about 3 years ago | (#35773866)

You would have to have enough chaff to keep ejecting the entire time you are in motion, which would quickly mean you have no room for weapons. If you don't move, you get pegged easily with a rocket, and if you do move you just leave your protective bubble. It wouldn't work.

Re:Just reflect the beam with a mirror (2)

peragrin (659227) | about 3 years ago | (#35773964)

Chaff only makes sense when your not moving or when your moving AWAY from the weapon.

Chaff is defense against rear attacks. if your on a speed boat heading toward a ship that is shooting at you chaff is worthless.

think before you speak.

Re:Just reflect the beam with a mirror (1)

moogied (1175879) | about 3 years ago | (#35773878)

It doesn't work like that.... what are you going to do? Cover your entire boat in mirrors? No? Then I guess they'll just melt a hole through whatever the hell isn't covered in mirrors. Even if you do cover the ship in mirrors and they magically are strong enough to not break your boat the laser will still melt through it, albeit slightly slower.

In the navy.... (2)

Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) | about 3 years ago | (#35773524)


In the navy,
Yes, you can sail the seven seas!
In the navy,
Yes, you can fire MLDs!

Re:In the navy.... (1)

Karl Cocknozzle (514413) | about 3 years ago | (#35773898)

Of course, now, it is only a matter of time before our enemies have ship-mounted lasers. Which means soon we'll get roped into paying for deflector shields.

Shit! They always get you with the add-ons...

Obligatory (1)

MonsterTrimble (1205334) | about 3 years ago | (#35773538)

The laser was mounted onto the deck of the Navy’s self-defense test ship, former USS Paul Foster (DD 964).

Too bad the ship wasn't called Sea Bass

now where are the Sharks? (3, Interesting)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | about 3 years ago | (#35773548)

now where are the Sharks?

Re:now where are the Sharks? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773754)

They are getting fed by the terrosists on the small boats .

Re:now where are the Sharks? (1)

xs650 (741277) | about 3 years ago | (#35773996)

The frikin' laser needs to be frikin' miniaturized before it can be out on the frikin' sharks frikin' heads.

Re:now where are the Sharks? (1)

turbidostato (878842) | about 3 years ago | (#35774066)

"The frikin' laser needs to be frikin' miniaturized before it can be out on the frikin' sharks frikin' heads."

C'mon! you can't be a real terror demigod aiming at world domination if you can't think big.

You feed your shark army in the radiactive seaside near Fukushima so they grow Godzilla-like ("frikin' Sharkzillas"?) then you won't have any problem to mount navy-size lasers on their frikin' heads.

Patently useless (-1)

pyalot (1197273) | about 3 years ago | (#35773552)

What is the usecase of that thing?

Shooting down incoming projectiles? Good luck if the first shot misses, since you'll probably have to wait minutes for the capacitor to reload. And there's probably just one unit per ship because you'd need a nuclear reactor to power it.

Shooting at other ships? You need lasers for somali pirates, really? Oh, I see, you want to shoot at other seagoing warships with that? Good luck with that, since your run off the mill modern naval warfare is a "behind the horizon" kind of affair, I wanna see that laser shoot trough the horizon...

You want to shoot at submarines with that? (dude, I won't even go there with whats wrong trying to shoot a laser trough a randomly refracting barrier into a really light absorbing medium).

You want to shoot down satellites? Sure, you could do it with that, though, why do you need a laser on a *ship* for that? You know, satellites, they go round-n-round the earth, just wait until you have it in your sights...

Shoot at targets on land? I don't know if you've heard this, but there's a thing called "coast" and a thing called "curvature of earth", and absolutely most fat&juicy targets on land try to squat in inaccessible hilly or mountainous terrain, far, far inland. So, I want to see that thing shoot trough a horizon made of dozens of kilometers of solid rock.

Really, it's bloddy useless, unless you need to compare dick sizes with whatever other military feels compelled to do that. I hope it helps your self esteem dear US navy.

Re:Patently useless (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773614)

It's to cook houses full of popcorn, haven't you seen the movie Real Genius?

Re:Patently useless (1)

vadim_t (324782) | about 3 years ago | (#35773616)

I'm pretty sure it's the first. It's really ideal for such a role. Also:

There doesn't have to be a capacitor that needs charging if the ship can provide enough power. There's probably a capacitor in there somewhere, but it most likely doesn't work like a camera flash. It's probably more limited by heating.

There's no reason for it to miss, given that it's a laser and unlike in Star Wars, in reality those move at the speed of light. All it needs is a positioning system capable of keeping up.

It's also most likely can probably keep going for at least a few seconds. The aim can be adjusted while it keeps lasing, so an initial miss isn't necessarily a problem.

