Home » Budget Industry » Document: Report to Congress on Navy Laser, Railgun and Hypervelocity Projectile Programs


Document: Report to Congress on Navy Laser, Railgun and Hypervelocity Projectile Programs

The following is the Sept. 2, 2015 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Lasers, Railgun and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress.

  • Curtis Conway

    If cost trade-off vs benefit is to become a real part of the developmental equation, then the vendors will have to respond to the leadership of the US Navy (and other branches) and what it is the USN stipulates in the contracts. The APKWS technology is a case in point. This device exploits the proliferation of relatively inexpensive 2.75” (70mm) rockets, and mature laser illumination technology to create an inexpensive and very potent precision guided weapon with huge cost benefits . . . AS LONG AS YOU HAVE POWER TO DRIVE THE WEAPON SYSTEM. That same amount of
    money could be invested to create an IR version of the weapon adding greater (Fire-and-Forget independent operation) advantages to the weapons quiver. Standalone APUs, or autonomous power supplies should be considered for point defense weapon systems for without power the weapon cannot be employed. The APKWS is not a fire-and-forget weapon. When in a point defense mode one should always prepare for worse case scenario, and lack of power to systems is one of them, particularly aboard ship. Flexibility in the standalone point defense weapons should be in the design criteria, not counting on best case scenario, like in the lab, or on the test stand. One should not wait for OT&E to tell us this.

    With respect to all of these weapons, a focus on the system of systems approach, aboard every vessel, is required. Power generation, distribution, and storage priorities are required aboard every ship (Engineering Drills?) to facilitate successful integration of these new technologies. System elements should be as common as can be made practical between the greatest numbers of platforms simplifying logistical support and operations and maintenance schools. Defining specifications for new construction and retrofit are required, and a migration from those standards must be proscribed and their integrity Sacrosanct.

    On the ONR Laser Weapon Technical Risk Areas I did not see ‘Shipboard Vibration & Stabilization’ mentioned, so I will assume that has been conquered. Just getting a weapon off the deck and illuminating a target is one thing, but holding a small beam on a fixed point in space, over a distance for extended periods while mounted to a ‘six directions of freedom of motion platform’ is something else. In this case, if you do not have a very stable platform, then you do not have a weapon.

    “……the biggest challenges will be integrating the new technology onto existing
    platforms…..”. The common denominator for back-fit for Railgun will be the 5” gun space and weight (footprint). If the platform does not have a 5” gun, this back-fit could get more problematic, if possible at all. Therefore the considerations for power generation, distribution and storage, and all options associated with those items on any specific platform, should be carefully considered. All new USN Surface Combatants should employ a 5” gun providing that capability, commonality, and eventually upgrade ability.

    • gunnerv1

      Your Comment is what I’ve been saying (in part) all along. The “Power Supply” is the “Crucial Part” of the Equation. If you have more than a “one to two second” recharge time for the Power Supply system (A very Major System Component”), then the system is degraded without firing the first shot.

      • old guy

        Which is the precise reason to restart development of the PROVEN ETC gun. Rapid fire, Projectile type independent, exit velocity adjustable, low cost, adaptable to current ships and more.
        As I have stated before Lineal motors, for uses such as Mag-Lev and rail guns does not make sense, due to cost and complexity. It is ideal for catapults, elevators and surface handling.

        • gunnerv1

          “ETC gun” I don’t understand the “ETC” part (as a former Senior Chief Gunner’s Mate, ’64-’86, USN, 9 Ships)

          • old guy

            ETC stands for Electro-Thermal-Chemical gun. It employs a high amp electric pulse to convert a propellant (such as water), into very efficient plasma to propel the projectile from the barrel. Even current guns may be candidates. It is amenable to profiling the acceleration of the round, allowing missile launch..
            In 1976, when Navy developed it in conjunction with the Dept. of Energy, We fired Large caliber rounds and rapid-fired 50 caliber rounds. The electric supply aboard a DD963 was sufficient to operate a gun. I can provide more detail, if you are interested.

          • gunnerv1

            I remember it now, The Air Force (Farce) was trying them out years ago, “Chemical (Reaction) Lasers”, I think they are still trying to refine them. They took up the entire insides of a 747 (what ever the AF designation is). I haven’t seen anything on their behalf in quite a few years on this particular (experimental) weapon. Although I think that we are on the same track, I didn’t know that the Navy had refined it to put it aboard a Ship. Last thing I saw that was in the Experimental Department was the “Lightweight” 8″/55 Cal.. It was discontinued due to the Hull Structure not being able to support the “Light” Weight. It was just a “few” tons heavier than the Standard 5″/54 (Mk 42).

