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Navy ‘Committed’ To Directed Energy Weapons; Supporting Air Force System Development

The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf on November 17, 2014. US Navy photo.

The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf on November 17, 2014. US Navy photo.

The Navy is “fully committed” to developing and fielding advanced directed energy weapons to deal with emerging threats and to reduce the cost per shot, the Navy’s number two officer said today.

“We need to push technology forward” and do it faster than historic advances in fielding new weapons capabilities, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran said at the Directed Energy Summit, cohosted by Booz Allen Hamilton and the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment.

Moran noted that the Navy had “already authorized a defensive weapon” and deployed it, citing the laser system mounted on the USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15), which is on station in the U.S. Central Command theater.

The 30 kilowatt solid-state XN-1 laser on Ponce has been authorized for use as a defensive weapon, he said. The Navy “will field a 100-kilowatt system in the near future,” he added.

The Navy also is working to field high-power microwave systems, which can create unbearable heat on a person without lasting injury, to provide “enhance self-protection” with non-lethal system, Moran said. And, he warned, “these technologies are being developed and fielded by a lot of countries. If we don’t go forward, we will fall behind.”

Listing some of the advantages of directed energy weapons, Moran said they could provide “deep magazines” on warships so they do not have to use expensive and limited numbers of conventional weapons “on targets that you can handle with directed energy.”

Using directed energy weapons, which only require powerful burst of electrical power, also can reverse the negative cost-per-kill ratio of using multi-million-dollar defensive missiles against relatively cheap anti-ship cruise missiles, he indicated.

They would mean “spending pennies on the dollar” for defense, he said.

“Low-cost directed energy weapons have to be part of our future” and are being designed for use in the fleet today, Moran said.

“If we have to continue to rely on projectiles, we will run out of the ability to defend ourselves in the future,” he said.
“We are fully committed to taking this into the future.”

The Navy’s directed energy weapons program received an endorsement from an earlier speaker, when Lt. Gen. Bradley Heithold, commander of the Air Force Special Operations Command, in describing his push to put an offensive laser on his AC-130 gunships noted that “we already have a laser on the battlefield. It just happens to be on a ship.”

Heithold said his command has a contract with the Navy Surface Warfare Center at Dahlgren, Va., which led the development of the XN-1 laser, to help the Air Force program.

“We’re going to lean on them,” he said.

Current laser technology, “like anything else, is going to be a little too big, too expensive” for his use with Air Force special operations, he said, and called on industry to help change that.

“This is an evolution. It’s doable,” Heithold said.
“The bottom line is, this is a game changer.”

  • Secundius

    According to the Montreux Convention of 20 July 1936, NO ship with a Naval Artillery Gun with a Bore Diameter EXCEEDING 8-inches (203.2mm) is Allowed into the Black Sea. The LaWS laser has an “Airy Disc” (Inside Barrel Diameter of 23.622-inches (600mm). I Guess their going to have to call it something else than a Laser Cannon…

    • Refguy

      Death ray?

    • Donald Carey

      As artillery fires projectiles and lasers don’t, this is a non-issue.

      • Secundius

        Correct me if I’m wrong? But wouldn’t a Pulse Laser fire a Photonic Projectile…

        • Donald Carey

          While a physicist would agree, if pulses of light were considered projectiles by weapons treaties, large signal lights would be considered heavy artillery. – LOL

          • Secundius

            But then again, in 1936 there were no Surface-to-Surface Missiles in Existence. And yet by Many, an SSM is an Artillery Weapon…

          • Donald Carey

            Wrong, invented by the Chinese, surface to surface missles have been around for centuries – the British used them against Fort McHenry in the war of 1812, for instance. (Remember “the rocket’s red glare”?)
            As for the “wisdom” of the “Many”, to many, an “ugly” semi-automatic rifle is an assault gun – that does not make either true.

          • Secundius

            You DIDN’T READ the comment, You INTERPRETED the Comment. Where in MY comment did I Mention the INVENTION of the Missile. I Said in 1936 that SSM Naval Missiles Didn’t Exists on Naval Ships in 1936. The FIRST SSM/ASM was Employed by the Egyptian Navy by a Komar class Missile Boat in 1967 by a STYX Missile made by the Soviet Union…

          • Donald Carey

            Try re-reading your comment – there is no mention of the missles being ship-board. Surface to Surface means just that – any rocket that is launched from the surface aimed at a surface target – there does not have to be any “smart” guidance. (The rockets at Ft. McHenry were fired from ships, by the way.)

          • Secundius

            REALLY?/! A Anti-Shipping Missile “IS” an SSM. The “Congreve”, Rockets used at Fort McHenry HAD Diameters that Varied for 1.5-inches to 3-inches. Rockets used at Ft. Sumter, were Signal Rockets ONLY…

          • Ford GT basket of deplorables

            I think a Photon Torpedo would more effective 😉

  • James Bowen

    Very cool.