October 22, 2012

US Navy now expects laser cannons on ships in Just Two Years Away

Wired Danger Room - ” Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, the chief of the Office of Naval Research, the Navy’s chief futurist is pushing up the anticipated date for when sailors can expect to use laser weapons on the decks of their ships, and raising expectations for robotic submarines. The US Navy should have laser cannons on ships in two years instead of March, 2012 estimates of four years.

Klunder isn’t worried about the ships generating sufficient energy to fill the laser gun’s magazine, which has been an engineering concern of the Navy’s for years. “I’ve got the power,” said Klunder, who spoke during the Office of Naval Research’s biennial science and technology conference. “I just need to know on this ship, this particular naval vessel, what are the power requirements, and how do I integrate that directed energy system or railgun system.”

Shipboard testing is underway. Klunder wouldn’t elaborate, but he said that there have been “very successful” tests placing laser weapons on board a ship.

There was a study in 2011 of laser weapons for the Navy

It is likely that this is still looking at the 100 kilowatt class weapons for shooting down drones and small boats.

They will later get the upgrades to get to the megawatt class weapons for shooting down missiles and handling other targets.

Unmanned underwater submarines with 30 to 60 day endurance

Current, commercially available drone subs typically swim for several days at a time, according to Frank Herr, an Office of Naval Research department head who works on so-called unmanned underwater vehicles, or UUVs. That’s way behind the capabilities that successive Navy leaders want: crossing entire oceans without needing to refuel. So Klunder wants to raise the bar.

“The propulsion systems that I think you’re going to see within a year are going to [give] a UUV with over 30 days of endurance,” Klunder said. By 2016, a prototype drone sub for the office’s Long Duration Unmanned Underwater Vehicle program should be able to spend 60 days underwater at a time: “That’s ahead of schedule of what we told the secretary of the Navy a year ago.”

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