US Navy Successfully Tests Real Life Laser Gun

Capture

Cue an Austin Powers reference on a “laser beam”… All fun and games aside Star Wars (May the 4th have been with you) is coming close to reality. While not a visible laser, the US Navy’s LAWS program has been successfully tested aboard the USS Ponce. The system will be deployed to other warships over the near future. The aptly named Laser Weapon System, the system has passed testing and is now authorized for use as a defensive weapon.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = “//connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.3”; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs);}(document, ‘script’, ‘facebook-jssdk’));

The U.S. Navy successfully deployed a laser weapon system aboard the USS Ponce. #Innovation

Posted by U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) on Saturday, April 25, 2015



Nathan S.

One of TFB’s resident Jarheads, Nathan now works within the firearms industry. A consecutive Marine rifle and pistol expert, he enjoys local 3-gun, NFA, gunsmithing, MSR’s, & high-speed gear. Nathan has traveled to over 30 countries working with US DoD & foreign MoDs.

Nathan can be reached at Nathan.S@TheFirearmBlog.com

The above post is my opinion and does not reflect the views of any company or organization.


Advertisement

  • Blake

    Presumably, this can be defeated by smoke &/or mirrors!

    • lucusloc

      Possibly the smoke part, but since this is specifically designed to protect against anti-ship missiles the countermeasures profile is unlikely to include smoke generation.

    • Peadair

      Or misting water cannons around your target. Heat the mist up with your laser and it turns into fog, which also defeats the laser.

    • n0truscotsman

      Yes. Or simply piloting your naval group into rainy or foggy weather.

    • noob

      This is a laser block. It is made from a stack of razor blades glued together, blades facing the beam. If you’re a graduate student in an optics lab, you’ll be needing band-aids from having to make new ones as beamline end stops.

    • jcitizen

      Frequency modulation can make this difficult for the enemy. Certain types of laser light penetrate fog easily – like Boeing’s truck mounted version.

      The last Naval prototype I saw, had three completely different types of laser on one platform with one big sensor laser to judge the target environment.

  • hami

    The future of lasers on warships is certainly cool.

    I am even more excited for the chromed out, mirror finished ships designed to defeat the lasers!

    • MR

      And the speaker systems required to pump out Pink Floyd at adequate volume.

    • tts

      Unfortunately they’re going for ablative surfaces rather than shiny ones to defeat lasers. Shiny surfaces are hard to maintain and ones good enough to reflect enough laser light to be effective would probably be somewhat delicate too.

      They’re also doing stuff like having the missile or projectile rotate in order to prevent a laser from focusing on a given spot for too long as well. Dunno how effective all that stuff is though. Does seem to make sense.

      • lucusloc

        Not to mention most surfaces are only good at reflecting specific sets of wavelengths, so your reflective armor would only work for a small subset of threats. Ablative armor would work for anything that generated sufficient heat.

      • RocketScientist

        Was talking to a guy with the MDA (Missile Defense Agency) a few weeks back at work. Specifically we were talking about countermeasures. He described the whole “spinning RV” (re-entry vehicle) countermeasure as a non-starter. To paraphrase him “Thats kind of like having a ballerina spin to reduce the damage from a shotgun blast”. Don’t know the facts at play firsthand (not my area of expertise) but he presumably does.

        • tts

          By itself it won’t do much, he is right, the laser would deliver the energy too fast for any sensible spin rate to be effective. Its in conjunction with the ablative armor that spin is supposed to work.

          The idea is not to let the laser burn through the ablative armor to damage the missile so you keep rotating it. The ablative armor will also have burn and/or ablate slow enough to make the tactic effective of course.

          A powerful enough laser could punch right through it but the idea is to make the armor thick enough or durable enough or give off enough gas and particulates to make such a laser prohibitive or at least less effective at a given range.

  • This would be really fun to zap pirates with!

  • John

    Damn.

    I’m reminded of an episode from Disney’s Gargoyles that’s very relevant.

    David Xanatos, one of the series’ genius billionaire antagonists, is testing a prototype laser with some scientists. He’s told that the laser is itself invisible and that a red dot is supplied purely for aiming purposes. Xanatos picks up the laser, aims at a faraway tree, and pulls the trigger. The audience sees a red dot racing along the ground straight towards the tree before it explodes apart.

