Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Discussing New Naval Weapons

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Never a group to rest on their laurels, the US military is set to bring some interesting new weapons on line in the next few decades. The one that is nearest to implementation sounds promising:

Free Electron Laser. A shipboard point defense weapon, the laser will fight off swarms of both high end anti-ship cruise missiles and low-tech, explosive laden small boats. The trick will be developing controllable laser beam strength for "graduated lethality and speed of light engagement. An Innovative Naval Prototype program is scheduled to begin in 2010.
It sounds as if it will replace or at east supplement the CIWS currently used on board most naval vessels.

In the conceptual phase, the Navy is looking at this baby:

Electromagnetic Railgun. A rail gun uses magnetic rails instead of an explosive charge to accelerate a solid projectile to super high velocities, around Mach 7, promising accurate strikes on targets out to 230 miles with damage inflicted by the projectile's kinetic impact. ONR set a world record this year with its laboratory gun for the highest electromagnetic muzzle energy launch of a projectile -- 10 megajoules (I'm told a hand grenade is equivalent to somewhere around 1 megajoule). Drawing enough power -- around 3 million amps per shot -- to fire the guns remains a distinct challenge, particularly onboard smaller destroyer sized vessels. Finding strong enough material to build barrels that can stand up to repeated firings at such high muzzle energies pose another challenge.
Let's hope they can figure out how to get that particular weapon into production pronto.

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