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Navy Planning To Build Laser Cannon In Four Years

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the sea-the-future dept.

The Military 195

CowboyRobot writes "The US Navy is months away from requesting bids from contractors to construct a laser weapon for its ships, now that the technology is feasible. 'The key point came last April, when the Navy put a test laser firing a (relatively weak) 15-kilowatt beam aboard a decommissioned destroyer... the Martime Laser Demonstrator cut through choppy California waters, an overcast sky and salty sea air to burn through the outboard engine of a moving motorboat a mile away.'"

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195 comments

Hmm (2, Funny)

girlintraining (1395911) | about 2 years ago | (#39541459)

So Navy's of tomorrow will have their ships covered in mirrors. Now, someone tell me why this won't work... because it seems like a really obvious way to divert a laser beam.

Re:Hmm (4, Informative)

houstonbofh (602064) | about 2 years ago | (#39541477)

High power lasers will smoke a typical mirror. There are reflective surfaces that could work, but you have to keep them perfectly clean. Not happening at sea for long... However, a laser will be easier to track back than a tracer round...

Re:Hmm (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541707)

High power lasers will smoke a typical mirror. There are reflective surfaces that could work, but you have to keep them perfectly clean. Not happening at sea for long... However, a laser will be easier to track back than a tracer round...

Maybe, maybe not.

If the laser light doesn't scatter much, the only one who can track it back to its source is the target.

But only AFTER getting blasted.

Of course, you could look out for the fricken' shark in the first place... ;-)

Re:Hmm (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541709)

If this stays as a (relatively) short range weapon, which is likely given the way lasers work in the atmosphere, then I doubt that being able to trace the beam back to its source will matter much. A modern US destroyer is over 500 ft long. Based on the one mile range listed in the summary, it would be clearly visible, even to the naked eye.

Re:Hmm (4, Interesting)

icebike (68054) | about 2 years ago | (#39542995)

If this stays as a (relatively) short range weapon, which is likely given the way lasers work in the atmosphere, then I doubt that being able to trace the beam back to its source will matter much. A modern US destroyer is over 500 ft long. Based on the one mile range listed in the summary, it would be clearly visible, even to the naked eye.

Further, something big enough to take out an outboard motor, even scaled up, is at best, a point defense weapon (cruise missiles, very small surface craft, close in helicopters, etc.) Even something 10 times as powerful does not completely disable a frigate sized surface vessel before it can return fire with missiles, guns, and torpedo.

However, looking at the video, the time it takes to burn thru a thin-skinned outboard motor, on a boat that was barely moving, and making no effort to avoid the engagement, suggests that there is a long way to go before this could be a missile defense.

So the use case shrinks even further.

Most anti-ship missiles tend to cluster around a speed of 1000 km/h [wikipedia.org], which means they cover that last km in .27 seconds. And some US missiles arrive at over 4000 km/h.

Unless a massively scaled up version can track an incoming missile traveling that fast, and engage it, burn it, or blind it in that .27 seconds, its use as fleet CIWS seems limited at best. The only saving grace is the last km is usually (but not always) a head on straight in attack, making tracking easier.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541749)

You got it all wrong.
It's "laser's" and "surface's", just as much as the plural of navy is navy's.

Re:Hmm (1)

geo3rge (937616) | about 2 years ago | (#39542071)

I don't think you really understand the difference between plurals and possessives. Navy's is the *possessive* of Navy. Navies is the *plural* of Navy. Similarly, the plural of surface is surfaces. The possessive of surface is surface's. Check with any grammar book. Of course, you could just mean this as an April Fool Joke. If so, you need to look up the meaning of 'joke'

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39542101)

you need to look up the meaning of 'joke'

You could have told him to look in the mirror.

Re:Hmm (1)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#39542037)

Well they should be able to cover the special mirrors in a easily flammable clean burning layer so that every surface that gets hit instantly melts/vaporises away and is 100% clean.

Re:Hmm (1)

DaneM (810927) | about 2 years ago | (#39542099)

Who says they have to use visible light? A UV laser would be especially nasty, both because you can't see it, and because even the non-focused "bleed off" will be deadly to living organisms (depending on the type of UV, presumably). I don't know whether this is an ideal frequency for avoiding refraction, etc., but just going to wickedlasers.com will demonstrate that higher-frequency lasers can be darned powerful. Of course, if high-frequency isn't the way to go, you could go infra-red, instead.

