US Navy pushing ahead with laser combat weapons and soon will field a 100 kilowatt laser

The US Navy is “fully committed” to developing and fielding advanced directed energy weapons to deal with emerging threats and to reduce the cost per shot, the Navy’s number two officer said today.

“We need to push technology forward” and do it faster than historic advances in fielding new weapons capabilities, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran said at the Directed Energy Summit, cohosted by Booz Allen Hamilton and the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment.

The 30 kilowatt solid-state XN-1 laser on Ponce has been authorized for use as a defensive weapon, he said. The Navy “will field a 100-kilowatt system in the near future,” he added.

The Navy also is working to field high-power microwave systems, which can create unbearable heat on a person without lasting injury, to provide “enhance self-protection” with non-lethal system, Moran said. And, he warned, “these technologies are being developed and fielded by a lot of countries. If we don’t go forward, we will fall behind.”

Listing some of the advantages of directed energy weapons, Moran said they could provide “deep magazines” on warships so they do not have to use expensive and limited numbers of conventional weapons “on targets that you can handle with directed energy.”

Using directed energy weapons, which only require powerful burst of electrical power, also can reverse the negative cost-per-kill ratio of using multi-million-dollar defensive missiles against relatively cheap anti-ship cruise missiles, he indicated.

The Air Force Special Operations Command is also pushing to put an offensive laser on his AC-130 gunship.

The Air Force and USSOCOM have nearly 30 gunships in operation around the world. By 2021, up to 32 J-model AC-130s may join the fleet.