US Navy eyes laser arsenal by 2014
By 2014, a United States Navy official expects to add laser weapons to its arsenal, a tech site reported this week.
Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, who heads the Office of Naval Research, gave this timetable in contrast to his technicians' earlier estimates that laser guns won't come until 2016.
“On directed energy, I’d say two years,” he told Wired.com's Danger when asked for an estimate.
“We’re well past physics ... We’re just going through the integration efforts. Hopefully, that tells you we’re well mature, and we’re ready to put these on naval ships,” he added.
He also allayed engineering concerns about whether there will be enough power for the laser gun.
“I’ve got the power. I just need to know on this ship, this particular naval vessel, what are the power requirements, and how do I integrate that directed energy system or railgun system,” he said.
Klunder also indicated shipboard testing is underway, adding there have been “very successful” tests for shipboard laser weapons.
He cited recent tests where the Navy’s lasers brought drones down, although he declined to elaborate.
On the other hand, another problem is whether the Navy can afford it.
Adm. Mark Ferguson, the Navy’s vice chief, warned that “research and development is part of that reduction” in defense budgets currently scheduled to take effect in January.
Klunder wants to raise the bar for commercially available drone submarines.
Presently, commercially available subs can swim for several days at a time, according to Frank Herr, an Office of Naval Research department head who works on so-called unmanned underwater vehicles.
But that is still way behind what Navy leaders want - to cross oceans without needing to refuel.
“The propulsion systems that I think you’re going to see within a year are going to [give] a UUV with over 30 days of endurance,” Klunder said.
By 2016, officials expect a prototype drone sub for the office’s Long Duration Unmanned Underwater Vehicle program to spend 60 days underwater at a time.
Also, Herr noted batteries built into present-day prototype drone subs take up a lot of the ship, and building bigger subs may increase the need for power.
The Office of Naval Research is thus working on using more efficient fuel cells while designing subs that need less energy to run.
“We’re thinking about power requirements for these systems as well as the power [sources] available for them,” Herr said.
Klunder added the breakthrough is really on getting past more traditional lead-acid battery pieces to more technically robust but also mature lithium-ion fuel cell technology or related hybrids. — TJD, GMA News