Magazine article National Defense

Navy Looking at Lasers to Defend Ships from Enemy Aircraft

Magazine article National Defense

Navy Looking at Lasers to Defend Ships from Enemy Aircraft

Article excerpt

EXPLORING TECHNOLOGY IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Lasers that typically are used in industrial welding could become important weapons to defeat enemy aircraft, officials say.

The Navy recently tested commercial welding lasers and has proven that the beams are capable of knocking small planes out of the sky.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

Navy engineers last summer strung together six fiber lasers at China Lake Naval Air Warfare Center, Calif., and shot down five unmanned aerial vehicles at tactically relevant ranges, said Capt. David Kiel, program manager for directed energy and electric weapons at Naval Sea Systems Command.

The unmanned aircraft in the demonstration were made of carbon-fiber composites. Scientists lined up the lasers precisely in a method called "coherent beam combining" to fire on the targets, he said.

Another test was scheduled in May on St. Nicholas Island, Calif. This time it was in a maritime environment with the lasers' electronics integrated with the MK 15 Phalanx close-in weapons system, a 20mm rapid-fire gun found aboard most Navy ships.

"We believe we're clearly ready to be a program of record, to go out and integrate these commercial lasers and a beam director onto a close-in weapons system and be able to kill those tactically relevant UAVs for a nickel's worth of electricity per shot," Kiel said in an interview. …

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