Tech Tuesday – the Navy has a big laser gun

(WIAT-CBS42)
(WIAT-CBS42)

[lin_video src=http://eplayer.clipsyndicate.com/embed/player.js?aspect_ratio=16x9&auto_next=1&auto_start=0&div_id=videoplayer-1366210136&height=480&page_count=5&pf_id=9624&show_title=1&va_id=4020749&width=640&windows=2 service=syndicaster width=640 height=480 div_id=videoplayer-1366210136 type=script]BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) –  If you are in my generation, you grew up drawing space ships and boats shooting lasers.  The old “missile command” video game inspired this thinking.  Or, the lasers fired by the spacecraft in all the Star Wars movies.  Well, now our Navy has a laser and recently released video of it shooting down a drone.  Let’s explore:

  *   The Navy has a laser gun?  Yes.  They have been testing it on the ground and they mounted it on a ship for sea trials at the end of last year.  They had success shooting down drones and destroying the engines of fast boats.
*   So, how does a laser gun work?  Basically, it takes massive amounts of energy and focuses that laser beam on a fixed point, which either cuts it in half or sets it on fire.  Right now, it is probably putting out less than 100 kilowatts and has a beam the size of a dime.  But, the cannon really is only limited by the amount of energy you can put into it.  Right now, the cannons produce their own power, but they are looking at tying them into the deep power reserves of the ships.  If they get it up to 1 megawatt of power, the beam could cut through 20 feet of steel in a second. Not to mention that it travels at the speed of light.
*   Is this expensive?  Actually, it isn’t.  The unit costs around $40m, but the cost of the power is really cheap.  They estimate that the cost per shot isn’t but $5000.  When you consider how much missiles cost, that is really very reasonable.
*   So, they are going to do this?   Most likely.  The problem the Navy has is that anti-ship missiles are pretty cheap.  Ships, however, are very costly and take a long time to make.  So, they are looking for ways to defend expensive ships from cheap missiles.

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