This could be "traced" by specially-designed sensor hardware (i.e. that can see outside the human-visible spectrum), but you'd still have to have these sensors pointed in every conceivable direction of incoming attack in order for them to be truly effective. Of course, anything sensitive enough to trace such a laser without being directly hit will get utterly fried if a hit does happen nearby (even if it's not a hit to the sensors, themselves).

Overall, I think that with a little cleverness, it'll be highly impractical to trace a laser "blast" much better than one traces phosphorous-burning bullets now.

Re:Hmm (1)

demachina (71715) | about 2 years ago | (#39542505)

Infrared isn't a very good choice for a marine environment. Infrared doesn't travel well through clouds, fog or any other form of water vapor.

Re:Hmm (2)

hey! (33014) | about 2 years ago | (#39542231)

High power lasers will smoke a typical mirror. There are reflective surfaces that could work, but you have to keep them perfectly clean. Not happening at sea for long...

Perfect defense against the laser isn't really the point. There's a range of conditions under which a laser of a given power can work fast enough to be effective against a quick moving target. Even painting something white would tend to narrow those conditions. Tests done in the 50s with nuclear heat flash showed that structures painted white survived while adjacent unpainted structures burst into flame.

Look at the the video in TFA. Note especially the cut in the editing; it would appear that it took some time for one of the black outboard engines of a stationary boat bursts into flames. The laser they're talking about building is only 7x as powerful as the one used in the demonstration. It's questionable whether such a laser could have that particular effect against a fast moving boat, much less something like a missile.

According to TFA, the point of the program is to get useful lasers onto ships earlier, but I question whether that's the right objective. What does the space, money, and manpower needed to mount such a weapon on a ship displace? Might it make more sense to spend that on something else while we continue research into lasers in a power range that would actually confer some kind of advantage when installed on a ship?

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541481)

I think the mirrors would melt before they could even reflect... Unless the speed of light has something to do with this being plausible.

Re:Hmm (4, Informative)

KnightMB (823876) | about 2 years ago | (#39541487)

So Navy's of tomorrow will have their ships covered in mirrors. Now, someone tell me why this won't work... because it seems like a really obvious way to divert a laser beam.

Because a mirror does not reflect 100% of the energy, some will be absorbed, thus the laser will eventually burn through it. Super efficient mirrors are easy counter anyway, just lob some "buckshot" at the target to shatter the mirrors, then burn the ship up with the laser :-)

Re:Hmm (1)

jovius (974690) | about 2 years ago | (#39542301)

Wouldn't the obvious solution be to create ships which absorb incoming energy and re-use it for their own use?

Re:Hmm (5, Funny)

busyqth (2566075) | about 2 years ago | (#39542353)

That would be a devastating defense.
I'm sure the Navy will remember it next time they're up against a borg cube.

Re:Hmm (4, Insightful)

Tyrannosaur (2485772) | about 2 years ago | (#39542373)

Wouldn't the obvious solution be to create ships which absorb incoming energy and re-use it for their own use?

If I extend that "obvious solution" to apply to how to counter, say, nuclear weapons, you'll see why that won't work.

Re:Hmm (1)

Electricity Likes Me (1098643) | about 2 years ago | (#39542313)

More importantly: the moment the mirror surface warps or burns, it stops reflecting. So after the initial laser hit, there's a sudden spike in energy adsorption as the reflective material fails.

Any practical reflective material is also going to be polished metal, so this would happen pretty quickly.

Re:Hmm (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541525)

Mirrors are not perfect, especially those exposed to the elements. Even a 99.9% reflective mirror (which would be impossible on a ship) would heat up quickly and discolour, and then all bets are off. Also lasers can use a wide range of frequencies outside of visible light which adds to the difficulty.

Re:Hmm (1)

FiloEleven (602040) | about 2 years ago | (#39542139)

How quickly? More quickly than a computer-controlled mirror could be rotated to reflect the laser back at its source? If a surface could reflect 60% of the energy and angle it back at the source, I could see that causing problems. But I'm just typing as I think, and I doubt the potential benefit of protection against laser weapons outweighs the costs (monetary and strategic) of outfitting a ship with such a system.

