THE BIG BET: HIGH-ENERGY LASERS.

Author:Peterkin, Frank
Position:Office of Naval Research

The rapidly evolving 21st century global security landscape presents a complex, often asymmetric challenge to Navy and Marine Corps warfighters as they operate forward--a situation exacerbated by the proliferation of low-cost advanced weapons and other emerging technologies.

The ability of our adversaries to rapidly leverage and evolve a large variety of commercial technologies drives the need for U.S. naval forces to innovate on ever-faster development cycles and achieve non-linear increases in capabilities.

High-energy laser weapons may be one such game-changing technology. They produce powerful beams of focused laser light that can heat a target at distant range and cause material effects such as degradation, burning or disintegration.

Missions envisioned for them include: defense of naval platforms and forces from attack by missiles, aircraft, unmanned vehicles--both surface and air--countering small boat threats, and countering an adversary's ability to surveil our forces.

Laser weapons bring unique attributes that will complement conventional capabilities. The energy to operate a laser weapon is simply the electricity supplied by the naval platform, offering a deep magazine with extremely low cost-per-shot, and preserving the inventory of higher-cost conventional kinetic weapons designed to address the most stressing threats.

Laser energy can be dialed up or down to achieve scalable effects on a target, with precision not possible from any other type of weapon, greatly reducing concerns about collateral damage. In short, they can enhance the speed and range of engagements, footprint and accuracy of effect, and types of targets that can be engaged successfully.

The Department of the Navy is leaning forward to realize the potential of high-energy laser...

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