Re:Patently useless (0)

pyalot (1197273) | about 3 years ago | (#35773682)

Ok, so let's speculate that they can output a continous masered high energy beam. So the unit to produce that beam will be really large, and hence, can't swivel quickly. So you need a refractor/reflector of sorts to aim it. Only issue is, at energies sufficient to burn trough basic armored steel (and no word about reflective paint), even minute devitations from 100% reflective or 100% transparent, will render any such reflector/refractor quickly useless. So after every couple of seconds of continous firing you'll have to exchange that thing, or risk it burning trough and punching random holes into your own vessel. Also, naturally you can miss, no target aquisition is 100% accurate, and then there's also refraction in air, sea movement and so on, not to say anything about multiple incoming projectiles.

Re:Patently useless (3, Informative)

vadim_t (324782) | about 3 years ago | (#35773768)

It's not really a new concept it looks like this [youtube.com]. It's just not very practical.

From what I heard the problem with this kind of thing is that it takes two trucks worth of equipment to setup, lots of power, cooling and chemicals (since it's a dye laser). Now on a ship that's a lot less of a problem.

From what I understand, the kind of mirror used in a laser is extremely efficient, tuned to the laser's frequency, sealed in a chamber that doesn't have a spec of dust in it, and has an active cooling system. This can be done in a special environment like inside an enclosed mechanism, but a missile isn't going to be able to have this kind of thing on its surface.

Re:Patently useless (0)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 3 years ago | (#35773694)

The only tech that can discharge enough energy fast enough (GW of power, even if briefly) is some kind of capacitor.

The US has been funding Star Wars "missile defense" for decades, for many $BILLIONS, but it has never actually worked. It has, however, often fraudulently rigged demos. "A positioning system capable of keeping up" isn't just a snap of the fingers, and it's eluded the Pentagon in targeting planes, missiles, tanks and every other kind of target. Even when based on land or in space, where rabid and unpredicted motion of the platform isn't making things twice as hard.

Even if it could reaim to a moving target, the time lost before hitting the target is all wasted energy. The energy delivered per shot is the limiting factor, after the olympian task of reaiming to get and stay on target.

And then the target just has to pump out chaff to deflect the beams, which is far cheaper and easier than hitting the target with a laser. Congratulations: another asymmetric threat to bankrupt and paralyze the US military up against foes with 20th Century gear and budgets.

Re:Patently useless (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773776)

"The only tech that can discharge enough energy fast enough (GW of power, even if briefly) is some kind of capacitor."

As usual, Doc, your stunning ignorance of even historical levels of technology is blatantly obvious. [wikipedia.org]

So, how are your space-based aerogel-insulated windows coming along? Got a big market yet?

Re:Patently useless (1)

pyalot (1197273) | about 3 years ago | (#35773864)

Geeze you're clueless. It doesn't matter if you're powering a flywheel or charging a more conventional capacitator. After you discharge that thing, the energy's gone, and you have to put new energy in. The usual way to use it is to accumulate energy into it over a longer time, in order to quickly discharge it. You usually do that if you have an energy application that requires more power then you can produce in-situ per unit of time. The reagan star-wars programme had at least the advantage of being able to hook up directly to the power grid, you know, where several large-scale nuclear reactors pump energy in. On a ship however, the level best you're going to get is a naval reactor, and while powerful, it's no technomiracle, it's power-output is strictly limited. And I guarantee you, powering a laser able to punch trough reflectively painted tungsten steel across dozens or hundreds of kilometers of atmosphere, is way beyond even the power output capabilities of a naval nuclear reactor.

Re:Patently useless (1)

Kral_Blbec (1201285) | about 3 years ago | (#35773902)

Chaff is stupid. A target approaching a ship is going to go right through it (and destroy its own engines if it has any) and appear on the other side. Chaff is only useful as an escape where it remains in line of sight between both parties.

Re:Patently useless (0)

Dails (1798748) | about 3 years ago | (#35774032)

Nope. First of all, chaff is awesome, especially because it's a low-cost counter to a high-cost weapon, which makes it an effective counter even before the enemy chooses to employ his weapon system (since he might decide it's not economically worth it).

Chaff works by tricking either an incoming missile or an enemy's fire control radar into thinking the radar return generated by the chaff cloud is actually the ship. Between the ship and the threat is literally the LAST place you want to chaff to stay, since a kinetic trigger missile will fly through the chaff and still hit the ship, and a proximally triggered missile will explode in the chaff, close enough to the ship to damage it.

Also, some missiles search for target in far-to-near order, meaning you actually fire the chaff on the side of the ship AWAY from the missile in order to confuse it. Good thing I'm here to explain things.

Re:Patently useless (3, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 3 years ago | (#35773618)

My impression is that the (eventual) use case, aside from giving our valued contractors something to bill for, is intercepting missiles and possibly nearby aircraft.

