Thursday, May 24, 2018

"Shipboard Lasers Are Becoming Reality"

Norman Friedman writes in USNI Proceedings World Naval Developments: Shipboard Lasers Are Becoming Reality | U.S. Naval Institute
Defense contractor Lockheed-Martin received a Navy contract this year to deliver a high-energy shipboard laser system with two separate but linked capabilities by 2020.
Lockheed Martin image
The “high energy laser and integrated optical-dazzler with surveillance” (HELIOS) system will combine the ability to attack and destroy unmanned aircraft and small boats with an intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capability linked to a long-range, high-resolution camera. The camera system includes a laser with the ability to damage—“dazzle”—sensors on unmanned aircraft.

The Navy and other services also hope that lasers will provide a capability to respond to high-performance targets, particularly missiles. An antimissile laser system would not need to distinguish between decoys and actual missiles and instead could employ its nearly unlimited capacity to attempt to destroy all of them without needing to husband scarce defensive missiles.

The promise of electric weapons—including not only lasers but also particle beams—largely motivated the Navy’s move toward all-electric ship propulsion with the Zumwalt - (DDG-1000) class destroyers. The hope was that in combining propulsion with auxiliary power plants, ships would gain electric power capacity sufficient for such weapons.

With both the Russian and Chinese governments developing hypersonic antiship cruise missiles, the need for new antiaircraft weapons has become more urgent. A defensive missile ought to be at least as fast as its target, so that it can maneuver into position to intercept. (Faster is better.) Navy Standard Missile air defense interceptors have speeds ranging from Mach 2.5 up to about Mach 4, depending on the specific variant. (Antiballistic missile interceptors are much faster.) “Hypersonic” missiles by definition travel no slower than Mach 5, with China’s DF-17 having a claimed speed of Mach 10. At such rates of travel, the time available for an engagement would be extremely short. A defender responding to a Mach-10 missile launched at a range of 1,000 miles would have eight minutes to acquire, classify, engage, and destroy the threat.
The "kamikaze threat" has been around for over 70 years, hypersonic missiles are just a much faster variant. As I have said before, no matter how fast the missile, the speed of light is faster.

Lockheed press release on this here:
The U.S. Navy awarded Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT) a $150 million contract, with options worth up to $942.8 million, for the development, manufacture and delivery of two high power laser weapon systems, including intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) and counter-Unmanned Aerial System (counter-UAS) capabilities, by fiscal year 2020. With the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) system, Lockheed Martin will help the Navy take a major step forward in its goal to field laser weapon systems aboard surface ships.

"The HELIOS program is the first of its kind, and brings together laser weapon, long-range ISR and counter-UAS capabilities, dramatically increasing the situational awareness and layered defense options available to the U.S. Navy," said Michele Evans, vice president and general manager of Integrated Warfare Systems and Sensors. . .
Lockheed Martin image
HELIOS combines three key capabilities, brought together for the first time in one weapon system:

- A high-energy laser system: The high-energy fiber laser will be designed to counter unmanned aerial systems and small boats. The energy and thermal management system will leverage Lockheed Martin experience on Department of Defense programs, and the cooling system will be designed for maximum adaptability onboard ships. In addition, Lockheed Martin will bring decades of shipboard integration experience, reducing risk and increasing reliability.
- A long-range ISR capability: HELIOS sensors will be part of an integrated weapon system, designed to provide decision-makers with maximum access to information. HELIOS data will be available on the Lockheed Martin-led Aegis Combat System.
- A counter-UAS dazzler capability: The HELIOS dazzler will be designed to obscure adversarial UAS-based ISR capabilities.
More here:
“Our beam control technology enables precision equivalent to shooting a beach ball off the top of the Empire State Building from the San Francisco Bay Bridge.” Paul Shattuck, Director of Directed Energy systems
I sure hope so.

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