back to article US navy to battle Iranian mini-ekranoplan swarms with rayguns

The US military-industrial complex has unveiled its answer to the much-vaunted "swarm" tactics of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard naval forces, which might see squadrons of "stealth" flying boats and attack craft overwhelming the defences of US warships in the Persian Gulf. The US Navy will deal with this, apparently, using …

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Coat

Am I stupid? Let the flaming commence...

Am I stupid in thinking that the laser could be deflected by a mirror?

Mine's the one with flame retardant shell...

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@Mike Hanna

Not stupid, ignorant. Which can be cured ... That's what education is all about :-)

These thingies don't work on wavelengths that you & I can see. Mirrors do. Which is kinda the point, if you get my drift ...

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Mirrors burn just the same

A mirror would be little defence against 0.1 MW of energy; it would burn just the same. It would also defeat any idea of stealth.

The odd thing is, just as a shiny surface is great for radar beams and runining stealth, the propeller on the engine would also be a giveaway. The best bet for the aircraft would be as stand-off platforms to launch modern, cheap Russian anti-ship missiles. But those things travel at +mach2. Firing one of those would probably have the same effect as if I strapped one to the top of my Ford Ka and fired it. I'd cause my damage to myself than the target.

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Hit 'em again!

I vaugely recall that a high power laser would quickly ablate/roughen the mirror's surface until it is no longer effective at reflecting light.

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Boffin

Probably Not...

To both questions...lasers concentrate an extreme amount of energy in a very small space, overwhelming any ordinary mirror's ability to reflect enough energy to remain intact. Perfect (enough) reflectors are a) really expensive to make; b) hard to keep clean (enough) in a maritime environment; and c) make you a REALLY good target for other defensive weapons. Costs alone would probably dictate that any laser defense would be something else, like ablative material, but again, that stuff is usually expensive and adds weight/complexity to a weapon system. Or, coat your ship/plane with a metamaterial that makes you invisible/hard to target in the first place. The Iranians have a good idea, if you're willing to sacrifice lots of lives with cheap equipment for a limited objective.

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Boffin

@Mike Hanna

Mirrors for lasers over a few watts don't hold up well unless they are dielectric mirrors. The rub with dielectric mirrors is that they only work at a fixed wavelength and at a fixed angle of incidence. That's fine if the mirror is part of the laser or laser optical system. But not as a general shield against lasers of unknown attack direction, let alone a priori unknown wavelength.

I know. I work with high power lasers in non-military applications.

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Megaphone

Nice one Jake

Insult a commentator and then go on to not explain why they are wrong.

So, for Mike: Mirrors generally reflect light in the optical (visible) range but actually absorb light at other wavelengths, like infrared, and would over heat and melt pretty fast.

The Laser weapons being developed are in the infrared range and a normal mirror might buy you a few more mili-seconds but otherwise it would be useless. Mirrors made specifically to reflect IR, like those used in the target/focus systems of these ray guns, would be more effective but still problematic. They must be kept clean, dust or salt crystals on the mirrors would still superheat and damage the mirror, which would cause it to absorb more energy until it failed.

Still, looking at history we see that the more advanced the offensive weapon the easier it sometime is to defeat. Just look at radar guided missiles, they cost thousands apiece but can be thrown off target by a few dollars worth of Mylar strips.

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Silver badge

Ignorance is bliss ...

... and only an insult if you are ignorant as to the meaning of the word.

Ignorance can be cured, thru' education. Stupidity is permanent.

Mirrors, by definition, reflect human-visible light. These "rayguns" aren't human visible.

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Anonymous Coward

Wrong again

"the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, which has air and naval units as well as land ones, would like to be able to choke off the Gulf"

Really? Perhaps the author has been taken in by US / UK propaganda, but when was the last time that Iran was the initial aggressor in any Persian gulf conflict? That'll be "never," I think you'll find.

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Stop

@AC

You seem to have some sympathy with Iran, but then deny that they have the simple ability to learn new tactics. Simply, you are engaging in a logical fallacy - just because Iran *has not* been an initial aggressor in the past, it does not mean that it *will not* decide to doe so in the future.