Re:Hmm (1)

Joce640k (829181) | about 2 years ago | (#39541629)

So Navy's of tomorrow will have their ships covered in mirrors..

Nah, they'll be covered in hi-tech retro-reflective coatings. The great thing about laser beams is they have no inertial mass...

Re:Hmm (1)

HybridST (894157) | about 2 years ago | (#39541737)

"The great thing about laser beams is
they have no inertial mass..."

And yet photons have momentum. Perhaps a resident lasergeek could calculate the momentum transferred through beam reflection... Need way more coffee before i try mathing things up on a Sunday!

Re:Hmm (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39542075)

It's quite simple.

Let F be the force, E the energy of a single photon, p the momentum of a single photon, P the power of the laser, f the number of photons per time
For photons,
E = hc/lambda, p = h/lambda -> p = E / c

For each photon reflected, the mirror receives twice the impulse of the photon:
p_received = 2 * E / c

The number of photons per time is:
f = P/E

The force to the mirror is the impulse received per photon times the number of photons per time:
F = N * p_received / t = 2 * f * E / c = 2 * P / c

For a 15-kilowatt LASER, the force would be 1.0e-4 newtons.

Re:Hmm (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541727)

Because the navy values stealth over the ability to shoot lasers at stuff, they'd lose their passive radar countermeasures and pretty much be way more reflective to most of the relevant electromagnetic spectrum including what people can see.

Re:Hmm (3, Insightful)

Nidi62 (1525137) | about 2 years ago | (#39542029)

So Navy's of tomorrow will have their ships covered in mirrors. Now, someone tell me why this won't work... because it seems like a really obvious way to divert a laser beam.

Because the navies of tomorrow (or at least ours will) will also be armed with rail guns. Mirrors won't do much to stop that, and even if there's conventional armor underneath, the rail gun projectile, if it hits, will make them all but useless against a laser.

This is for sort range tactical threats like boats (3, Interesting)

goombah99 (560566) | about 2 years ago | (#39542073)

This is a precision weapon for neutralizing things like Iranian speed boats or Yemeny boat bombs. You don't know if they are threat or not and so rather than blow up everything you disable it and if you make mistake you don't cause death or accidental wars. A laser can't fire over the horizon so it's not useful ship to ship or even ship to airplane. it's even somewhat hard to burn a spinning missile, especially if it is trying to avoid being tracked. (though it might be useful for that if they have enough juice.)

They discontinued the airborne laser program which to me makes more sense. Planes can't carry a lot of bomb weight but they have enormous power plants. Their modern mission are becoming increasingly precision oriented. With a laser can loiter and fry things as long as their fuel hold out. Plus like ships they have lots of cooling available.

Re:Hmm (2)

Phanatic1a (413374) | about 2 years ago | (#39542407)

I wish people would cut this out.

Have you ever seen a high-energy mirror? It's not something you pick up at Bed, Bath & Beyond. They are expensive, they are fragile, they must be kept completely clean. The reflective surface has to be on the *front* of the mirror, not the rear, because there aren't materials transparent enough to pass high-energy laser light through without absorbing enough of it to react unpleasantly and spoil the reflection. So if there's something like a fingerprint, or a dust speck, on the reflective surface, that bit of crud absorbs the incident light, heats up/explodes, and damages the mirror coating. Which means it's not reflective anymore, which means that area of mirror coating now heats up/explodes and damages adjacent areas, leading to catastrophic failure of the mirror.

You are not going to put mirrors on your greasy *boats* that go bouncing around the surface of the *ocean* and have them remain clean enough to offer protection against a multi-kilowatt laser beam.

Why China limitis rare earth exports (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541469)

"The Free Electron Laser, which uses magnets to generate its beam, will stay focused on getting up to a megawatt."

Re:Why China limitis rare earth exports (1)

busyqth (2566075) | about 2 years ago | (#39541533)

That will be effective because the U.S. Military isn't willing to spend the money required to mine to the large amounts of rare earth elements in the U.S.
Uhhhhh....

Re:Why China limitis rare earth exports (2)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 2 years ago | (#39541615)

FELs do usually use rare earth magnets, but the total amount of material isn't very large compared to disk drives and other commercial uses.

