USN Shows Off New Laser Technology On Cruiser

Discussion in 'Royal Navy' started by Dashing_Chap, Apr 9, 2011.

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  1. Navy Shows Off Powerful New Laser Weapon -


    A futuristic laser mounted on a speeding cruiser successfully blasted a bobbing, weaving boat from the waters of the Pacific Ocean -- the first test at sea of such a gun and a fresh milestone in the Navy's quest to reoutfit the fleet with a host of laser weapons, the Navy announced Friday.

    "We were able to have a destructive effect on a high-speed cruising target," chief of Naval research Rear Adm. Nevin Carr told

    The test occurred Wednesday near San Nicholas Island, off the coast of Central California in the Pacific Ocean test range, from a laser gun mounted onto the deck of the Navy’s self-defense test ship, former USS Paul Foster.

    In a video of the event, the small boat can be seen catching fire and ultimately bursting into flames, a conflagration caused by the navy's distant gun. Some details of the event were classified, including the exact range of the shot, but Carr could provide some information: "We're talking miles, not yards," Carr said.

    The Navy set fire to a bobbing and weaving boat with a new laser gun mounted to a cruiser -- a first-of-its-kind test that moves the prototype closer to reality.

    The Navy set fire to a bobbing and weaving boat with a new laser gun mounted to a cruiser -- a first-of-its-kind test that moves the prototype closer to reality.

    The Navy, Army and other armed forces have been working to incorporate so called "directed energy" laser weapons in a range of new guns, from tank-mounted blasters to guns on planes or unmanned balloons. But this marks the first test of a laser weapon at sea -- and proof that laser rifles are no mere Buck Rogers daydream.

    “This is the first time a [high-energy-laser], at these power levels, has been put on a Navy ship, powered from that ship and used to defeat a target at-range in a maritime environment,” said Peter Morrison, program officer for the Office of Naval Research.

    "The Navy is moving strongly towards directed energy," Carr told

    The weapon, called the maritime laser demonstrator, was built in partnership with Northrop Grumman. It focused 15 kilowatts of energy by concentrating it through a solid medium -- hence the name.

    "We call them solid state because they use a medium, usually something like a crystal," explained Quentin Saulter, the research office's program officer. It was used in Wednesday's demonstration against a small boat, but Carr told that this and other types of laser weaponry could be equally effective against planes and even targets on shore.

    "To begin to address a cruise missile threat, we'd need to get up to hundreds of kilowatts," Carr said.

    The Navy is working on just such a gun of course.

    Called the FEL -- for free-electron laser, which doesn't use a gain medium and is therefore more versatile -- it was tested in February consuming a blistering 500 kilovolts of energy, producing a supercharged electron beam that can burn through 20 feet of steel per second.

    The FEL will easily get into the kilowatt power range. It can also be easily tuned as well, to adjust to environmental conditions, another reason it is more flexible than the fixed wavelength of solid-state laser. But the Navy doesn't expect to release megawatt-class FEL weapons until the 2020s; among the obstacles yet to be overcome, the incredible power requirements of the FEL weapons require careful consideration.

    Also in the Navy's futuristic arsenal: a so-called "rail gun," which uses an electomagnetic current to accelerate a non-explosive bullet at several times the speed of sound.

    Railguns are even further off in the distance, possibly by 2025, the Navy has said. But the demonstration of the maritime laser demonstrator this week proves that some laser weapons are just around the corner: Northrop Grumman experts aim to have the final product ready by June of 2014.

  2. I have it on good authority that the weather is often foggy or pi$$ing down at sea. Fekkin' laser aint so smart then, is it? Need the old 4.5 inch gun dontcha?
  3. Guns

    Guns LE Moderator Book Reviewer
    1. The Royal Navy

    Sharks with frikin lasers on their heads.................
  4. Oh, don't, please. Have you watched the video. Indeed, yes:

    "Ultimately" - read "eventually". It took ages. To address the threat from a small, stationary boat, if it had been heading towards the cruiser with evil intent (and, frankly, they targeted the outboard motors - a high fire risk area), never mind supersonic anti-ship missiles, they would have needed a significantly higher power weapon.
  5. Either that or some of those Vietnam vet. killer dolphins.
  6. Guns

    Guns LE Moderator Book Reviewer
    1. The Royal Navy

    I was a Dolphin trainer for the RN. Very specialised work. No honest.

