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27 May 2020


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The SpaceForce application should be interesting.


Very high intensity lights leads to "self focusing" due to the change in refractive index with intensity. This then leads to ionization, ie light is generated along the beam path, and thus power is lost along the way. This is is for dry air, ocean air is worse. Space does not have these problems. My conclusion: unless electric power becomes much more availble on a ship or airplane (factor 100) lasers will not be of use against aircraft or muntions.
The seeker in the nose of missiles, or the sensors in an aircraft are more sensitive.
We might see soon missiles with highly reflective mirrors in the nose. Mirrors with extremely high reflectivity can be made for a certain wavelength of light (and the laser itself uses two of these mirrors, one a bit less opaque than the other), by sandwiching layers of different optical constant each a quarter wavelength thick. Knowing the wavelength of the laser is key though.


And then there is of course the sound of it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hv1jH8LupD0

Rick Merlotti

Holy Ronald Raygun Batman! SDI comes down to earth. Or sea.


Was that Lockheed's HELIOS?


Christian J Chuba

There must be a niche for this type of weapon. As an Eng. type it's always fun to think about different solutions.

It looks like a good fit against drones because they are slow, high value targets that would be great to take out economically. Both drones and lasers need to be within line of site of the ship so this is a rock/scissors moment.

This might even be good against the IRGC speedboats. I don't have anything against those guys, just analyzing the match up. Assuming it has the firepower I also see a psychological impact with seeing or knowing that energy beams are coming at you. When you are zipping around in fast, loud boat with water splashing around you, I bet that helps a good man drown out opposing gun fire but being an Ant at the wrong end of a magnifying glass is a different ballgame. I might be totally wrong, just saying that it's wise to consider the human factor.

Regarding power source, yeah, that's always been an issue and I'm certain that efficiency has been the focus of research over the decades.

Can't see them working well against the higher tier weapons like hypersonic missiles. Those things are not just crazy-fast but are already designed to have great heat shielding. Good luck trying to keep a laser pinned on that for 5 seconds while trying to overheat it. I'm amazed at how many people are convinced that lasers will clear the skies of hypersonic missiles. I've never read a convincing case for that one but still it's worth it if it solves some problems.


These sort of items and weapons are likely the reason why the latest US ships are so heavily electri...fied. Advantage is that you need constant electric power, not a limited number of ammunition, missiles or bombs. And radars are thirsty for volts as well.

I recall reading a couple years ago of a US military program using vehicle mounted lasers to destroy IEDs, mines or unexploded bombs iirc in Iraq and/or Afghanistan.

The latest US aircraft carriers use now EMALS, which, though slowly, is starting to work reliably. Trump doesn't like these things (and prefers the good, old and by now pretty ancient) steam power catapults instead.

I wonder how long it may take untill the US Navy gets cool new hypersonic biplanes. After the recent "super duper missile" they may perhaps be named "double bubble aircraft" ... if combined with an airship.




That weapon will require enormous power to fire. Do you think a standard ship's engine will provide that power or does it need something else

JP Billen


No, Northrop-Grumman not Lockheed. Although there is lower power prototype laser weapon aboard the USS Ponce that Lockheed has a contract for to put into limited production. Called the LaWS AN/SEQ-3. It was successfully tested six years ago against both a UAV and a small high-speed boat.



This is only advantage for nuclear-powered ships. Smaller ships would just trade magazine capacity for generator and fuel.

I'd like to see some numbers regarding the weight cost of a laser shooting down a drone vs. a 3" gun or a CIWS. If the ship has to refuel because of laser usage, that's no different than replenishing ammo.

This makes much more sense for Space Force, solar panels to charge up capacitors and you are good to go, unlimited ammo.


Water splashes create diffraction and interference and laser looses power. That is to say; less for a speedboat that is splashing around as opposed to an active system on that same boat that is creating a water mist around it


The power required is, I think, provided by charging up some storage device like a capacitator bank.


Power supply.
Kawasaki makes an "off the shelf" backup diesel fired gas turbine generator that produces 4.8 megawatts and burns 2050 liters per hour (about 540 US gallons) and weighs 13.5 metric tons (about 29,750 pounds). The an hour's fuel weighs 3844 pounds. On a 200 ft boat with 10 hours fuel for the generator you would see an 2 inch difference in the water line.

I think I'd rather be on boat/ship that took a direct hit in a fuel tank or generator than in a magazine.

scott s.

We used to have guys from White Sands where they were working these programs (more of a science-fair than actual program) come up to DC to brief us (and more importantly stop by OPNAV looking for funding). The power requirement is a major factor. But I think something like the Zumwalt design (we're building 3 of them) has potential as a platform for this kind of weapon. I guess the question is how much energy can it place on target? As far as EMALS, that's more like the "rail gun" concept. The folks at Dahlgren were doing some work on that, not sure the status of that. The Zumwalt's are generally credited with having 78 MW installed electrical capability. Main propulsion generators are driven by Trent MT30 engines (derivative of the Trent (Rolls-Royce) 800 aircraft engine). As an aside, that brings Rolls kind of full-circle as they own Allison which built the first "real" gas turbine generator (engine end) based on the the engine used in the C-130. Here I am discounting the International Harvester "Solar" division aux GTGs used on cruisers as they were pretty small affairs.


JPB - Thanks.

Walrus - I believe you are right about the capacitors. Not the main power source but used as backup in case of a main power failure. I'm no laser expert but I believe laser high energy requirements can be met with pulsed energy, of which capacitors are functionally capable. There has been a lot of Naval research on this. And the Navy seems to be planning to put them on non-nuclear destroyers, so perhaps they believe the laser power demands can be met in the future.

IMHO the bigger issues than power that need to be solved are
1) dwell time on the target that Christian Chuba mentions abovee specially a hypersonic sea-skimming antiship missile;
2) a fire control system with enough precision to maintain that dwell time for hi-speed jinking targets;
3) countermeasures that FKDahl mentions above.

In any case, do NOT remove Phalanx and seaRAM anti-ship missile defenses anytime soon.


Here's a link to the Kawasaki brochure. These generators fit on trucks, so if one isn't enough, you could add as many as you have room for. 37 hours of runtime per unit in the volume of a 40ft shipping container.


El Sid

2nd comment @fkdahl

Nah, wouldn't do. Not enough pork.

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