BAD (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 2 years ago | (#39541503)

We need to stop the imperialists with a world proletarian revolution before it's too late!!!!!!!!!

Re:BAD (1)

busyqth (2566075) | about 2 years ago | (#39541561)

I agree! For our first act of civil disobedience aimed at bringing down the imperialists, howabout lets go stand in front of this laser to prevent its firing!
Or on second thought, you do that -- I'll go protest as close as I can get to the Pentagon.

Re:BAD (1)

For a Free Internet (1594621) | about 2 years ago | (#39541593)

What does liberal-pacifist-reformist-cretinism "civil disobedience" have to do with workers revolution? You are ignorant, go study Lenin and Trotsky.

Re:BAD (2)

busyqth (2566075) | about 2 years ago | (#39541645)

I tried to study Lenin, but I got arrested when I tried to break the glass surrounding his desiccated corpse.

Speaking of worker's revolution, you should have seen the call center after I told the drones that I was cutting them back to one bathroom break per eight hour shift. Well they were livid let me tell you! One guy even threatened to quit so I fired him for cause.
Now that was a revolution!

Re:BAD (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541649)

That's what I hate about leninist-trotskist-stupidist activists: they doesn't get sarcasm.

I'm Confused.... (3, Interesting)

Catmeat (20653) | about 2 years ago | (#39541539)

“Subsonic cruise missiles, aircraft, fast-moving boats, unmanned aerial vehicles” — Mike Deitchman, who oversees future weapons development for the Office of Naval Research, promises Danger Room that the Navy laser cannons just over the horizon will target them all.

I'm confused. Surely the one thing a laser canon can't do is target things from over the horizon.

Re:I'm Confused.... (1)

busyqth (2566075) | about 2 years ago | (#39541571)

The Earth's gravity bends the laser beam so that it can shoot targets over the horizon.
Haven't you ever hear of Einstein?! Duh!
Gravity Lensing! Duh!!

Re:I'm Confused.... (4, Funny)

MightyYar (622222) | about 2 years ago | (#39541729)

Yup - the trick is just to design the laser so that the light slows down enough to get into a stable orbit... then you can just fire the laser and it will follow the contour of the earth. Things like mountains and hills can be overcome by firing it even more slowly in a ballistic trajectory.

Re:I'm Confused.... (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about 2 years ago | (#39543003)

Things like mountains and hills can be overcome by firing it even more slowly in a ballistic trajectory.

This is actually possible. All you need is a really, REALLY heavy object.

Re:I'm Confused.... (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39542041)

He's using "just over the horizon" as a figure of speech, in the sense of time; i.e., the laser cannons that will be built in the near future. It's a poorly written sentence though, so the confusion is understandable.

Re:I'm Confused.... (4, Informative)

scream at the sky (989144) | about 2 years ago | (#39542221)

“Subsonic cruise missiles, aircraft, fast-moving boats, unmanned aerial vehicles” — Mike Deitchman, who oversees future weapons development for the Office of Naval Research, promises Danger Room that the Navy laser cannons just over the horizon will target them all. I'm confused. Surely the one thing a laser canon can't do is target things from over the horizon.

I think he is using the word horizon as a metaphor for "coming soon" not a target on the literal horizon. Sloppy wording for sure, it took me a moment to process as well.

Battleship, Transformers. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541541)

Michael Bay is a VISIONARY !!!111

He even perfected cloning technology to bring the carrier battle-group from Pearl Harbor into Transformers.

Priorities. (0)

Beelzebud (1361137) | about 2 years ago | (#39541565)

I'm glad we have nothing else to spend money on besides toys for the military.

Re:Priorities. (1)

busyqth (2566075) | about 2 years ago | (#39541585)

We have lots of other things we could spend the money on,
But nothing as important

We can't let the terrorists win...

Re:Priorities. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541815)

What if USA would simply just stop terrorizing the world then, because terrorist never win?
USA is simply terrorizing the whole world and they don't see that it is endless and they just burn money for stupid things.

Learning that they can not control the world and that they are not the best country in world, but biggest religion nation what believes that God is on their side and God wants them to murder, rape, kidnap, assassin, torture and destroy whole cities and countries....