    The rest of the episode, if I remember right, deals with the struggle for and eventual destruction of the prototypes because they’re far too powerful for anyone to have them. Besides Xanatos himself, of course, who keeps the blueprints handy on his personal computer.

    I watch the Navy test this out, and I wonder how long it will take before lasers become powerful enough to melt things on their own, not just detonate internal explosives. I wonder how long it will be before tanks and aircraft are armed with lasers; troops armed with lasers; officers given personal lasers; spies armed with assassination lasers; lasers designed to look like reproduction muskets; laws governing and regulating public laser use. I glimpse the future, and wonder if I recognize the world that will be.

    • tts

      Lasers powerful enough to do what you want and small + light enough to be mounted on a tank, car, or carried by a man will probably never happen. Certainly not in our lifetimes.

      Its not because they can’t make the laser small or light enough. Its because the energy requirements are hideous and you’d need Star Trek-esque power storage tech to make it happen.

      Already some laws regulating laser use. They’re already treated as weapons and people have gotten serious jail time for pointing them at people’s eyes.

      • John

        I don’t know.

        If you were born in 1900, human flight was something relegated for the birds, or for rather limited purposes. If you lived to 1970, you would have seen flight’s influence on two world wars and carrying mankind to the surface of the moon and back.

        Humanity is proving to have an intuitive and creative grasp of technology that might surpass our emotional and intellectual capability to handle it. I worry a little about it.

        • tts

          Its a fundamental physics and material science problem. Intellect is not the issue.

          FWIW our best currently available power storage tech still can’t match the energy density, cost efficiency, or weight of gasoline. The recharge durability isn’t very good either. Even the stuff that probably won’t be out for nearly a decade or so that uses graphene probably won’t be good enough to match gasoline.

          You’d need a power storage tech that would be able to put hundreds of megawatts in a very small space weighing only a few hundred to 1,000 pounds or so. And that is if you were sticking with a tank or truck mounted option. And if you were limiting yourself to a lasing time of only a few seconds.

          Even processed uranium or plutonium doesn’t have that level of energy capacity in that small of a volume or weight. Especially once you start adding in the weight and volume of the necessary radiation shielding.

          For a man portable rifle-esque version? Forget it. When I said Star Trek-esque tech I meant it. The energy density per pound/inch required would be obscene. Even if you only assume a few hundred megawatt storage capacity too. Which again doesn’t let you lase for very long, only a few seconds. To have several minutes worth of lasing time capable of melting through even light armor plate quickly or blowing apart cinder block walls AND to sustain several minutes worth of lasing time you’re looking at more than a few gigawatts of energy. Easily!!

          I love science and tech AND scifi so it pains me a bit to say this again but: There really is no reason to expect to see any of this stuff ever much less in our lifetimes.

          • John

            >You’d need a power storage tech that would be able to put hundreds of
            megawatts in a very small space weighing only a few hundred to 1,000
            pounds or so. And that is if you were sticking with a tank or truck
            mounted option. And if you were limiting yourself to a lasing time of
            only a few seconds.

            Like a tank. Or an aircraft.

            Perhaps with batteries that would be designed to handle the stress of discharging and recharging in an extremely short amount of time. Coupled with a power source and regulator that can gather, store and bleed off excess energy in a matter of seconds.

            Like a solar panel and electronic alternator.

            And you wouldn’t need tons of shielding to withstand a continual stream of radiation, just enough to fire a burst powerful enough for effect.

            But above all, you’d have to have laws and regulations and stipulations and rules and discussions and understanding about who and what and where and when and more importantly, WHY you fire a laser at someone.

            And that we don’t have yet.

          • mig1nc

            Remember the atomic powered bomber concepts of the cold war? Maybe we could bring them back as flying laser weapon battleships 🙂

          • Paul Epstein

            Really the main problem with those was that the shielding required to keep the crew from dying immediately wasn’t possible, and that maintenance exposed crew to even greater radiation risk.

            We already have perfectly workable drone piloting, and I don’t think we’re that far out from being able to do maintenance with robots the same way we assemble items in the first place.

