May 28, 2015

Pentagon looking at integrating anti-missiles, lasers and railguns against expected future missile filled battlefield

The Pentagon has been authorized to create “the true and complete integration of air and missile defense” and on “left-of-launch and non-kinetic means of defense.”

They will be coordinating — a much wider range of tools than just traditional Patriot-style interceptors. Lasers are literally the flashiest example here, but there’s also room for rail guns; “non-kinetic” means such as cyber and electronic warfare; and even missile strikes of our own to destroy the enemy missiles before they’re fired, what’s known as “left of launch.”

Ballistic and cruise missiles aren’t the only problem. Adding precision guidance to artillery rockets, cannon shells, or even mortar rounds makes these traditional military tools much more dangerous. There’s also the proliferation of armed drones, which are effectively slower-moving, reusable cruise missiles.

“The full spectrum from smart artillery to UAVs to cruise missiles to maneuvering reentry vehicles of various kinds and anti-ship cruise missiles, anti-ship ballistic missiles, [and] hypersonics… it’s a unified problem set,” said Karako. You can’t just try to stop one and forget about the others, he warned. “For an integrated air and defense program, you have to be doing a lot of things simultaneously.”

There are targets to develop boost phase anti-missile technology by 2022 to 2025.

There are 150 kilowatt lasers in testing now and those are quickly scaling towards the megawatt range and beyond.

The Army’s High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator(HEL MD) will improve to a 60 kw system late in 2016. This is up from the current 10 kilowatt laser. Today's technology will enable fiber lasers to scale to 300 kw. Near term improvement to the underlying technology will enable well beyond 500 kw lasers.

Solid state slab lasers (being developed by the Navy and Northrop) should be able to scale to a total power of 300 kW. This will not require any technological breakthroughs. Supporters of slab SSLs such as Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD) believe they could eventually be scaled up further, to perhaps 600 kW. Slab SSLs are not generally viewed as easily scalable to megawatt power levels.

At 30 to 35 percent efficiency — the current cutting edge with fiber-optic lasers — 300 kw of output would require just under a megawatt of electrical power.

Railguns for trucks and ships by 2030

BAE Systems officials said the rail gun would have to be scaled down if it were to be mounted on top of the turret of a Future Fighting Vehicle. However, the officials on the AUSA show floor were confident it was possible.

* mach 7 kinetic energy round (twice the muzzle velocity and four times the kinetic energy)
* cheaper round that has no explosives in it so it is safer to store
* the Navy gun is 30 feet (10 meters long) which is the same as the M1 tank gun. It is the power and other systems that need to be fitted to a ground vehicle
* more ammo for deeper magazine
* General Atomic has a larger (almost no miniaturization work needed) mobile land based railgun system proposed that would be multiple mission and focused on destroying missiles and other targets

Railgun on the back of flatbed of a truck during testing. Firing through concrete and metal. This if from the General Atomics video

Image of the navy railgun to be deployed in sea trials in 2016. This gun would be reduced in size for a tank killing railgun for a new ground Vehicle

General Atomics has a vision of a mobile ground based railgun system that involves three heavy trucks. BAE would have to reduce the size and weight of a fighting vehicle gun by about ten times.

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