Re:Priorities. (1)

busyqth (2566075) | about 2 years ago | (#39541885)

The USA isn't terrorizing the rest of the world.

The rest of the world is terrorizing the USA.
That's why we have to fight back.

Re:Priorities. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541917)

Stay in your cesspool of a country and wait to be reamed by China. No one cares about what you think, anyway.

Re:Priorities. (2)

cold fjord (826450) | about 2 years ago | (#39541659)

I'm glad we have nothing else to spend money on besides toys for the military.

See this chart: Defense's Share of the Federal Pie and Economy Has Been Declining [heritage.org], in this report [heritage.org].

Re:Priorities. (3, Insightful)

Idarubicin (579475) | about 2 years ago | (#39542413)

If you're going to quote that report, you could just as easily point to this figure [heritage.org].

In inflation-adjusted dollars, defense spending has been higher in the last five budgets than at any other point in the last fifty. The last time the DOD was spending more money in terms of real buying power was World War 2.

Too easy to defend against this (5, Informative)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 2 years ago | (#39541609)

If the attacking boat has a corner cube reflector there is a good chance of blinding people on the defending ship. Since the system needs to be ready for use without warning, the crew would need to always wear laser goggles.

You can protect a missile with an ablative shield - the sort used for re-entry vehicles. This doesn't need to be high tech - wood works surprisingly well (used by the Chinese for spacecraft years ago).

You could use a more diffuse beam to blind the crew of an attacking boat, but I think that violates the Geneva convention.

I'm also very skeptical about the 1MW -> 20' of steel / second. At a kilometer away, you probably have a spot size of around a centimeter. (it depends on wavelength, optics, etc, but that is the right ball park. Iron vaporization energy is 300KJ/mole or about 6KJ/gm. A 1cm long by 10M piece of iron is 1000 cc's or ~10^4 grams. So that's 60MJ to vaporize, or a minute, not a second to burn through. Of course the plume of iron vapor will disrupt the incoming beam so it will take a lot longer. This also assumes you can keep the beam perfectly focused.

The is also the question of whether a complex device like an FEL can be kept always ready to fire within a second. The light is much faster, but its not clear that when you include the time to ready and aim the weapon that the time to hit the target is faster than for a high speed gun.

Re:Too easy to defend against this (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541809)

It sounds like you have no idea what you are talking about.

If you weren't such a retard you would understand that this is the most important invention of the 21st century. Even moreso than the Segway. Anyone who says otherwise is either a Creationist or a total blithering idiot.

Re:Too easy to defend against this (1)

busyqth (2566075) | about 2 years ago | (#39541905)

Nothing is more important than the segway.
It completely revolutionized the way cities are designed, and the way we all live.

Re:Too easy to defend against this (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 2 years ago | (#39541947)

Now if we could mount MW lasers on Segways we'd fix the problem of them running over old people.

Re:Too easy to defend against this (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 2 years ago | (#39542051)

wrong, the gas jet ejects merely molten material, much less total energy required than to vaporize the mass of iron. also, since this is near range weapon, we just won't target any Edmond Scientific corner cube reflector the enemy happens to be holding or mounted

Re:Too easy to defend against this (1)

rubycodez (864176) | about 2 years ago | (#39542059)

and, coming from CAE/CAM background that happened to include laser cutting, I can tell you lasers in the mere hundreds of watts range eat wood like candy, totally different situation than heating missile shield by unit area by orders of magnitude.

Re:Too easy to defend against this (3, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | about 2 years ago | (#39542623)

If the attacking boat has a corner cube reflector there is a good chance of blinding people on the defending ship. Since the system needs to be ready for use without warning, the crew would need to always wear laser goggles.

Assuming the corner cube reflector is a front surface mirror, and has no dirt or dust or scratches or flaws - yes. Otherwise, the mirror is going to get smoked. Equally, it takes about thirty seconds or less for the crew to get under cover or to at least look away... so, no need for the crew to ever wear laser goggles except for the handful that must look in the direction of the target. (And you can cut the time down even further if you just want them to look away.)
 

You can protect a missile with an ablative shield - the sort used for re-entry vehicles. This doesn't need to be high tech - wood works surprisingly well (used by the Chinese for spacecraft years ago).