Past performance is no indicator of future performance.

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Anonymous Coward

Pots and kettles?

"squadrons of "stealth" flying boats and attack craft overwhelming the defences of US warships in the Persian Gulf..."

Erm, remind me what legitimate business US warships have in the Persian Gulf? A long thin body of water, its width is around 56 kilometres (35 miles) - not much, especially since it is fairly shallow and hence not uniformly navigable by very large ships such as laden oild tankers. If Iran were to claim a contiguous zone of territorial waters (as does the USA), 24 of those 35 miles would belong to Iran, leaving only 11 miles for shipping of other nations.

Besides, imagine the trouble there would be if a foreign nation were to sail nuclear-powered aircraft carriers (probably equipped with nuclear munitions) within, say, 30 miles of the US coast. (Not to mention if one of that nation's anti-aircraft cruisers were to shoot down, quite deliberately, a US airliner full of civilians following a standard airline route.

Actually, we have already seen something like this scenario (but not nearly so extreme) played out - the Cuban missile crisis of 1962. At that time the USA made it very clear that it would not tolerate nuclear missiles on Cuba - which, at its very nearest point, is well over 100 miles from the USA.

There seems to be a double standard in operation.

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@Tom Welsh

'Erm, remind me what legitimate business US warships have in the Persian Gulf?'

Any business they choose - most of the Persian Gulf is international waters and anyone can sail their ships there.

Whether or not that is a wise idea is another question.

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WTF?

Oh, but it is...

...and thus we can assure ourselves that it will be the US or Israel that will instigate any conflict with Iran. The Iranian govt might be a joke, but their security concerns have always been legitimate and reasonable.

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Happy

A touch of the Benny Hill?

Does anyone else think that the clip of the guys building the little flying boats should have Yakety Sax as its soundtrack?

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Outside of pure research, this is a waste of money.

"According to Northrop, the MLD "burned through small boat sections" in tests conducted last month at the Potomac River Test Range, indicating that its performance over water is up to the job."

Somehow I suspect my .50 Browning will be more effective ... And I really doubt that Iran has more small boats than the US has the capability of putting .50 ammo down-range.

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Don't be so sure.

Rather tricky things, bullets. Especially when trying to score on a moving target whilst *yourself* moving. And unlike in the air, you also have the additional obstacle of the water, which has been demonstrated to do quite a number to a .50-cal round. Worse yet, bullets tend to go down (thanks to gravity) as they fly. So you're talking hitting a relatively small target in flight and low to the water. Not Easy, especially if your time is limited, as it might if you have to deal with multiple craft. Looking back to the kamikaze attacks of World War II (and to bee swarms), a similar swarm, especially low to the water, could be a recipe for trouble (even today) if they come in sufficiently large numbers.

And one last thing: ships may really have more important things to stow aboard than tons of .50-cal ammo. If you're a carrier, you have the planes and their weapons to consider. If you're not, there's always the big-gun ammo and their charges...and the fuel.

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Hail of bullets will do a better job

How long does the laser need to "burn" through the attacking craft? An manned or AI controlled gattling gun every 30 meters along a warship would be able to lay down a thick blanket of bullets or take out each craft within seconds one after the other.

I think focusing R&D on rapid and accurate targetting is more important.

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Grenade

You have a .50 Browning?

Where can I get one?

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@Charles 9

"So you're talking hitting a relatively small target in flight and low to the water. Not Easy,"

Oh, I dunno ... My Standard Poodle rarely gets mad at me when we go duck hunting.

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Go

Title

They did this on the USS Enterprise during WW2. Granted, it took down a fair portion of Zeroes, but, guess what? The ship still sustained heavy damages throughout the war. A small assortment of laser weapons (perhaps 3 per side?) with some method of auto-targetting (the background noise of radar posing a problem in this case) and a means of directing the laser rapidly (deflector mirror of some sort, rather than mechanical turret-style) and you could easily insta-zap hundreds of targets in a matter of seconds. That is, once they figure out that running these things with a nuclear reactor rather than gas-powered turbines is the smarter avenue...

