In 2018, the US Navy and Missile Defense Agency had targeted demonstrating megawatt lasers by 2023-2024. The US Army recently had an announcement of a contract for 250-300 kilowatt lasers on a large truck by 2024.
This means that four container-sized laser power systems could be combined on a Navy ship or at a Missile Defense base for a megawatt laser.
A large US Army truck is the same size as a shipping container. A mobile 250-kilowatt laser has all of the power, fuel and electronics for module that could be used for a megawatt laser. It is trivial for four smaller lasers can combine their beams.
An 300-600 kilowatt laser would be able to shoot for a marginal cost of less than one
dollar per shot (which is the cost of the fuel needed to generate the electricity
used in the shot) and would replace $85,000 or more expensive anti-missile missiles.
Three new ship-based weapons being developed by the Navy—solid state lasers (SSLs), the electromagnetic railgun (EMRG), and the gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP), also known as the hypervelocity projectile (HVP)—could substantially improve the ability of Navy surface ships to defend themselves against surface craft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and eventually antiship cruise missiles (ASCMs).
The Navy has been developing SSLs for several years, and in 2014 installed on a Navy ship a
prototype SSL called the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) that was capable of countering surface
craft and UAVs. The Navy is now developing SSLs with improved capability for countering
surface craft and UAVs, and eventually a capability for countering ASCMs. Navy efforts to
develop these more capable lasers include
* the Solid State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) effort;
* the Ruggedized High Energy Laser (RHEL);
* the Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN);
* the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System (SNLWS) Increment 1, also known as the high-energy laser with integrated optical dazzler and surveillance (HELIOS);
* the High Energy Laser Counter-ASCM Program (HELCAP).
The Navy refers to the first four efforts above collectively as the Navy Laser Family of Systems (NFLoS). Under the Navy’s laser development approach, NFLOS and HELCAP, along with
technologies developed by other parts of DOD, are to support the development of future, more
capable shipboard lasers.
Brian Wang is a Futurist Thought Leader and a popular Science blogger with 1 million readers per month. His blog Nextbigfuture.com is ranked #1 Science News Blog. It covers many disruptive technology and trends including Space, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence, Medicine, Anti-aging Biotechnology, and Nanotechnology.
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