Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Laser Canon Destroys Boat - US Navy Test

US Navy and Office of Naval Research (ONR) conducted a test for a laser weapon. A high-energy laser fired from the USS Paul Foster hit a motorboat with a 15-kilowatt (kW) pulse from a solid-state high-energy laser (HEL).

Despite waves and high humidity which degrades laser output, the laser equipped warship successfully crippled a smaller boat by burning through its engine and igniting it. According to ONR, this is an important step toward mounting high-energy lasers on ships as weapons.

High-Energy Laser Canon (HEL)

"This is the first time a HEL, at these power levels, has been put on a Navy ship, powered from that ship, and used to defeat a target in a maritime environment," says Peter Morrison, program officer at the ONR, in a press release. "We are learning a ton from this program—how to integrate and work with directed energy weapons."

Until now, much of the development of HELs has focused on shooting down missiles or hitting land-based targets. While a weaponised system would likely be restricted to military vessels, merchant shipping has also expressed an interest in laser technology. A gun which uses visible laser light to temporarily blind pirates was announced by BAE Systems in 2010.

USS Paul Foster

Lasers have more finesse and tend to be less messier compared to the usual explosive munitions that can be more destructive than necessary. To be truly effective though, HEL will need to be more powerful. ONR's goal is to mount 100-kilowatt (kW) lasers into ships. For opposing Naval ships, the Navy is working on a megawatt laser that's intended to cut through an incredible 2,000 feet of steel per second. The first prototype of that monster won't be ready until 2018, the ONR says.

ONR says lasers will serve to complement a warships other weapns, not replace them. In addition, entirely new battle tactics will have to be developed for ship captains to use them effectively.

Watch the High-Engery Laser (HEL) test video below


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