Twice The Fun

Of all the U.S. armed forces, the Navy seems particularly fascinated with lasers.

Navy combines a high-speed 25mm gun with a laser

What do you get when you combine two of the most deadly weapons out there? No, not a machete duct taped to a nuke. You get the Navy’s new gatling gun/laser hybrid.

The Mk 38 Mod 2 Tactical Laser System is something you really don’t want to be on the business end of. It combines a M242 autocannon, which is a lovely piece of equipment capable of firing 175 rounds per minute, with a high-energy laser gun.

See also:
Boeing building lasers for Navy machine guns
Boeing, BAE Systems to Develop Integrated Directed Energy Weapon for US Navy
Navy’s Next Wonder Weapon Combines a High Speed 25mm Gun With Deadly Laser
How to Make a Giant Chain Gun Even Deadlier: Give It a Laser Cannon
Navy’s Next Laser Mashes Up Machine Guns and Death Rays
BAE Putting Lasers on Mk 38 Naval Gun
Boeing, BAE Systems Team for Mk 38 Mod 2 Tactical Laser System
Boeing (NYSE:BA) Making Navy Weapon
Boeing and BAE Systems Develop Weapon for the US Navy

An interesting idea, but I’m not sure how cost effective in terms of additional “bang for the buck”.

/I mean, what increased, incremental damage is a laser going to add that the 25mm chain gun isn’t already inflicting at 175 rpm?

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Boating With Lasers

It’s nothing earth shattering and certainly not anything a three inch shell couldn’t accomplish, but you need to start somewhere.

Naval laser torches small boat in test

Northrop Grumman’s Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD) is a 15 kilowatt solid state laser specifically designed to be mounted on ships. On Wednesday, the MLD underwent its first test, successfully disabling a small boat by setting fire to its motors. The range on this test was about a mile, and the laser was able to stay locked on its target despite the relative motion of its ship and the target boat in what I’d personally call heavy seas.

This is really just a first little taste of the capabilities of naval laser systems, and in a few years, the MLD is intended to be shooting down incoming missiles. A few years after that, we’ll have an incredibly destructive free-electron laser ready to go. And it can’t be too soon, according to the Navy.

See also:
Navy tests laser gun by zapping motorboat off California coast
US Navy laser cannon used to set boat aflame
Video: In Roiling Seas, Navy Laser Sets a Ship On Fire
U.S. Navy tests laser gun by blasting empty boat
Navy tests on-board laser weapon
Video: Navy Laser Sets Ship on Fire
US Navy fires laser gun from ship for the first time
Naval laser could prove deadly to pirates, incoming missiles
U.S. Navy getting closer to arming ships with lasers
Maritime Laser Demonstration

There’s a big difference between setting a slow moving small boat on fire and defeating incoming missiles at supersonic speed. And then another problem is scaling the laser up to make it more powerful. It’s not like they can plug it into the local power grid at sea, they have to have a self-contained power source.

/the Navy obviously still has a lot of work to do, let’s hope they can figure it out soon

Burning Down The Drone

Smoke ’em if ya got ’em. Can you smell what the laser is cookin’?

Anti-aircraft laser unveiled at Farnborough Airshow

US firm Raytheon has unveiled its anti-aircraft laser at the Farnborough Airshow in Hampshire.

The Laser Close-In Weapon System (CIWS) can either be used on its own or alongside a gunnery system.

In May, the laser was used to shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in a series of tests.

Raytheon said the solid state fibre laser produces a 50 kilowatt beam and can be used against UAV, mortar, rockets and small surface ships.

See also:
U.S. Navy Laser Weapon Shoots Down Drones in Test [Video]
Anti-aircraft laser ‘more real than Star Wars’
Raytheon Unveils Anti-Aircraft Laser
Raytheon airs video at Farnborough Airshow of CIWS laser shooting down drone
New Laser Weapon Blasts Spy Drones Out of the Sky
Laser Gun! New Demo Turns Sci-Fi Into Reality
Death Ray-theon: Anti-Aircraft Laser Unveiled
Raytheon anti-aircraft laser showcased
Raytheon Company: Directed Energy

Oh look, it’s an effective new weapons system with near term practical military application.

/how long before Obama cancels it?

Don’t Tell Obama, He’ll Just Cancel The Program

Boeing Advanced Tactical Laser Defeats Ground Target in Flight Test

The Boeing Company [NYSE: BA] and the U.S. Air Force on Aug. 30 defeated a ground target from the air with the Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) aircraft, demonstrating ATL’s first air-to-ground, high-power laser engagement of a tactically representative target.

During the test, the C-130H aircraft took off from Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., and fired its high-power chemical laser through its beam control system while flying over White Sands Missile Range, N.M. The beam control system acquired the ground target — an unoccupied stationary vehicle — and guided the laser beam to the target, as directed by ATL’s battle management system. The laser beam’s energy defeated the vehicle.

“This milestone demonstrates that directed energy weapon systems will transform the battlespace and save lives by giving warfighters a speed-of-light, ultra-precision engagement capability that will dramatically reduce collateral damage” said Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. “By demonstrating this capability, the ATL team has earned a distinguished place in the history of weapon system development”

The test occurred less than three months after a June 13 test in which ATL successfully fired its laser from the air for the first time, hitting a target board on the ground. The ATL team plans additional tests to further demonstrate the system’s military utility. These demonstrations support the development of systems that will conduct missions on the battlefield and in urban operations.