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I'm with the .50 cal concept

Surely phalanx systems or the like deal effectively with shit like this and NG are just out for some Govt. pork by researching a solution to a problem that already has one?

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Okay...

...now, as my previous post stated, where do you store all that lead? And if the assault is sustained, there's still the distinct possibility of running out of ammo.

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Black Helicopters

@ Jake

I know absolutely nothing about the practical application of guns (I'm British - we aren't allowed to), but my mind went immediately to the multiple-barrelled guns slung under helicopter noses - are they called Miniguns? Radar controlled walls of bullets seem to be the order of the day!

Perhaps it is also the fact that I have absolutely no experience of high-powered lasers, and cannot comprehend how one could reliably put enough energy into something in a fraction of a second to significantly damage it whilst both the target and the platform are moving at significant relative speed. All I've seen is that half-arsed Boeing contraption, and was not impressed.

No doubt my ignorance will be corrected.

(Helicopter, obviously)

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@Charles 9 &@ Tim Elphick

Same place they store it today. Carrier groups displace a LOT of water, a largish percentage of that tonnage is ammunition ... Iran doesn't have the capacity in "small boats" to extinguish the manufacturing/replenishing capability of the US (or any small European nation, for that matter). Several dozen pairs of properly trained humans throwing lead down range is the cheapest, easiest, and most foolproof method of dissuading this form of attack, and will be into the foreseeable future. Rayguns are SciFi today ... and probably won't be seen in the field on a regular basis until long after everyone reading this is pushing up daisies.

Tim: If you have to ask, you aren't properly licensed. If you're a Yank, here's a good place to start learning (probably NSFW in the UK and Oz ...):

http://www.nraila.org/Issues/FactSheets/Read.aspx?ID=70

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WHAT??!!

NO SHARKS WITH FRIGGIN' BIG LASERS???!!!

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Go

We JUST Got Our Jetpacks...

Directed energy-equipped Selachimorpha are coming....patience grasshopper.

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JDX
Gold badge

lasers, where?

All I saw was a bunch of motorised pedalos. Where was the Short Circuit style laser that blew them all up?

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US Navy versus Royal Navy

As long as the US navy don't allow their personnel to listen to iPods and surrender at the first inidication of risk, they don't need these expensive new devices...

Senior Service = an indication that they need a cosy chair, a pipe and some comfy slippers.

The only reason they want the new multi-billion dollar carriers is because they want to see if they can turf the decks and set up a 9 hole golf course.

Look who's taking on the Somali pirates. Not the UK's Senior Service. Give them a laser and they'll try and remove excess hair with it.

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WTF?

What are you, some testosterone-filled flyboy?

Get back to your ship and help your commander reach his well-deserved pension scheme status.

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Troll

Relevant link

This helps add context to your post...

http://www.playdota.com/forums/picture.php?albumid=964&pictureid=17471

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mirror

Mirrors only reflect some of the energy in a laser beam. The remaining energy damages the mirror surface. The damaged surface reduces the ability of the mirror to reflect laser energy, so the mirror degrades faster and faster until it's completely destroyed.

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Stop

Why lasers?

Apart from the obvious "look, it's NEW, can we have a fat development grant please?" angle of course.

They already have those "turn a passing shell into swiss cheese" computer controlled gatling "goalkeeper" thingies. I'd have thought a selection of boring old skool 20mm cannon distributed around a ship coupled to a control system borrowed off "goalkeeper" would ensure any "swarm" of speedboats / crap seaplanes / mullahs in dinghys would be toast before they got close enough to be worrying. A dozen* 20mm rounds each will put paid to such, if you can guarantee that they'll hit the damned things and computer control would sort that nicely.

Best of all, defending the ship from such becomes a matter of: press "auto-defence" button / make tea / see what's on TV....

*Economical with the ammo too, always important in a recession that.

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Why Lasers

I dunno. All conjecture here as I don't know much about shipborne lasers. I don't know they've proven lasers are as effective as point defence than 20mm (or like) auto turrets.

Maybe they can mount them higher up on a mast with less weight problems and hence have a further reach.

