Monday, October 4, 2010

Laser Warfare Operational?

Militarily effective lasers are obviously becoming operational.  As I posted in the past, at present, ships are able to carry the energy producing equipment that is up the challenge.  Thus development of marine lasers is an obvious program that pioneers the technology.

Add what we are seeing here to the targeting demonstrated by the ‘crop circle’ phenomena over in England in particular and we are already looking at pretty serious capability.

And we can assume rapid firing and mirrors to do the targeting.  I may be optimistic of course, but why bother with test firing unless the rest is there and that is by far the easiest part of it all.

Obviously, with an operational system, the rest of the story is about shrinkage over the next few years, aimed at producing airborne and space borne systems.

Rapid laser fire is just too convenient a defense against incoming missiles of all kinds.  The picture shows a modern warship but could just as easily have shown an aircraft carrier packing a dozen of these suckers to provide effective line of sight protection.

The instance this is made space borne, all land based missile systems become completely obsolete.

Maritime Laser System Shows Higher Lethality At Longer Ranges

by Staff Writers

Dahlgren VA (SPX) Oct 01, 2010

Illustration of the US Maritime Laser Demonstration system in combat.

Tests of the U.S. Navy's Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD) system conducted recently at the Potomac River Test Range confirmed the laser weapon system's readiness to proceed with at-sea testing later this year, according to  Northrop Grumman Corporation.

Operating from a fixed site on land, the MLD weapon system fired a laser beam at a number of stationary targets, including representative small boat sections, across the Potomac Rivercompany executives said. The laser burned through small boat sections in these tests, conducted in late August and early September.

"We have shown that the Maritime Laser Demonstrator's design is as lethal at longer ranges as other previously demonstrated approaches," said Steve Hixson, vice president of Advanced Concepts, Space and Directed Energy Systems for Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector.

"We have optimized the Maritime Laser Demonstrator's design to make it much more lethal at longer ranges while using less laser power than other approaches.

"This means we can defeat threats at longer ranges using less electric power from a ship and with a smaller, more affordable weapon," Hixson noted.

"This successful test series, coupled with the successful shore tracking tests earlier this year, give us confidence that we will be successful at the at sea demonstrator scheduled later this year."

According to Hixson, the MLD laser weapon is based on mature technologies developed through several Defense Department programs, such as the precision tracking system from the Tactical High Energy Laser (THEL), which destroyed some 46 rockets, artillery and mortars in flight.

The MLD laser weapon also features the high-brightness, solid-state laser technology from the Joint High Power Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) program, which was provided by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, High Energy Laser Joint Technology Office, Arlington, Va., and the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, Huntsville, Ala. Northrop Grumman was the prime contractor for THEL and JHPSSL.

Northrop Grumman is developing MLD for the Office of Naval Research with a goal of demonstrating the readiness of solid-state laser weapon systems to begin transition to the fleet to engage targets that challenge current defensive systems such as swarms of enemy fast patrol boats.

The "static land" tests were conducted at the Naval Surface Warfare Center's Dahlgren, Va., Division, where it operates the Potomac River Test Range, the nation's largest, fully-instrumented, over-the-water firing range. Such tests in marine or coastal conditions are essential because weapon systems and sensors function differently over water than over land.

"Unlike commercial lasers that form the core of some laser systems intended for use at sea, MLD's power levels can be scaled to 100 kilowatts and beyond to defend ships from a wider variety of threats," according to Dan Wildt, vice president, Directed Energy Systems for Northrop Grumman. MLD is a multiple kilowatt, high-energy system for the purposes of the current demonstration phase.

"Another advantage of our approach is a modular architecture system that makes upgrades easy as subsystem technology advances. This allows MLD to use any laser," Wildt added. "Competing approaches are performance-limited by their use of gun-mounted beam directors, commercial lasers and less accurate tracking systems."

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