“The bottom line is that ATL works, and works very well” said Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Missile Defense Systems’ Directed Energy Systems unit. “ATL’s components — the high-energy chemical laser, beam control system and battle manager — are performing as one integrated weapon system, delivering effective laser beam energy to ground targets”

See also:
Boeing Advanced Tactical Laser Defeats Ground Target in Flight Test
Test of laser from C-130H melts hood of car
Pew! Airborne Military Laser Takes Out Truck on Video
Video of Airborne Tactical Laser Hitting a Ground Target Is Not Very Satisfying
Meet the Advanced Tactical Laser
Directed Energy Systems (DES)
Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL)
Advanced Tactical Laser

Okay, so it’s not the most scintillating weapons demonstration ever filmed but it was an aircraft in flight, successfully hitting a specific target with a powerful chemical laser. All new weapons testing is incremental in nature. The ATL holds much future promise for battlefield effectiveness, as part of the AC-130s weapons suite or maybe, perhaps, operated from a drone.

/but seriously, don’t tell Obama, he’s already gutted the Airborne Laser (ABL) program, the ATL’s equally successful big brother

Big Frickin’ Laser Beams, Without The Sharks

Scientists take another stab at nuclear fusion

After more than a decade of work and an investment of $3.5 billion, scientists at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory say they have created a super laser that will enable them to build a miniature sun within the lab in the next two years.

The U.S. Department of Energy certified the world’s largest laser on Tuesday, an instrument that will test the reliability of the nation’s nuclear weapons stockpile, explore the origins of the universe and seek to create nuclear fusion energy.

Nuclear fusion is the National Ignition Facility’s biggest goal.

By 2010 or 2011, the lab’s scientists hope to achieve ignition – that is, produce the first tiny thermonuclear explosions inside their capsule targets in hopes of ultimately creating a limitless source of fusion energy, the kind of energy that powers the blazing heat of the sun and stars.

“It’s an extremely exciting prospect,” said Edward Moses, director of the laser project. “The search for fusion energy has been a long haul. Some people say it’s better than you can believe, but based on everything we know, the question now is more ‘when,’ not ‘if.’ ”

Researchers have dreamed for more than half a century of tapping the potential of nuclear fusion as a clean, cheap power source. If successful, nuclear fusion energy could be a game-changer for meeting the world’s energy needs. Current nuclear power plants rely on nuclear fission, or the splitting of atoms, a chain reaction that produces large quantities of deadly radioactive waste.

But if this costly experiment at Lawrence Livermore fails, it could kill U.S. fusion research for good. Since the 1950s, scientists have tried different processes to create nuclear fusion but have failed. For all the money spent on research, fusion has yet to power a light bulb.

500 billion watts

The National Ignition Facility is 10 stories tall and three football fields in length, and its 40-foot-tall target chamber is shaped like a golf ball. Nearly 200 powerful laser beams are guided by a switchyard of mirrors to arrive at once at the target chamber. The goal is to ignite a tiny hydrogen fuel pellet and produce a burst of energy of up to 500 billion watts of power.

“This is the first time that we’ve built a laser that is capable of reaching the energy and power conditions that can drive the fusion process,” Moses said. “We’re going to be able to create temperatures inside these small targets of over 100 million degrees. That’s hotter than the center of the sun, and very high pressures and densities are needed for fusion to occur.”

Supporters say fusion holds no risk of a nuclear meltdown and will generate insignificant waste byproducts. But fusion’s prospects have been greeted with skepticism.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, the nuclear physicist who previously headed the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, joked to an audience at an energy conference at Stanford University in 2006 that “I’m going to skip (discussing) fusion because it will probably skip the 21st century.”

The super laser project has been subject to repeated delays and cost overruns since the lab broke ground in 1997. It initially was budgeted at $1.2 billion and scheduled for completion in 2002.

Reliability experiments

Scientists also plan to use the giant laser to conduct experiments to gauge the reliability of the nation’s aging nuclear weapons stockpile. The United States has not deployed any new nuclear weapons in more than 20 years nor conducted an underground nuclear test since 1992.

“Protecting the safety, security and reliability of our nuclear deterrent in a world without nuclear testing is one of the most important things we do,” said Damien LaVera, a spokesman for the National Nuclear [Security] Administration.

Additionally, scientists plan to use the Livermore laser to explore the origins of the universe, including the makeup of stars and planets within and outside our solar system. They will examine how materials behave at temperatures and pressures like those at the center of a star.

But perhaps the most critical use of the laser will be the search for nuclear fusion, lab officials said.

A nuclear fusion demonstration project could be up and running in 10 to 12 years, they say, bringing fusion energy a step closer toward commercialization.

“Now, the science can start in earnest,” LaVera said. “The research really begins.”

See also:
World’s Most Powerful Laser Powers Up
World’s largest laser completed: Nuclear fusion, Death Star battle stations next?
Lawrence Livermore Shows Off Its Fusion Power Laser
Giant Livermore laser project ready
Fusion catches fire
Reinventing Nuclear Power
Countdown to Nuclear Fusion: National Ignition Facility Warms Up
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory
National Ignition Facility & Photon Science – The Power of Light
National Ignition Facility
National Nuclear Security Administration
National Nuclear Security Administration

Whether it’s hot or cold, fusion suddenly seems to be all the rage these days. All I can say is bring it on!

/abundant and cheap energy, more, faster, please