Boeing reveals laser cannons for battleships

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Boeing reveals laser cannons for battleships

Boeing rescues battleships from redundancy by mounting them with laser cannons with unlimited magazine depth. Just when ships looked on the way out with ICBM's, sea skimming missiles, and small fast attack ships, all threatening the viability of the largest aircraft carriers and battleships, the ultimate weapon is revealed, an electrically driven laser cannon.

Boeing has been awarded a U.S. Navy contract valued at up to $163 million, with an initial task order of $6.9 million, to develop the Free Electron Laser (FEL) weapon system, which will transform naval warfare in the next decade by providing an ultra-precise, speed-of-light capability and unlimited magazine depth to defend ships against new, challenging threats, such as hyper-velocity cruise missiles.

Under the task order, awarded April 13 by the Office of Naval Research, Boeing will complete the preliminary design of the electric-powered Free Electron Laser, the key step toward building a FEL prototype for realistic tests at sea. Boeing will partner with U.S. Department of Energy laboratories, academia and industry partners to design the laser.

US aerospace mammoth Boeing has made a bold announcement, saying that it will "transform naval warfare in the next decade" by developing powerful warship raygun turrets able to blast enemy missiles and aircraft out of the sky from afar.

The arms globocorp said yesterday that it has been awarded an initial $6.9m contract in a deal potentially worth as much as $169m, to develop a prototype Free Electron Laser (FEL) beam cannon.

Boeing say that this will provide an ultra-precise, speed-of-light capability and unlimited magazine depth to defend ships against new, challenging threats, such as hyper-velocity cruise missiles", and that "FELs are capable of achieving the megawatt power the Navy requires for ship defense".

"It will be a cornerstone of the Navy's plan to incorporate directed energy systems into its future all-electric ship architecture," adds Boeing missile-buster veep Greg Hyslop.

This is impressive stuff. The existing, jumbo-jet mounted Airborne Laser - shortly to enter flight tests, though with its future now highly uncertain - is said to offer "megawatt class" power, and to be capable of exploding liquid-fuelled ICBMs from as far off as 400km. It runs on dangerous toxic chemicals, however, meaning that its magazine capacity is severely limited.

Boeing now say that they will produce a megawatt blaster cannon able to run on electricity (FELs work by passing electrons through magnetic fields). Thus, it would presumably be able to blast missiles or planes out to at least a hundred miles or so, as soon as they appeared above the horizon - the more so as FELs are tunable, better able to cope with spray, clouds and the like.

Even better, the US Navy plans its next generation of warships to use electric transmissions for their propellors, meaning that the whole mighty power of their engines could be used by electrical weapon systems on occasion (at the cost of briefly losing propulsion). The proposed Zumwalt class destroyers, for instance, would have up to 80 megawatts available - enough to run several FEL raygun turrets, even at the low efficiencies typical of directed energy weapons.

That sort of thing would indeed transform naval surface warfare, where at the moment aircraft and ship-killer missiles are king.

If an enemy can get close enough to send a volley of supersonic sea-skimmers in over the horizon at your fleet (in other words, if you don't control the skies with airborne radar and fighters), then you're in trouble.

You just have to pray that interceptor missiles will be able to achieve head-on kills at closing speeds in excess of Mach 5, within metres of the wave tops and within seconds of getting a radar lock on the sea-skimmers: a risky and very expensive proposition.

But if you had a raygun Zumwalt, things would be very different. Enemies wouldn't dare poke their heads over the horizon inside a hundred miles. They'd have serious trouble getting their sea-skimmers into striking range, and if they manage it, no matter. As soon as a supersonic ship-killer pops up on radar - say twenty miles and thirty seconds out - a megawatt beam will fry it out of existence.

Goodbye sea-skimmers: perhaps even goodbye aircraft carriers. The preferred means of reaching over the horizon from ships might rather become the use of hypersonic solid shot from electric railguns, perhaps - far more able to penetrate laser defences than thin-skinned missiles packed full of explosive fuel and warhead, and significantly faster too.

The surface warship would be restored to its lost dominance over the oceans, in fact - within ten years from now! You can see why this is an easy sell to large parts of the US Navy.

But. Even Boeing admit that they've been fooling about with FELs for decades without really getting anywhere - let alone up to megawatt power. There's worrying talk of the new FEL being used for "non-lethal effects", too, which in this context translates as "it won't have anything even close to megawatt power, but you could use it for scaring pirates in skiffs, or making tea or something".
 http://www.theregister.co.u...

 http://www.boeing.com/news/...
By netchicken: posted on 21-4-2009








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