The US Navy is making progress developing unmanned systems and directed energy weapons. Congress would like to see more effort operationalizing and fielding these technologies.
The Navy has done a good job getting test versions of the laser weapon system and electromagnetic railgun out to sea ahead of full development: in the case of railgun, the Navy is still pursuing a pulsed power system to allow for continuous firings, and in the case of the laser weapon system the Navy is at 150 kilowatts of power compared to the 300 KW goal.
The Navy had reached the point where it should be able to articulate concepts of operations for its new technologies and begin to field them.
Tom Boucher, second from right, program manager for the Electromagnetic Railgun at the Office of Naval Research (ONR), talks to Rear Adm. David Hahn, chief of naval research, during a visit to the railgun facility onboard Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division on Jan. 12, 2017. US Navy photo.
Submarine drones could help make up for the US Navy’s shortage of attack submarines.
The undersea domain needed help from new technologies. He added that surface warfare and anti-missile systems would benefit from the laser weapon and railgun under development, if the Navy could get those fielded.
Given that adversaries’ technological advancements give them a greater standoff distance, “we have to have technology where we can make sure we can get inside there. So if there is an engagement we can make sure we can not only protect but also engage. So these elements, the new technologies, whether it’s new radars that reach out further, whether it’s new weapon systems that now have additional distance and greater lethality – you look at something like the railgun, it reaches out a tremendous distance. It is also operable against missile technologies, so some pretty amazing technologies,” Wittman said.
He added that the Navy needed to develop these technologies and their concepts of operations with a contested environment in mind.