Energy Weapons (at sea)

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When missile development has moved to hypersonic speeds, a speed-of-light response is necessary unless you want to loose the fight. Vaporize or be vaporized.


The U.S. Navy’s new MK 2 MOD 0 laser shot down a drone in testing about a year ago. The laser is the Navy’s most powerful shipboard laser to date. The weapon, also known as LWSD, has the power to shoot down drones, rockets, and artillery shells.

Fast Steering Mirrors (FSMs), are used to rapidly and precisely maintain the laser beam on target, even when the target is moving, the ship carrying the laser is moving and there is atmospheric interference in between.

The challenge has been to build mirrors which will not be destroyed by a laser beam which is designed to punch holes in hostile vessels or drones miles away.

They aren’t new to the fleet. The AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System or XN-1 LaWS, pictured above, was installed on USS Ponce for field testing in 2014. In December 2014, the United States Navy reported that the LaWS system worked perfectly against low-end asymmetric threats, and that the commander of Ponce is authorized to use the system as a defensive weapon.

USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) LSD-15

The British Royal Navy has its own laser system, “Dragonfire“. There is an article about the development and modification of the system here (h/t Claudio)

The need to destroy incoming drones has spurred the development of these weapons. The word “drone” merely means that it is an unmanned aircraft.


Chinese Rail Gun

The Chinese are working hard to develop similar systems (pictured right), from rail guns to lasers. Naval platforms are by their nature mobile, and they have ship’s power to run the weapon. They’ve become ideal platforms for these systems and as tech demonstrators until they can be deployed to the fleet.

Which brings us to the rail gun. Nobody knows whether they will achieve their operationally desired results. A railgun is a linear motor device, typically designed as a weapon, that uses electromagnetic force to launch high velocity projectiles. The projectile normally does not contain explosives, instead relying on the projectile’s high speed, mass, and kinetic energy to inflict damage.

37 thoughts on “Energy Weapons (at sea)

  1. So glad that you are back on line. As a landlocked Kansan, I enjoy your knowledge about the oceans and the vessels that ply the waves!

    1. There are also the non-nuclear EMP’s. Essentially it’s a very high power radar. Scientists modified radar (picking the best band), which bounced pulses of energy off aircraft in flight, ships at sea or objects in space. The EMP is sent out as one massive pulse in the hopes of frying circuits. A lot of military equipment is hardened against that sort of thing, but civilian infrastructure that military bases rely on, is not.

      1. I once wowed the IT department of my last employer when I informed them an F-35’s AESA radar could fry the full complement of electronics in the head office (over 1.000 employees wordwide, hundreds of PCs and servers at HQ) in a single pass. From high altitude. And leave the competition next door unscathed.

  2. We just transferred over to Starlink, 100mbps average. Has little ‘beta” down time here and there (seconds), but 10x-50x (depending on bandwidth use and sat positioning) over Cellular, and like a lot of “better tech” dirt simple to install and significantly less expensive. The tech is a leap forward but also proves stuff from “space” can be used for either side of the spectrum. Hopefully those not liking Musk will leave his floaty space gear alone and only use their weaponry on the bad guys. (Hey, a guy can have hope.)

      1. Check the website to see if it’s available in your area. If so order the whole shebang ($460 I think), otherwise you get in a waiting cue and it’s limited first come first serve. $100 per month, unlimited data…it’ll change your life. Been generally flawless, even thru that last 3-footer and ice.

        Download the App to verify you have no obstructions to the northern sky at approx. 100 deg width with the on screen assist. The dish is powered (cable is only 100′ and proprietary so can’t be lengthened), it hunts for the satellite, has a heater in it to keep it clear of snow and ice, and sits on the ground, pole, deck, or bolts to the roof, it points almost vertical or slight down angle. Comes with a router but we piggybacked an older Netgear to it (has a ethernet port) for older gear connectivity.

        (geez, I sound like a danged salesman, but like anything a little info makes or breaks viability.)

  3. The main drawback to a ship-mounted, directed-energy weapon is limited range. A laser has to shoot in a straight line and curvature of the earth makes that weapon shoot over any important target in “a few” miles. If the goal is ship to ship.

    The feedback mechanism to keep the laser on target has the potential to make the laser weapons useful. The lasers superheat the air they’re going through, changing the density and refractive index which changes where the beam ends up. With optical feedback showing where the beam is hitting and correcting the path, they have a better chance of keeping it on target.

    I wonder how well it can do that over miles of laser travel. The dense air right over the water is where those heating affects will be the worst. Of course, the curvature of the earth renders any directed energy weapon useless beyond that zone. The laser is better for shooting down missiles higher in the atmosphere.

    But I’m sure you know all this.

    1. Yes, I do know that, SiG, but your comments are appreciated.

      The boundary layer (over the ocean) is very turbulent in terms of air movement and is thick with moisture, which attenuates a laser dramatically. I think that ship born lasers are designed to replace the rolling airframe missiles and AAA (phalanx, goalkeeper, etc) principally because they operate at the speed of light, and the new hypersonic missiles will be on the ship before those anti-missile systems that I mentioned can become effective.

      Maybe you or DRJIM will shoot me down, but I can’t imagine a wave-skimming hypersonic missile — operating in that boundary layer. Cruise missiles of various sorts tend to fly above that and then drop down into it for their terminal flight because they’re more difficult to shoot down when they’re right on the surface of the ocean.

      Different bands of radar “see” targets differently (as you know) and allow targeting systems to follow those energy pulses to the target. With the laser targeting a hypersonic weapon, optics have to come into play as well.

      I personally never thought that lasers/light would be effective over the ocean because of the refraction problem and the energy needed to compensate for that, but the problem has apparently been solved – at least to some degree.