          • old guy

            WRONG SYSTEM. THIS WAS NOT “DIRECTED ENERGY”, THE PROGRAM HEADED BY CAPT. AL SKOLNIK. This was part of my SEA003 weapon improvement program. We also had the “rail Gun” which we transferred to Lakehurst, N.J. to develop into an AQ/C catapult, which they did.

          • gunnerv1

            You don’t have to SCREAM. It’s a “Learning Curve”, I haven’t seen anything relate(d)ing to the system. All of the ships I served in were Gun and Missile Platforms with the Latest Sonar Suites (ASW Platform, Mk 32 Torpedo, ASROC with Depth Charge) along with a 3 year tour as a Mk 42 Gun (Mods) Platform Instructor at Great Lakes (That cost me Wife # 1) My overall time in the Navy cost me #2, still with #3). The “Rail Gun”, I was (well) aware of with my Tech Support at Naval Ordnance Station Louisville (NOSL), where I was trying to get stationed next to be in on it’s development with a follow on sea tour in support of the system, but wife #1 botched that idea, and with 3 more sea tours in support of the 5″/54 Cal Mk 45 Gun System took me out of the running for the Rail Gun completely. I think I would have been involved in your System too.

          • old guy

            Sorry, I am not savvy in this and my computer cap light doesn’t always come on and I have to look at the keyboard, when I type. Anyway, a gunner shouldn’t be so touchy.

          • gunnerv1

            Chief Petty Officers don’t take well to being “Screamed” at in actual (or virtual) Public. I assume that you are either an Officer (USN-R) or were a GS and worked with Officers at the time this System was being developed. Is there any reference at the USNI on the system? I retired in 1986 and I think I vaguely remember the system from reading the Naval Proceedings (I really got to knock the Cobwebs loose).

          • old guy

            I was the NAVSEA’S Director of R and D in the late 70s and early 80s. I retd in ’94 as the Navy’s Dir. S and T Development. I had a great 30 yrs. I saw many a great idea chewed up by the stupidity of the leadership (PHM, SWATH, SES, FOG-M SEAMOD, RAP to name a few and some real JUNK promoted, like Railgun, LCS, DD1000, V-22, and lots more. I weep for our lost world leadership.

          • gunnerv1

            We both “Weep for the Future” Generations. I “hear you” concerning some of the Systems that made it out of the Barn Door. Everytime I see something about the MK 45 Gun System, I shake my head that we actually bought into this “Thing”. One of the blogs on a YouTube Video with the Title about some MK 45 shooting 21 rounds, I chastise them on it first because it’s only rated at 20 Rounds Per Minute (RPM), 16 with Fuze Setter (FS) engaged. Then I remind them of “Yesteryears” “Obsolete” System The MK 42 (designed to fire 40 RPM, OrdAlted down to 34 RPM with or without FS engaged). You’ll remember the old Civil War General’s Quote “The Firstus with the Mostus” will win the Battle. If I can fire 175% more Rounds “on target” than you, whom would you bet on (and increases when FS engaged). 34 RPM @ 72 Pound Projectile = nearly a 1.25 tons of Explosives and Shrapnel, delivered on Target at range up to 13 Nautical Miles. Not bad for an obsolete “pea” shooter coupled with the MK 86 Fire Control System, “Tracking and “Self Correcting” for each Round after the first, but the first is usually “Alpha-Mike” = to plus or minus 50 yards, the Gold Standard in Surface Gunnery. (Man, I get long winded, habit from Gunnery School Instructor).

  • Roc C.

    Hopefully developments will move along to the point they will be deployable weapon systems. I’m concerned with lack of platforms for the RailGuns, seeing how exceeding difficult to get anything “new” approved in US Congress. That existing platforms we have may not be to the task of employing them.

  • Secundius

    FYI: As of 15 September 2015, DDG-1002, USS. LBJ was CANCELED. It is unclear as to where the funds of the ship are to be Relocated Too…

  • Secundius

    I suspect their either going to use the BAe 32MJ-Rail Guns and/or the BAe 20MJ-rail Guns. And drop the General Atomics 64MJ-Rail Guns completely…