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A U.S. Navy plan to test a high-power laser against the small-boat threat to its warships provides the first real opportunity to transition electric lasers from the laboratory to the field, says Northrop Grumman, which has won a $98-million contract for the Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD).
Within 12-18 months, a prototype laser weapon system is to be installed on a ship and tested against a remotely controlled small boat in a representative at-sea environment. The system will use technology from the Defense Dept.'s Joint High Power Solid-State Laser (JHPSSL) program, under which Northrop Grumman in March achieved an output of 105 kw. by optically combining the beams from a chain of laser modules.
"This is an opportunity to transition solid-state laser technology to the warfighter," says Dan Wildt, vice president of directed-energy systems for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "We've been trying to make the transition for a long time, and we see the Navy being very serious about understanding this capability."
Since the 2000 attack on the USS Cole in the Yemeni harbor of Aden, the Navy has been looking for an answer to the small-boat threat. The potential threat ranges from tens of jet skis carrying individuals armed with rocket-propelled grenades to handfuls of fast-attack craft carrying short-range cruise missiles. The challenge includes discriminating, identifying and prioritizing the most threatening targets in a littoral environment crowded with waterborne traffic.
A high-energy laser is a promising solution, says Wildt, because it allows a graduated response to the threat. The weapon's powerful optics can be used to identify a threatening craft, which can then be illuminated with a low-power green laser to send a visual warning to stay away from the warship. If the boat continues to show intent, he says, the high-power laser can be used to attack the motor or hull to disable the craft.
Originally posted by deltaboy
Lasers replacing missiles? Naw...still need to hit bunkers and so on with cruise missiles and lasers ain't like star trek phasers that do massive damage. Who knows perhaps in a few decades. But right now lasers can't be bent to hit targets over the horizon unless we use mirrors.
Originally posted by punkinworks
reply to post by deltaboy
Although, honestly a rapid fire cannon like a bushmaster chaingun, or a mauser revolver cannon would be more effective against a small suicide type boat. Phalanx and goalkeeper are over kill against such a target.