Put an ablative shield around the missile - and you've taken a good chunk out of it's range and payload as the shield now occupies weight and volume formerly dedicated to those things. That, or you've increased the impact on the launching platform as the missile is now larger and heavier. (As well as somewhat more expensive.) Keep in mind the wooden heatshields used by the Chinese were impregnated with (modestly high tech) epoxy, they weren't bare wood as the char has almost no strength.
 
 

The is also the question of whether a complex device like an FEL can be kept always ready to fire within a second. The light is much faster, but its not clear that when you include the time to ready and aim the weapon that the time to hit the target is faster than for a high speed gun.

No need for a second, ten to fifteen will do. (And I'll note that the claim that it needs to be a second is yours, not TFA's or the Navy's.)
 
(tl;dr version: Once again, the world doesn't work like most Slashdotters think it does, and Slashdotters haven't thought of something that actual knowledgeable people missed.)

Firing range (1)

wer32r (2556798) | about 2 years ago | (#39541683)

Won't the range of such a weapon be limited by the horizon? If so, then of what use is such a weapon, when the enemy can fire *beyond* the horizon with traditional shells?

Re:Firing range (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541779)

They've already thought ahead on this, and the solution turns out to involve a combination of airplanes, straps, and giant mirrors.

Re:Firing range (2)

wer32r (2556798) | about 2 years ago | (#39541811)

I just came to think that it might be a counter-measure to the Iranian high-speed boats [telegraph.co.uk]. iirc there was a discussion earlier on Slashdot about how difficult they might be to hit with traditional munitions.

Re:Firing range (1)

realityimpaired (1668397) | about 2 years ago | (#39542097)

In order to be that fast, they need to be small. I'm fairly sure that a phalanx would have no problem hitting one, and because of their size, wouldn't have a hard time sinking them. Since phalanxes can already target sea-level cruise missiles like the exocet, it isn't much of a stretch to be able to sink such a high speed boat.

It would certainly be difficult to hit with traditional artillery, or the big sea guns. Even smaller sea guns would have a hard time hitting something that was moving fast enough. But a 4500 round per minute gatling gun controlled by a radar system designed to hit *much* faster moving targets should make quick work of what's essentially a speedboat with a gun.

Re:Firing range (4, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about 2 years ago | (#39541891)

I strongly suspect that this laser is intended as a replacement for existing point-defense systems(Phalanx [wikipedia.org]). For longer ranges the navy also has a railgun scheme going, along with existing missiles and aircraft.

It isn't entirely clear that the lasers will work(the demo with the lower powered unit burning an outboard motor took a pitifully long time and that was just a normal outboard motor. No attempt at optical countermeasures, no ablative coatings, no tricks at all); but it should be possible to keep photons on target where it wouldn't be possible for an autocannon to deliver bullets. Also, the navy is in the position where they are pretty much forced to operate on the assumption that something must work and lasers are among the more plausible contenders...

Basically, we have the world's largest investment in aircraft carriers, and stuff for them to carry, and they've been the navy's force-projecting pride and joy since approximately the point in WWII where it became clear that battleships were overpriced floating coffins against even fairly paltry aircraft. Now, if anti-ship missiles and the like cannot be intercepted by some sort of point defense system, it is the aircraft carrier's turn to go the way of the battleship. That would be 10s of billions of dollars worth of awkward(best case, HQ submits to the inevitable in time, the carriers are reduced to a mixture of rotting at the docks and punching defenseless little countries. Worst case, HQ doesn't submit to the inevitable, some scruffy band of militants with a budget so small that an American defense contractor wouldn't bother to steal it sinks something expensive and most of its crew).

Re:Firing range (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39542119)

I figure once we perfect this kind of laser system, it wouldn't be too long before the Russians or Chinese figure out a counter. They'll probably use the supercavitating tech from the Shkval torpedos and make a cruise missile torpedo hybrid. Basically such a weapon would skim near the water surface and once within what would be considered visual range the hypercavitating device would activate and the missile would dive below the water on the rest of its way to the ship. Good luck keeping track on that and hitting it, particularly when the surface of the ocean is choppy and would randomly scatter a laserbeam.

It's not for defense against major attacks (4, Informative)

Animats (122034) | about 2 years ago | (#39541699)

The Navy wants this so that, when they're dealing with a small boat that's causing a problem, they have an option between "ignore" and "blow them out of the water". Somalia pirates, smugglers, boats getting too close (see USS Cole) - things like that.

