The U.S. Navy will be testing a rail gun in 2016 that shoots projectiles faster than the speed of sound by using electromagnetic energy. But first, it will be testing a laser weapon prototype later this year.
“We’re beyond lab coats — we’re into engineering now,” said Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert during a speech about the rail guns at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space Expo in National Harbor, Md., technology website Ars Technica reports.
The tests with the laser weapon prototype will take place in the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Ponce, according to an Office of Naval Research release
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“This is a revolutionary capability,” said Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, Chief of Naval Research. “It’s absolutely critical that we get this out to sea with our sailors for these trials, because this very affordable technology is going to change the way we fight and save lives.
“Our nation’s adversaries are pursuing a variety of ways to try and restrict our freedom to operate,” Klunder continued. “Spending about $1 per shot of a directed-energy source that never runs out gives us an alternative to firing costly munitions at inexpensive threats.”
The laser weapons are part of the Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, that uses “relatively low-power directed energy weapon intended to take out drones, small boats, and other threats at fairly close range,” said Ars Technica.
Tests on the laser weapons continue at the Naval Surface Warfare Center’s Dahlgren Division in Dahlgren, Va. The ONR says the rail gun uses a “video game-like controller that [a] sailor will be able to [use to] manage the laser’s power to accomplish a range of effects against a threat, from disabling to complete destruction.”
The U.S. Navy is expected to decide in 2015 which of the laser prototypes will potentially be chosen for installation on many of the Navy’s ships.
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