Over at Picatinny Arsenal, the research and development facility and proving ground for the U.S. Army’s weaponry, engineers are developing a device that shoots lighting bolts along a laser beam to annihilate its target. That’s right: lighting bolts shot down laser beams. This story could easily end right here and still be the coolest thing we’ve written today, but for the scientifically curious we’ll continue.
BAE System’s Mk 38 chain gun was already a formidable opponent: a 250millimeter cannon capable of putting 180 rounds per minute into the air from the deck of a naval ship, strongly urging those without clearance to keep a safe distance (of about 2,000 yards). But in a tip of the hat toward what the U.S. Navy considers the future of shipboard defense, BAE and Boeing have teamed up to accessorize the Mk 38 with a laser death ray. You know, just in case.
The reason most laser systems aren't practical for jobs outside of the lab--things like missile defense or interstellar empire building--is because of their low efficiency and high maintenance. Powerful lasers are by nature big lasers requiring a lot of per unit input per unit of output, and they tend to need highly controlled conditions to function consistently and flawlessly.
It’s unclear which is the bigger news coming out of the Office of Naval Research; the fact that the Navy’s Free Electron Laser (FEL) program has demonstrated an injector capable of producing the necessary electrons to fuel a megawatt-class laser beam, or the fact that a next-generation future weapon under development by the military is months ahead of schedule. Both are good news for the Navy, which might begin lasing threats out of the sky sooner than it anticipated.
Lasers can be powerful weapons — they can take down an aircraft at long ranges and in unstable conditions, for instance. But they are hampered by power and size limits, so they’re not widely used by the military (yet).
Lockheed Martin has a solution: a fiber laser that basically works like a backward prism.
Raytheon revealed its next-gen directed energy weapon at the Farnborough Air Show today, releasing video showing its Laser Weapons System (LaWS) -- a six-laser weapon that focuses on a single target -- engaging and then destroying an unmanned aerial vehicle from the deck of a Navy vessel at sea.
The U.S. military has been searching high and low for a technological answer to the relatively simple but extremely deadly improvised explosive device – the top killer of U.S. troops in Afghanistan – and a relatively vague but interesting article in USA Today suggests they may have found it.