            I’m not even entirely sure PR would kill it- we already have nuclear powered aircraft carriers and submarines in common usage, and the air force flies nuclear payloads over the US occasionally, and neither have had unified opposition.

          • noob

            Make them unmanned and cut down on the lead plate between the engines and the cockpit.

            Eternally flying laser drones, to deliver fiery vengeance upon anyone who shows up on the Disposition Matrix.

            Edit: whoops looks like this has already been said

          • damien

            Actually, its not too hard to imagine producing electrical energy from explosives.

            Such devices are used to make electromagnetic pulses already – flux compression generators. Magneto hydro dynamic generators.

            Producing energy we know how to do, storing it temporarily in capacitors too.

            So, scaling down to a tank is not inconceivable.

          • tts

            Energy production from such devices is hilariously inefficient on a macro scale, you’re still in Star Trek land to get the sort of energy you want in a small enough and light enough package.

            Capacitors are also a terrible large scale power storage medium due to their discharge characteristics which are bad enough that they’ve been ruled out for doing stuff like running car motors which are generally fairly tolerant of noisy power sources. Lasers need very high quality power sources to run with anything resembling decent efficiency. If you sacrifice that efficiency you can get them to work with crappy power sources but your energy requirements get massively blown out.

            You’d need to double or triple your energy storage capacity to pull it off. Even with Star Trek land tech power storage capacities it might not make sense.

          • noob

            Laser gun and cartridge Patent
            US 5761235 A
            ABSTRACT
            “A laser gun uses small arms technology for loading and firing a cartridge containing flash powder. When the cartridge is fired, the flash powder burns to produce an intense burst of light. This light is directed for optically pumping a laser medium that emits an intense pulse of laser light. The cartridge-based small arms technology allows the gun to be easily and conveniently carried about and fired rapidly and reliably.”

            EDIT: patent abandoned with no working prototypes.

          • n0truscotsman

            Lasers have been an infatuation militaries have coveted for some time now, dating back to WW2. They will never work in the scale aforementioned precisely because of what you mentioned in your points.

            That is not even getting into the unfavorable weather conditions and contamination issues.

            The navy is trying real hard on the PR department because they want more money. Its simple. Never mind that conventional guns and missiles have plenty of growth room left and are, IMO, a better option than venturing into the realm of lasers and railguns that are comparatively immature.

            Im not sold on them yet. Im willing to change my mind if credible proof is demonstrated, which, has yet to be done.

          • jcitizen

            Using lasers and rail guns is greatly prized by the navy – why? – because it makes the ship more survivable. No gun powder or nasty rocket fuel on board to go off when hit by the enemy.

          • n0truscotsman

            well, applying the reality of tanstaafl, you trade the risks of ammunition explosions and propellant for very delicate and abysmally short life components that require more power than what is capable of being put out by a destroyer or frigate.
            The costs associated with those two weapons are incompatible with the current naval budget climate at a time when they simply lack the manpower and money to maintain what systems they have NOW. Railguns and lasers will only compount an already terrible situation.

          • jcitizen

            Yes if you consider the prototypes; however, when they are perfected, I have no doubts about their efficiency. I also have no doubt the power requirements will be met with energy to spare. They fire a similar system from a Boeing 747 using chemical reaction for the power source, and have done so for more than a decade now.

    • wetcorps

      You forgot the most likely thing : laser AR15 uppers.

      • Canadian Vet

        How would you describe the caliber? By power output or band?

        Because I’d love one in the 40 megawatt range.

      • mig1nc

        With a suppressor.

      • MR

        And De Leon starts his press conference in 3…2…

  • Herr Wolf

    This is old technology- I saw it in “Goldfinger”

    • jcitizen

      I saw a naval test video three years ago where they shot down a UAV with one of these. It is old by now.

  • DaveP.

    Where do you attach the shark?

    • Peadair

      Unfortunately we couldn’t get sharks. But we do have giant mutant sea bass.

      • Anton Gray Basson

        Are they ill tempered?

        • kipy

          Absolutely

        • Peadair

          Sshhh. They get more agitated when you bring that up.