Navy Laser Cannons by 2014. Or Not.

“Never mind looming defense cuts or residual technical challenges,” wired.com advises its readers. “The Navy’s chief futurist is pushing up the anticipated date for when sailors can expect to use laser weapons on the decks of their ships, and raising expectations for robotic submarines. ‘On directed energy’ — the term for the Navy’s laser cannons, ‘I’d say two years,’ Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, the chief of the Office of Naval Research, told Danger Room in a Monday interview. The previous estimate, which came from Klunder’s laser technicians earlier this year, was that it will take four years at the earliest for a laser gun to come aboard.” Wouldn’t that kinda depend on . . .

looming defense cuts and residual technical challenges? Apparently not.

“We’re well past physics,” Klunder said, echoing a mantra for the Office of Naval Research’s laser specialists. Now, the questions surrounding a weapon once thought to be purely science fiction sound almost pedestrian. “We’re just going through the integration efforts,” Klunder continued. “Hopefully, that tells you we’re well mature, and we’re ready to put these on naval ships.”

Mature? I know they are but what am I? So there, nuh. But seriously, what about Snap?

Klunder isn’t worried about the ships generating sufficient energy to fill the laser gun’s magazine, which has been an engineering concern of the Navy’s for years. “I’ve got the power,” said Klunder, who spoke during the Office of Naval Research’s biennial science and technology conference. “I just need to know on this ship, this particular naval vessel, what are the power requirements, and how do I integrate that directed energy system or railgun system.”

Sounds like to me like the Navy’s laser geek is handing out rose-colored glasses while pimping for federal funding—at a time when America is drowning in debt. Lasers or butter? Bayonets or horses?

One thing’s for sure: the Navy’s 40 mm (1.57″) Bushmaster II isn’t going away anytime soon. Or is it?

comments

  1. avatar AaronW says:

    Directed energy is not just a bit of jargon – it also encompasses particle beam weapons.

    1. avatar speedracer5050 says:

      And farts too!!

    2. avatar Ralph says:

      And phased plasma rifles in the 40 watt range.

      1. avatar Moonshine says:

        Just whatcha see, pal.

      2. avatar uncommon_sense says:

        My all time favorite quote from the movie Terminator.

        And since the topic is lasers, you forgot the line before that,
        “.45 longslide, vit laser sighting”!

  2. avatar Rambeast says:

    The professional term is “cropdusting”. 🙂

    Edit: @speedracer5050

    I thought you had the comment system fixed. 🙁

  3. avatar jwm says:

    I’m waiting for the “Hell bore” to become reality.

    1. Yea, but they only mount those on bolos.

      1. avatar jwm says:

        So. I’ll buy a surplus bolo. Shouldn’t take too long for one to wear out.

    2. avatar Jason Lynch says:

      Star Fleet Battles?

      Or am I showing too much geek?

  4. avatar g says:

    Pew pew!

    The science of directed energy weapons is still limited by current technology, including power sources and the ability to project that energy over a distance.

    I think railguns are far more realistic with current tech and a more real possibility.

  5. avatar Mofo. says:

    Id say one of the sweet spots for energy weapons is missile defense. The bushmaster autocannon mentioned above is now almost totally obsolete in engaging anti-ship missiles due to its short range and over all speed of the new missiles.

  6. avatar Blehtastic says:

    But when will they be mounted on sharks?

  7. avatar Aharon says:

    Between the human monitor or controller and the robot fighting machine is open space. Many long miles of it. I am not a computer or robotic engineer. Yet, isn’t only going to be a matter of limited time until foreign nations develop counter-measures and new jamming technologies?

  8. avatar Rokurota says:

    Setting ships on fire with directed energy? Big deal. The Greeks had this technology more than 2000 years ago.

    1. avatar Gs650g says:

      You should watch Mythbusters for the debunk of that fable.

  9. avatar Vermin says:

    Who cares? Robots and lasers are obsolete anyway, just like horses.

    1. avatar jwm says:

      Yeah, but what about a robot horse with a laser? No way that’s obsolete.

      1. avatar Vermin says:

        I find no fault with your logic.

  10. avatar uncommon_sense says:

    From a technical perspective, I was really surprised that they could hold the laser spot on the same point of the target while both the target and the ship with the laser were bouncing around in the waves.

    From a tactical perspective, that laser seems worthless. It took a relatively long time to start the plastic engine cowling on fire. A single shot from a precision (e.g. sniper) .50 caliber rifle would take out the engine instantly. What is the point of a laser?

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