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Report to Congress on Navy Laser, Railgun and Hypervelocity Projectiles

The following is the Nov. 30, 2017 Congressional Research Service report, Navy Lasers, Railgun and Hypervelocity Projectile.

From the Report:

The Navy is currently developing three potential new weapons that could improve the ability of
its surface ships to defend themselves against enemy missiles—solid state lasers (SSLs), the
electromagnetic railgun (EMRG), and the hypervelocity projectile (HVP).

Any one of these new weapon technologies, if successfully developed and deployed, might be
regarded as a “game changer” for defending Navy surface ships against enemy missiles. If two or
three of them are successfully developed and deployed, the result might be considered not just a
game changer, but a revolution. Rarely has the Navy had so many potential new types of surface ship
missile-defense weapons simultaneously available for development and potential
deployment. The HPV in particular has emerged as a program of particular interest to the
Department of Defense (DOD), which is exploring the potential for using the weapon across
multiple U.S. military services.

Although the Navy in recent years has made considerable progress in developing SSLs, EMRG,
and HVP, a number of significant development challenges remain. Overcoming these challenges
will likely require years of additional development work, and ultimate success in overcoming
them is not guaranteed.

The issue for Congress is whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s funding requests and
proposed acquisition strategies for these three potential new weapons. Potential oversight
questions for Congress include the following:

  • Using currently available approaches for countering anti-ship cruise missiles
    (ASCMs) and anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), how well could Navy surface
    ships defend themselves in a combat scenario against an adversary such as China
    that has large numbers of ASCMs (including advanced models) and ASBMs?
    How would this change if Navy surface ships in coming years were equipped
    with SSLs, EMRG, HVP, or some combination of these systems?
  • How significant are the remaining development challenges for SSLs, EMRG, and
  • Are current schedules for developing SSLs, EMRG, and HVP appropriate in
    relation to remaining development challenges and projected improvements in
    enemy ASCMs and ASBMs? To what degree are current schedules for
    developing SSLs, EMRG, or HVP sensitive to annual funding levels?
  • When does the Navy anticipate issuing roadmaps detailing its plans for procuring
    and installing production versions of SSLs, EMRGs, and HVP on specific Navy
    ships by specific dates?
  • Will the kinds of surface ships that the Navy plans to procure in coming years
    have sufficient space, weight, electrical power, and cooling capability to take full
    advantage of SSLs (particularly those with beam powers above 200 kW) and
    EMRG? What changes, if any, would need to be made in Navy plans for
    procuring large surface combatants (i.e., destroyers and cruisers) or other Navy
    ships to take full advantage of SSLs and EMRG?
  • Are the funding sources for SSLs, EMRG, and HVP in Navy and Defense-Wide
    research and development accounts sufficiently visible for supporting
    congressional oversight?

via fas.org