Less moving parts = smoother quicker tracking?

Assuming they have some sort of equivalence in the ability to affect a kill as a 20mm gun, as a result of the above, faster kills from further? And hence the ability to deal with more threats (compared to a 20mm gun system)?

But all this boils down to what these skimmers can carry. If they shoot fire and forget missles from over the horizon or close enough to be safe, it might negate all the hype and proposed benefits of a laser based AA system.

Then it will be a question of how good the system is then in shooting down inbound missles.

Frankly... one missle? Ok... perhaps a given. The system will deal with it.

BUT 10 or more simultaneously launched missles? That might pose a bit of a problem and it might hurt a little. Good Russian ones are supersonic skimmers, but even slow subsonic ones may overwhelm the system in sufficient numbers.

Unless Jobs does the firmware (and the hype)... Then 'everyone' will believe it will work :P

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What about Phalanx?

I would much rather depend on a tested system capable of shooting down cruise missiles than a Friggin lightbulb laser.

I wonder what those 'small boat sections' were...

The hull fabric of an old canoe?

And what about range?

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Ah, those guys...

The Iranians excel at producing "weaponry" so primitive that modern weapons struggle to cope. Take the "Ambassador of Death", which some Israelis were concerned about because it flies so goddammed slow that they weren't sure if they could shoot it down properly. Now it's these flying boats that manage about 40mph at an altitude of less than 20ft and have no discernable military purpose. Why even bother to shoot them down? What are they going to do, unless we're talking kamikaze tactics? Even for reconnaissance they're no better than a microlight, in fact they're probably easier to shoot down and can't fly as high. Can't wait to see what happens...

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Grenade

Wrong War.

The English were able to use Swordfish torpedo bombers because the calibration of their sights were set for faster speeding aircraft.

This is gone when you use radar guided and tracking since the radar will accurately identify the speed and distance of the target and compensate for that when displaying the tracking and sighting information.

As I said in a different post the real advantage is under RoE.

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Megaphone

Kamikaze.

Hmm.. maybe that's the line. Put enough explosives on board and drive it in and get a guaranteed X number of virgins in the afterlife.

Don't phalanxes and like point defence systems automatically target only objects fulfilling certain criteria (ie altitude and speed)? I believe 40 mph is below that what is normally tracked and assessed as a target.

This may work. LoL.

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Coat

Best bang for your Buck

I wonder how many missiles a carrier group has. The Strait of Hormuz is 54Km wide A nice russian supersonc missile will cover that in a little over a minute. Add to that the clutter of lots of cheap flying revolutionaries, especially if they can get a cheap torpedo onto even a few of these. You could end up with a scenario where the US runs out of missiles before it runs out of targets. I wonder how many you could buy for a billion.

No wonder its a scary scenario.

Mines the one needing the multi megawatt ranged foam cutter. Just for security

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Pirate

Iranian bluff followed by US techno-bragging.

".....A nice russian supersonc missile will cover that in a little over a minute...." OK, let's pretend that the US satellites haven't noticed the Iranians moving missiles into lauch positions near the coast, and neither has the CIA, and the Iranians manage a (very unlikley) surprise launch. Firstly, what are they going to launch? They don't have any new Russian cruise, the best they have are some old Chinese junk (Silkworm) that British missiles from the 80's can deal with. No new missiles for the Iranians - they're under UN embargo. Then, you have a missile that has to start from zero - not Mach 2 - and accellerate upwards to gain height as it gains speed (otherwise they fall into the ground). Launch means a big IR splash (visible to recce aircraft if not shipborne sensors and probably from satellites), and even the slightest upward launch means a radar spike with modern radar systems. Even if the missile managed to accellerate and complete its flight in a minute, that's plenty of time for even antiquated platforms like Phalanx to get a lock and fire, let alone Sea Sparrow or PAAMS.

