The Navy sees a modular open-systems approach as best way to develop a directed-energy laser gun with a maximum 150 kW output. A 100 kW laser weapon could be used on board a US Navy ship by 2016, according to a document outlining a $110 million plan to further develop such “directed energy” systems.
The US Navy has identified two ship classes – the Arleigh Burke Destroyer (DDG-51) and the Littoral Combat Ship – as primary candidates for initial shipboard installation, which are likely to follow extensive at-sea tests on other boats as the systems are developed.
The BAA describes a development program that will evolve in four phases. Phase I, which is likely to include four separate $1.5 million firm-fixed-price contracts and is slated for fiscal year 2013, will be focused on conceptual designs.
Phase II will provide for more detailed design and development work in FY2014, with a maximum two systems going forward to the prototype stage. Phase III, running between FY2014 and FY2016, will involve manufacturing, assembly and testing of the solid-state laser weapon(s) and finally Phase IV will see deployment in a US Navy “program of record” overseen by the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA).
The BAA follows on from a pre-proposal conference and industry day that was hosted by ONR earlier this summer, and full proposals from interested parties are due October 16. Phase I contract awards will be made 4-6 months later, assuming that the project funding does not fall foul of the automatic “sequestration” of the Department of Defense budget at the end of the year.
What about using a reflective coating for counter measures ?
It will be difficult and costly to coat all ships, tanks and planes with a shiny and reflective surface and if that is done then they would easier to visually spot and target with other weapons. Having a lot of high energy lasers will force the opponent and eventually all combatants to have to plan for another method of attack. If a boxer is always protecting against a punch to the head then he could leave himself open to body blows or a kick to the groin.