Re:It's not for defense against major attacks (1)

joe_frisch (1366229) | about 2 years ago | (#39541789)

I don't see this as an intermediate option. Its very likely to blind the crews, and maybe kill them if the engines explode, this really isn't a non-lethal weapon. Isn't a warning shot followed by a conventional lethal attack better?

Re:It's not for defense against major attacks (1)

busyqth (2566075) | about 2 years ago | (#39541813)

Well we could give them a warning laser blast followed by a conventional lethal attack.

Re:It's not for defense against major attacks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39542587)

In those cases then, with say small rubber boats or similar, sailing straight in, won't the laser first have to i deduce to reach the boats engine(s) at the back, be blocked by the crew in it? How long does it take to burn through a human? And if thats the most likely scenario, why not save the money and use convencional weapons?

Re:It's not for defense against major attacks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39542785)

Never heard of a shot accross the bow?

Alright, a big laser! (1)

liquidweaver (1988660) | about 2 years ago | (#39541701)

US DOD - "Fixing our economy one giant military expenditure at a time."

Re:Alright, a big laser! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39542409)

Sounds better than paying people to not work.

Lemme guess (1)

srussia (884021) | about 2 years ago | (#39541745)

"Lux eradico"

After that railgun motto nonsense, I would't be surprised if they went for: "icking-fray aser-lay"

Absorb the energy and use it to get away (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39541963)

I'll just have my solar-panel array suck up all that nice phonic power, drive the additional motors and away we go. Thanks Navy for the free boost!

Bad idea... (1)

DaneM (810927) | about 2 years ago | (#39542043)

Don't put laser weapons on ships! That'll make them easy pickings for sharks who wish to arm themselves!

And as a positive side effect... (2)

wisnoskij (1206448) | about 2 years ago | (#39542069)

On a lower setting it can cook a perfect hotdog or marshmallow instantly.

Re:And as a positive side effect... (1)

busyqth (2566075) | about 2 years ago | (#39542363)

Maybe they can use it in the ship's mess to cook everyone's hotdogs all at once instantly.

seems like a bad weapon (0)

slashmydots (2189826) | about 2 years ago | (#39542079)

Assuming the enemy knew you were using it, couldn't they simply mirror coat/chrome their ship or warp the air around it with heat to misdirect the laser? It's a lot easier to stop light than a patriot missile.

how much power does a 1MW laser need? (1)

hawguy (1600213) | about 2 years ago | (#39542115)

The article says that one reason the ultimate goal of a 1MW laser is not feasible right now is because no ship can power it, and even a 100KW laser may stress the power systems on current ships.

However, you can fit 2MW worth of generating capacity in a single 48 foot 30 ton container [cumminspower.com] (and I'm sure a 500' destroyer could find some place to stash this generator), so the power demands much be much greater than the delivered power of the laser suggests.

So, how much power does it take to drive a 1MW or 100KW laser?

Re:how much power does a 1MW laser need? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39542975)

Well, a laser diode can have up to about 50% efficiency, but if you're talking solid-state lasers such as Nd:YAG or gas lasers such as CO2 it's more like from 1 to maybe 10% efficiency at most. Can't say about FEL.

not gonna happen (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39542235)

USA will go bankrupt before we get to see any of their ships equipped with somthing like this.

Coast Guard needs it more (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39542641)

the Martime Laser Demonstrator cut through choppy California waters, an overcast sky and salty sea air to burn through the outboard engine of a moving motorboat a mile away

Sounds like a perfect concept for the Coast Guard. It's typical that a government applies its latest marvels to the "flagship" fleet and ignores the economies of scale and security on the large scale. No wonder the efficiency of the government is questioned constantly.

I can't be the only one who feels like this (1)

JosephTX (2521572) | about 2 years ago | (#39542705)

I get that lasers and explosions are cool, but should we really be happy about spending $700 billion a year on ways for the rich and powerful to exert their influence in extravagant ways, while people are dying in this country every day because they can't afford to see a doctor for completely treatable diseases?

Also, as an added bonus! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39542841)

permanently blinded all unprotected humans and wildlife in the area.

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