A fair number of navy vessels, especially the pricey, strategically important ones, do have a nuclear reactor to power it. They are also subject to some concern about the ability of today's minigun-based CIWS defenses to deal with some contemporary and upcoming anti-ship missiles. An anti-boat test is a serious lowball, compared to the eventual task; but I assume somebody had a 'milestone' that needed to be ticked.

For other ships, and coastal targets, the navy has also been showing considerable interest in railguns...

Re:Patently useless (1)

drinkypoo (153816) | about 3 years ago | (#35773842)

If you can eliminate all the other weapons systems on the boat it will never run out of ammo so long as it does not run out of fuel. For a nuclear military vessel (which is maintained at someone else's expense) running out of fuel in the middle of combat is essentially a non-issue.

Big military vessels don't need indirect fire if they have air cover... which they generally do at all times.

Re:Patently useless (1)

Adayse (1983650) | about 3 years ago | (#35773734)

If you are defending against the US you wont have any ships or planes so you attach your weapons to hydrogen balloons and let them drift. Lasers could be useful against such a cloud.

Re:Patently useless (1)

PPH (736903) | about 3 years ago | (#35774076)

You put your weapons in shipping containers labeled 'iPhone 5, Made in China' and wait until the eager crowds descend upon the waterfront.

Pay attention everyone, this is the plan ... (1)

Grindalf (1089511) | about 3 years ago | (#35773610)

So we steal this "LASER" and place it on the moon. Then we telephone the president ...

What about rain? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773628)

Seems like foul weather would make this useless.

So Expensive (5, Insightful)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 3 years ago | (#35773654)

I'm glad we didn't cut a penny from the 2011 military budget. Then we wouldn't have these extra boat lasers around that we don't need, along with all the thousands of other defense contractor welfare projects we've run up $TRILLIONS in debt to pay for.

Instead we cut 1% of the Federal budget, from women, children and the poor. Why protect them with social programmes when we can defend them with extra weapons that kill other people, or sit unused, instead?

Re:So Expensive (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773686)

I'm glad we didn't cut a penny from the 2011 military budget. Then we wouldn't have these extra boat lasers around that we don't need, along with all the thousands of other defense contractor welfare projects we've run up $TRILLIONS in debt to pay for.

$TRILLIONS of debt is not a problem when you have ships with lasers. Who's going to make you pay it back?

Re:So Expensive (1)

Bai jie (653604) | about 3 years ago | (#35773812)

The Chinese. Since they spent only 1/10000 of the money on espionage and stole the laser tech form us and installed it on their ships for 1/1000 the cost since their labor is cheap.

Re:So Expensive (1)

yodleboy (982200) | about 3 years ago | (#35773906)

so why is this a troll? seriously, cry baby politicians in DC are looking for pennies under the couch and arguing ideology when there are piles of wasted money in pet projects.

On another note, is the navy seriously suggesting that current close-in weapons systems are so useless that we need lasers? I mean the idea is cool, but come on. Small vessels getting close enough to do serious damage seems more of a failure of procedure than a failure of weapons. Unless you're willing to shoot any old fishing boat that gets too close, it doesn't really matter what weapon you have. The time spent making a decision is more of a problem than blowing them up.

Nits for the pickin' (1)

gregor-e (136142) | about 3 years ago | (#35773726)

Like salmon, cannon is its own plural. Oh, and in electrical terms, it's antennas, not "antennae", in case you were wondering.

Summary correction (1)

pongo000 (97357) | about 3 years ago | (#35773774)

From the summary:

using it to destroy a small target vessel

From the article:

disabled a small target vessel

Big difference between "disable" and "destroy."

Cool (0)

Xelios (822510) | about 3 years ago | (#35773840)

Once they perfect railguns too they can start selling off the obsolete weapons to some developing countries. Makes a great excuse for another preemptive war; keep that military budget humming along!

Pick up the gun.
I don't want to mister, you'll shoot me.
...pick up the gun.
I.. I don't want no trouble mister...
Pick it up...
BANG BANG BANG
You all saw it, he had a gun.

What about missles? (1)

X-Gamer (937169) | about 3 years ago | (#35773880)

Small boats threat? It makes more sense as a defence against anti-ship missles. Modern anti-ship missles are programmed to approach in an erratic trajectory that makes it very difficult for CIWS to track and take out since they have to compensate for the flight time and distance of the projectiles. A laser will CIWS will most certainly be more effective.

Shrapnel cannon of mirrored shards (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773882)

My cannon will beat your puny lazer with mirrors.

Lasers as weapons (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35773970)

People have tried to weaponize lasers and similar devices for over fifty years and practical applications are still in a distant future. It is just like energy from nuclear fusion.

Close to a balanced budget would be nice, too (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 3 years ago | (#35774012)

Just don't ask where the money for the laser project came from.

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