US needs megawatt class combat lasers to counter hypersonic missiles

Michael Griffin, the undersecretary for research and engineering, expects future budgets to provide funds for lasers that the missile defense agency can more rapidly develop and field. Space-control needs to have megawatt-class lasers.

Hypersonic weapons’ low signature in flight and high degree of maneuverability upon final approach to targets make the weapons difficult to defend against.

The last time the US really invested in transformative capabilities that overwhelmed adversaries [in Desert Storm] was the Reagan era.

300 kilowatts by 2023 and megawatt by 2028

Michael Griffin said

“We need to have 100-kilowatt-class weapons on Army theater vehicles. We need to have 300-kilowatt-class weapons on Air Force tankers,” Griffin said. “We need to have megawatt-class directed energy weapons in space for space defense. These are things we can do over the next decade if we can maintain our focus.”

Scientists he’s been talking with have told him that level of laser power is five to six years away and a “megawatt laser” is within a decade with persistent investment.

The US military is boosting combat laser funding to a billion dollars or more.

The US has funded several combat laser deployments over the next three years.

Lockheed Martin is being awarded a $150 million cost-plus-incentive-fee contract for Surface Navy Laser Weapon System Increment 1, High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with a surveillance system. This contract includes options which, if exercised, would bring the cumulative value of this contract to $943 million.

The combat lasers will be 150-kilowatts and could get upgraded to 300 kilowatts for more range and power.

28 thoughts on “US needs megawatt class combat lasers to counter hypersonic missiles”

  1. I dont know who “we” is but if you mean the US armed forces than they very much ARE using lasers, for anything from reconaissance and target identification to guidance of bombs and missiles. There are plenty of weapons that dont have all-weather capability. Doesn’t mean they are useless.

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  2. I think this is spot on. Maintaining stability during hypersonic flight is difficult. One of the problems with designing hypersonic weapons/aircraft is that behavior at those speeds is difficult to model. A shape that works well at Mach 6 might be absolutely terrible at Mach 6.5. The other obvious issue is heat. Hypersonic flight takes material science to its limits. I would imagine the additional heat from a sufficiently powerful laser would cause almost any material to fail.

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  3. It would be interesting if lasers can be used to more efficiently kill hypersonic weapons. So one means for controlling hypersonic flow is to use plasma. A plasma actuator can be used to change boundary layer properties, so that a flap creates more lift only when needed. Now the thing is sufficiently powerful lasers can be used to make plasma too. So we can potentially modify the boundary layer properties where they aren’t supposed to be modified by shining a sufficiently powerful laser at an inbound hypersonic weapon, resulting in the hypersonic weapon becoming unstable and destroying itself. Now the real question is how much of a laser you need to do this and whether the required laser would be able to destroy the projectile through processes other than boundary layer modification.

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  4. “It is very likely the US has functional plasma weapons.”

    Please tell me we keep them on the far side of a Moon base that was build using Dyna-soar vehicles.

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  5. Lasers have a (terrible pun coming) bright future.
    We should be investing much more into them, and not our current anti-ballistic missile defense shield. The tracking tech is still needed, but You don’t seet to “hit a bullet with a bullet”. Just shoot their missile outta the sky with a laser. Russia has being bragging about their supposed hypersonic missiles…well mach 5+ is meaningless compared to mach speed of light!

    Reply
  6. Yeah, the ABL was a great concept, but it’s biggest draw back was its chemical laser. Those days are done, virtually all laser R&D these days it solid state.

    Reply
  7. I think this is spot on. Maintaining stability during hypersonic flight is difficult. One of the problems with designing hypersonic weapons/aircraft is that behavior at those speeds is difficult to model. A shape that works well at Mach 6 might be absolutely terrible at Mach 6.5. The other obvious issue is heat. Hypersonic flight takes material science to its limits. I would imagine the additional heat from a sufficiently powerful laser would cause almost any material to fail.

    Reply
  8. It would be interesting if lasers can be used to more efficiently kill hypersonic weapons. So one means for controlling hypersonic flow is to use plasma. A plasma actuator can be used to change boundary layer properties, so that a flap creates more lift only when needed. Now the thing is sufficiently powerful lasers can be used to make plasma too. So we can potentially modify the boundary layer properties where they aren’t supposed to be modified by shining a sufficiently powerful laser at an inbound hypersonic weapon, resulting in the hypersonic weapon becoming unstable and destroying itself. Now the real question is how much of a laser you need to do this and whether the required laser would be able to destroy the projectile through processes other than boundary layer modification.

    Reply
  9. Lasers have a (terrible pun coming) bright future.
    We should be investing much more into them, and not our current anti-ballistic missile defense shield. The tracking tech is still needed, but You don’t seet to “hit a bullet with a bullet”. Just shoot their missile outta the sky with a laser. Russia has being bragging about their supposed hypersonic missiles…well mach 5+ is meaningless compared to mach speed of light!

    Reply

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