This whole "all-Iranian superduper stealth seaplane" rubbish is just the usual Iranian noise machine - pinch an idea from the West or the Russians, copy it (badly), then dress it up as some war-winning superweapon to try and make the Iranian people think they live in some technically advanced wonderland, rather than the truth - modern day Iran is less advanced in many ways than most African countries. The Bavar carries a single light-machinegun - not much threat to a frigate, let alone a carrier. At best, it migh be able to get airborne with an infantry antitank missile (though how the pilot would guide it and avoid return fire at the same time is anyone's guess) - again, not much of a threat, even if you had a few dozen. Even if they went kamikaze, the tiny payload would do little more than dent a carrier's deck. Ooh, no, here come the Bavars, better get the brooms ready!

A few F-18s would make mince of the Bavars in minutes, even SeaCobras would find them sitting ducks! No need for lasers. Which is why I also think the whole laser thing is just American bravado to accentuate the difference in leagues between them and the Iranians - look, the Iranians can only copy funny ekranoplans, lets show them and teh World who's the high-tech superpower and make some lasers!

/Yeeaaaarggghhhh! Well, why not?

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Anonymous Coward

Mirrors

A reflective surface should deflect the beam fine. Just possibly not one made of metallized glass. After all when a solid state laser is lasing, photons are merrily bouncing around inside a crystal. A rough surface of a crystalline material which does not attenuate the particular wavelength too much where the facet size is a few orders of magnitude larger than the wavelength backed by a layer of fluid of some sort over a dark painted surface might just work.

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Go

Call Blake and Mortimer

They know how to defend the strait of Hormuz

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.50 cal ????

I believe the U.S. Navy protects most of its high value targets with 20mm gatling style rotary cannons - the infamous R2D2's. Those wing in ground effect airboats appear a straight knock off of the 70's era Lippisch X-113 Am Aerofoil Boat, and look to have the same payload - little to none.

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another reason

to complety desroy all of Iran military/nuclear installion NOW. Iran is a enemy of humaniy and should be destroy ASAP.

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Ayatollahs with A-bombs?

Remember that no nuclear power has ever been waged war on by another nuclear power. Ever. At least not yet. Bush & Blair underscored the point by attacking all the "hostile" countries surrounding Iran (they didn't have nukes, poor buggers) but leaving Iran untouched, since the mullah's there have been very good at playing the "well, we might just have them" game.

That's not to say that nuclear powers in bed with jihadiis is not a scary proposition (e.g. Pakistan), but just what price is "The West" willing to pay to try to put the nuclear genie back in the bottle (were it possible), or at least keep the bottle out of the hands of "the axis of evil"?

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@Mectron

Especially now that Iran has been declared to have the world's second largest oil reserves after Saudi Arabia

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Welcome

Yup

Thats basically what they are saying. Perpetual war for perpetual peace. I suspect they have an evil-overlords madlib game somewhere:

<Country name> is harbouring <bad thing> and supporting <morally untenable thing>.

We need to ensure the national security of <country> against possible threats from <name of ragtag bunch of rebels we bankrolled in the 80's>.

The <ragtag bunch of rebels> are incredibly fearsome fighters capable of shooting <fire/plasma/lighting> from their <orifice>. They are highly trained and highly organised, capable of wielding fearsome power via their <supergun/swarm robots/nuclear programme/chemical weapons>. *

For the benefit of <humanity/god/the children, oh god won't someone think of the children> we must wipe this group off the face of the planet. This has nothing to do with the presence of <abundant and valulable natural resource>.

We therefore in our infinite benevolence have begun <name of benevolent invasion>.

Unfortunately due to the new and dramatic threat posed by people who object to <name of benevolent invasion>, we must remove the right to <civil liberty> and have implemented <expensive and degrading project> at all international airports.

I for one welcome: <Too-horrifying-to-be-made-up reigime>

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Anonymous Coward

Been tried before, didn't work

The Germans tried to swamp allied defences with their K-Verband operations, using midget subs like the Biber, and Seehunde together with Linsen explosive boats. Most where detected by radar and destroyed. In the end they didn't swamp the defences, and where more of a threat to their operators than the allies. Schnellboots, fast attack craft armed with long range weapons where much more effective. The Iranians would be better off with trying to swamp the defences with chaff and sea skimming missiles.

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yes, but...

Lots of things were tried 66 years ago that didn't work then, but might work now.

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