Drone fighter: US Navy ready to deploy first warfare laser onboard warship
18 February 2014, 11:51
The US Navy's Laser Weapon System will be deployed aboard the USS Ponce this summer. The sophisticated weapon is designed to target threats like drones and speed boats at hypersonic speeds.
The Navy intends to deploy its first laser on a ship later this year, planning to test an electromagnetic rail gun prototype aboard a vessel within two years.
For the Navy, the economic side of such armaments is more important. They cost pennies on the dollar compared with missiles and smart bombs, and the weapons can be fired continuously, unlike missiles and bombs, which eventually run out of ammunition.
The Navy's laser technology has evolved to the point that a prototype to be deployed aboard the USS Ponce this summer can be operated by one sailor.
The solid-state Laser Weapon System is designed to target what the Navy describes as 'asymmetrical threats'- aerial drones, speed boats and swarm boats, all potential threats to warships in the Persian Gulf, where the Ponce is set to be deployed.
Lasers are still unreliable – they tend to lose their effectiveness in case of bad weather or the turbulence in the atmosphere.
The rail gun requires vast amount of electricity to launch the projectile, defense analyst said. The Navy officials say, however, they have found ways to deal with use of lasers in bad weather. Producing enough energy for a rail gun is another problem.
The Navy's new destroyer, the Zumwalt, under construction at Bath Iron Works in Maine, is the only ship that has enough electric power to run a rail gun. The stealthy ship's gas turbine-powered generators can produce up to 78 megawatts of power. That's enough electricity for a medium-size city — and more than enough for a rail gun.
Both weapon systems are highly appreciated because they serve to 'get ahead of the cost curve' – in other words, they are cheap.
Other countries are developing their own lasers too, but the US Navy claims to be more advanced at this point. 'It's fair to say that there are other countries working on this technology. That's safe to say. But 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),' the US Navy official said proudly.
Voice of Russia, New York Daily News
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