Combat Lasers will be tested at sea this year and Railguns in 2016 for Future US Destroyers reports that the US Navy is in the early phases of starting research to determine what kind of hull, ship defenses, propulsion technology and weapons systems will be engineered for a new class of DDG Flight IV destroyers to begin service in the 2030s.

A directed energy weapon or rail gun, however, might be able to offer an effective deterrent or ship defense system at a fraction of the cost of a missile.

The Navy is progressing with laser and rail gun technology. Senior Navy officials have routinely talked about plans for the service’s Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, a high-energy, solid-state directed energy weapon slated to deploy this year aboard the USS Ponce, a transport dock.

“We’re taking the laser weapon system prototype to sea this year. We are hoping to develop a system that we can produce and install aboard future warships,” said Navy spokesman Chris Johnson.

The idea with LaWS is to deploy a low-cost, high-energy offensive and defensive weapon against a range of potential threats, including Unmanned Aircraft Systems, fast-attack boats and small-boat swarm attacks.

The Navy also plans to test a ship-mounted electromagnetic rail gun on Navy vessels, service officials said. The rail gun, which can hit ranges of 100 miles or more, uses electricity stored on the ship to generate a high-speed electromagnetic pulse sufficient to propel a kinetic energy warhead. The result is an inexpensive, high-impact and long-range offensive weapon, service officials said.

The Navy, which has been testing the rail gun at the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Dahlgren, Va., plans to integrate it aboard a ship by 2016.

The rail gun’s hyper-velocity projectile can also be fired from standard Navy 5-inch guns as well as 155mm Howitzers, service officials said.

The DDG Flight IV program, now in its infancy, is planned as an upgrade to the Navy’s current Flight III destroyer program slated to being construction in 2016. Overall, the Secretary of the Navy’s long-range shipbuilding plan calls for construction of 22 Flight III DDGs, Vandroff explained.

Flight III destroyers will be engineered with a series of technological improvements when compared to the current Flight IIA ships. For instance, the Flight IIIs will be configured with a next-generation Air and Missile Defense Radar, or AMDR, a radar that is 30 to 35 times more powerful than existing ship radar systems, such as the current SPY-1D, he said.

“You can see something one-half the size and twice as far away,” Vandroff added.

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