      I don’t think that lasers are ideal for targeting ships. You’d need one heck of a laser to take out a ship. A hypersonic missile, coming at you (terminal flight) at somewhere around mach 3 or 4, only needs a small nudge or deformation of the nosecone to bump it into the ocean or to bump it off course.

      1. “You’d need one heck of a laser to take out a ship.”
        Fair enough. But you don’t need a laser — it was demonstrated not long ago that you can take out an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer using only a single LTJG. Who was almost certainly cheaper to produce than a big-ass laser. And can also be produced by unskilled labor to boot.

        1. An inside job is always easier. That’s why the Assassins (old man in the mountain) were so effective historically.

          1. Yeah, I’m pretty sure the lasers are intended for the high-arc, fast-mover stuff, eventually.


  4. There’s a new target I’d like to “smite” right now, assuming the rail gun can fire through a jail cell roof; THIS piece of human debris:

    “A 21-year-old man has been identified as the suspect in the shooting deaths of 10 people, including a police officer, at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado, officials said Tuesday.

    Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa was charged with 10 counts of first-degree murder in connection with Monday’s mass shooting at the King Soopers grocery store”

    In my early years I lived up the street from this store…Table Mesa is not exactly a prime location for something like this to happen. Of course, the first thing someone being interviewed said, “We need stricter gun laws!”, like that would have made a difference.

    How is it that none happened during the Trump administration yet two months into Biden’s term all of a sudden happens??? You watch, Biden and his handlers, Gov. Polis, and every Lefty Dem will use this tragedy as an excuse to confiscate law-abiding citizens guns.

    I believe what happened was on purpose…means to an end amidst the current destruction being foisted on America. This will get uglier, jailing good people while criminals walk free.

    Rant over.

    1. I should add, this happened roughly a week after a [proper] judge reversed the City’s ban and confiscation “rule” of “black guns”, aka “assault” rifles. People told them to go pound sand. Happenstance? I think not.

      1. I hate coincidences.

        As to the Mohammedan murderer, justice should be swift, severe and certain. But it won’t be. Think back to Major Nidal Hasan and the Fort Hood shooting. Any prosecution would be Islamophobic. He murdered 13 soldiers (and an unborn baby) for shits and giggles. It’s true that a military court sentenced Hasan to death, but he’s still breathing. I’d slaughter a hog, gut it, stuff Hasan into the (weighted) carcass and dump him in the ocean. But I understand that qualifies as cruel an unusual. They could have assembled a firing squad after he was sentenced, some nine years or so ago. But nobody did.

    2. I don’t want the guy “smited” at all. I want to see details about this guy in the news 24/7.
      Which of course will not happen.
      And there is nothing suspicious about the timing, absolutely nothing at all.

      1. The MSM already tried to make him a white supremacist, and are mum once his “affiliations” (including being a rabid Trump hater) have been released. Zero repercussions for false reporting. The Hologram’s handlers needed a diversion from the border crisis.

        1. If he talked, there’s always the possibility that he could end up like Lee Harvey Oswald, murdered by a mob-associate in the Dallas Police Station. But there was no conspiracy there either. None at all, move on.

  5. I have a tendency to let my mind wander on “interesting” problems.

    I had a friend who worked for a nameless defense company doing laser experiments in the early years, and he told me how they couldn’t get the laser to dwell on a target long enough to hurt because of the atmospheric instability. This was over relatively short ranges on their company property; say ranges in the class of precision rifle matches. That stuck with me.

      1. Some of it is corrected with “Adaptive Optics”, and “Predistortion”, but I haven’t been following that line of work in quite a while. One problem is “blooming” of the beam, as it’s heating the air it travels through, changing it’s refractive index.

        I’ve never worked with lasers and optics like that, so my knowledge is limited.

    1. Chaff can be useful, and I think our Navy ships still have dispensers for it. The Iowa had a “Super Rapid Blooming Chaff and Flares” dispenser on each side of the ship. They look like little mortars, and can be reloaded from “ready supply” lockers placed on the deck nearby.

      And there’s a whole bunch of various “jamming” transmitters on the ships that can raise havoc with an enemy’s radar.

      1. The Super RBOC’s are older than I am. I’m sure that we have them and they work, and we can jam if we know that a missile is inbound, but historically, many cruise missiles are deceived and others are not, thus CWIS, RAM, etc. The lasers are there to defeat hypersonic weapons, if they work. The whole fleet doesn’t have them yet, but it’s only a matter of time.

        1. When was the last time any of our ships were fired on by a missile-wielding opponent? I’m sure there have been some in the not too distant past, but the only one that comes to mind is HMS Sheffield. Were any missiles fired at our ships in the Gulf Wars or since then?

          Sorry if this is widely known, but I’ve got a memory hole there….

          1. Yes. We shot down / soft-killed some missiles fired at a Burke off Yemen within the last 18 months.

            That was probably antique garbage incoming, and it was definitely fired by primitive savages, but it’s still nice to see the gear works.


          2. On 17 May 1987, an Iraqi jet aircraft fired two Exocet missiles at the USS Stark (FFG 31). Both Exocet missiles hit, killing 37 sailors and wounding 21.

  6. Question for those smarter than me;
    Would a solid round fired from a rail gun (assuming hyper velocity) be able to defeat the directed energy weapon?
    The projectiles would need to be very resistant to heat deformation and can be fired from extended ranges in theory
    Have at it

    1. The only way I can answer this is “It Depends…..”.

      Mass of the projectile and composition are variables, along with delivered-on-target laser energy, and time of duration.

      Since these are all unknown to me, anything I said would be pure speculation.

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