  7. US Laser Raygun Plane Shoots Down Ballistic Missile

  8. And James Bond nearly got his goolies diced with a laser in 1964 ... Neither of these make the current USN laser any more combat effective.
  9. The secret's in the wrist action as you chuck bits of dead fish into the submarine escape training tank to reward those who make it to the surface without burst lungs from holding their breath.
  10. How to Build the Ultimate Naval Defense: Uber-Powerful Lasers | Weapons & Security | DISCOVER Magazine

    The U.S. Navy wants to put powerful lasers on its ships to shoot down artillery shells and even cruise missiles at the speed of light (and really, who wouldn't). But there are a few scientific details to sort out before sailors can deploy the beams. "First we want to make sure the physics is right before throwing buckets of salt water over the thing," says Ed Pogue.

    Pogue is the program manager for Boeing's free electron laser (FEL) program, potentially the most ambitious laser weapons program since the Pentagon's controversial airborne laser. In that program, the Missile Defense Agency spent billions of dollars and over a decade to get a laser-rigged jumbo jet to destroy a ballistic missile in its boost phase of flight. They eventually succeeded in February 2010, but the Obama administration nixed plans to develop the experiment into a battle-ready weapon.

    Maybe the Navy's project will meet a better fate. In 5 years, at a cost of $163 million, Boeing hopes to get the physics right and demonstrate an extremely powerful--and hopefully seaworthy--giant laser. It's no small task, in part because the laser they're using is powered by several particle accelerators.

    Here's an overview of how the Navy's free electron laser works. (You may notice that the pictures are not on a boat; for now, researchers are working with a landlubbing laser based at Jefferson Lab in Newport News, Virginia.)

    George Neil, who leads the Jefferson Laboratory's free electron laser program, says some insiders question whether a free electron laser is even a laser, since its created via a different method than your typical laser. Neil's machine produces coherent laser light directly from an electron beam, allowing it to create any wavelength of light--in other words, any color on the spectrum. Traditional lasers are made from materials that have been pumped with enough energy to make them spontaneously burst with photons. They're confined to just one wavelength of light, which is determined by the molecular structure of the laser material that stores and releases energy.

    Because a free electron laser is made out of an electron beam instead of one particular type of material, it is not a prisoner to a molecular structure. An electron beam can be manipulated with magnets to produce a beam of any wavelength. This would allow technicians to adjust the laser to suit the changing marine environment. For example, they could avoid problems with salty, misty air that can interfere with the infrared lasers often used in military laser research.

    Once researchers have the electron beam, they inject it into a superconducting particle accelerator to give it a clean, efficient energy boost. Then the beam travels through a device called a wiggler, which literally wiggles the electrons to make them produce a precise type of electromagnetic wave. Voila, you have a laser beam! And you don't want to be in front of one of these beams of light. The Jefferson Laboratory FEL holds the power record at 14 kilowatts--enough to quickly burn through stainless steel.

    These are the guts of the high voltage power supply, which provides juice to the electron gun. When the system is fully assembled, the six-foot-high metallic coils will be sealed in a pressurized chamber filled with a gas called sulfur hexafluoride. The massive amounts of power--hundreds of kilovolts--that the coils produce can cause arc discharges, when energy is discharged into the air. The sulfur hexafluoride prevents that from happening because it doesn't conduct electricity as well as air does.

    Just as we use lenses to focus and reshape visible light, magnets are used to focus and reshape electron beams. The red devices shown in the picture are called quadrupoles. Each has four powerful magnets that keep the beam in line as it travels down the path. There are almost 70 of these focusing magnets along the football-field-length track of the beam. Precise alignment is key to getting the prettiest, strongest laser possible.

    Like the red-painted quadropoles, the green-painted sextupoles focus the electron beam. Each sextupole consists of six magnets, and more magnets means stronger focusing. As the electron beam travels down its path, it naturally spreads out; the magnets prevent that from happening by re-shaping the beam. In this image, the sextupoles wait on the sidelines to be installed in the beam line.

    The superconducting accelerator takes an electron beam and gives it a shot of energy using microwaves. It's not much different from the way your microwave oven works. Only instead of heating food, the microwave energy is channeled directly into the electron beam to make it travel faster. The microwaves are injected through a vertical waveguide--the central, silver-colored thing with a kink in it. The whole accelerator is cooled to just 2 kelvins above absolute zero; the frigid temperature keeps the material's electrical resistance down and prevents energy from escaping. Between five and seven of these eight-foot-long devices are placed end-to-end to get the electron beam up to speed.