back to article US Navy's LASER CANNON WARSHIP: USS Ponce sent to Gulf

After years of promises the US Navy has deployed its first operational laser cannon, which has been built into the USS Ponce and sent into a combat zone. The 30-kilowatt laser weapon system (LaWS) has been mounted high up on Ponce's superstructure, and a flashy video released by the Navy shows it blowing up parts of boats and …

Anonymous Coward

Re: HMS Unicorn

"if the gov makes any more cuts we might need to press-gang [HMS Unicorn] into service once more :("

Presumably it couldn't be made ready in time to help out in the incident off Scotland a couple of weeks ago, when a suspected Russian submarine was observed not far from the UK base at Faslane.

The UK, now having no maritime patrol aircraft of its own (!?), had to call for support from maritime patrol aircraft from the US, Canada, and France. That's what friends are for. (What's Trident for?)

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/defence/11283926/Britain-forced-to-ask-Nato-to-track-Russian-submarine-in-Scottish-waters.html

http://www.heraldscotland.com/news/home-news/how-the-hunt-for-the-red-december-in-scottish-waters-exposes-the-gaping-hole-in-brita.26083433

1
0

It was named after the explorer Juan Ponce de León

Discoverer of Florida (although the natives had been aware of it for millennia) and a former Spanish governor of Puerto Rico.

4
0

Re: It was named after the explorer Juan Ponce de León

So, they could have called it something pretty cool - the USS De León - but they called it the USS Ponce instead?

23
1
Silver badge

Re: It was named after the explorer Juan Ponce de León

Or swap a few letters around and call it the USS Delorean.

I wonder how many lasers can be powered with 1.21 jigawatts.

9
1
Headmaster

Re: It was named after the explorer Juan Ponce de León

I believe it was named after the city of Ponce in Puerto Rico (a colony of the U.S.).

0
2
Silver badge
Happy

Re: It was named after the explorer Juan Ponce de León

{Snort} I was stationed for six and a half years on the USS Leftwich. Upon receiving the orders to her, I asked the Chief Personnel-Man: "What's a Leftwich?" He replied: "I don't know." I had to go off and find a copy of Jane's "Fighting Ships" to answer that.

[She, the USS Leftwich [DD-984], was named after one crazy Colonel in the US Marine Corps that repeated went into a crashed helicopter in Vietnam to rescue his men. He died of injuries sustained. He earned the Navy Cross for that, aside from already holding a Silver Star and two Bronze Stars. Like I said, crazy ;-). And yeah, I still miss my ship. Which proves I'm just as crazy, but we knew that. Didn't we?]

6
0
Silver badge
Boffin

Re: It was named after the explorer Juan Ponce de León

"I wonder how many lasers can be powered with 1.21 jigawatts"

Just one. But it's a big bastard.

3
0

Re: It was named after the explorer Juan Ponce de León

So, Juan was the ponce. Who was Leon?

0
2

Re: It was named after the explorer Juan Ponce de León

Assuming jigawatts is a bad pronunciation of gigawatts, at the expected top end of LAWS powers it's about 8000 (8066 to be precise)

0
3

Re: Assuming jigawatts is a bad pronunciation of gigawatts

I believe the phrase "Whooosh!" was invented for situations such as these....

(Hint; watch "Back To The Future")

6
1
Silver badge
Coat

Re: Assuming jigawatts is a bad pronunciation of gigawatts

Although jigawatts brings to mind images of Austin Powers and laser jub'd fembots.

Makes a change from sharks I suppose.

Coat? Mine's the slighty grubby mac, thanks.

2
1
Coat

Re:Juan was the ponce. Who was Leon?

Juan Ponce or two?

3
1

Re: It was named after the explorer Juan Ponce de León

Presumably Leon was his 'friend' ; )

0
1
Silver badge
Headmaster

Re: It was named after the explorer Juan Ponce de León

Assuming jigawatts is a bad pronunciation of gigawatts

Technically gigawatts should be pronounced with a soft 'g'. it's the same Greek root as words like giant and gigantic. In English the hard 'g' has become pretty much the standard thanks to the way the US computer industry uses it (except when used for the purposes of time travel).

0
1

This post has been deleted by its author

Silver badge

Re: It was named after the explorer Juan Ponce de León

If we're getting all technical (and ignoring the cultural reference), the Greek letter Gamma (Γγ) is pronounced somewhere between a 'G' and 'Y'. Greek has no equivalent of 'J', the closest being τζ or δζ.

Anyway, the technical incorrectness makes the film more enjoyable, not less, so who cares?

1
1
Anonymous Coward

ACME MIRRORS INC

Wonder if you could reflect the beam back at the American aggressor with something shiney and reflective? Wonder if Graphine could absorb the energy?

0
0

Re: ACME MIRRORS INC

Possibly, but unlikely. From the video, it looks like the first indication that you're being 'lasered' at is that things start glowing red and exploding.

3
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: ACME MIRRORS INC

well, it's a laser, so presumably it's own internal mirrors defining the laser cavity are reflective enough (unless it's beam combining multi-laser). Whether or not such mirrors will work/stay clean/be correctly aligned/whatever when they're on your T-shirt is another matter. Might be better to stay camoflaged rather than try to be visible but shiny enough. Especially if they also have ordinary weapons.

0
0

Re: ACME MIRRORS INC

You could cover your vehicle with corner reflectors. Nonetheless, you'd still have the same problem that the Ponce's laser has. One spot of sea spray or seagull poo on the front of the optics and it all goes pop. How can you keep them dirt free? This looks like a fair weather weapon to me.

5
0

Re: ACME MIRRORS INC

Any dirt or guano affecting the laser's output would cause it to overheat. Its temperature could be continuously monitored and a warning given to the operator should it reach dangerous levels - e.g. "Laser temperature critical, exercise extreme caution."

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: "unless it's beam combining multi-laser"

It is, at least according to some other report I read a few days ago. Half a dozen or so combined into one. Sorry, can't remember where, but you know the usual routine.

0
0

Re: ACME MIRRORS INC

Great, now I have this image of some naval gunner furiously hammering the escape key, overriding the thermal shut down and hoping to keep the pulse lasers firing for long enough to take down that madcat before the LRM batteries reload...

1
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: ACME MIRRORS INC

Warning. Heat level critical. Shutting down.

(Followed by frantic Ctrl+O-ing to override it)

1
0
Silver badge
Mushroom

Re: ACME MIRRORS INC

> long enough to take down that madcat before the LRM batteries

hmmmm.. Madcat II. My favourite (albeit heavily customised) mech..

0
0
Silver badge

Re: ACME MIRRORS INC

Wonder if Graphine could absorb the energy?

Absorbing the energy is absolutely the last thing you want to be doing, unless you want to get very hot, very quickly.

1
1

Looks like it traverses and elevates exceptionally slowly relative to standard guns. I wonder if the innards can only take so much acceleration. Anyways, how can I be anything but positive about actual working laser cannon, even if they are terrible weapons of war. Hopefully they'll be shooting down flying cars and enemies on jetpacks before we know it.

7
0
Silver badge

I've been looking at optical weapons systems since the '80's. One real problem, aside from the cleanliness and thermal blooming, is keeping the damned thing in alignment. On a surface ship you also have problems with keeping it on target as the platform (ship) is almost always moving some direction or three. (Even in port!) That's a known class of problem since we also have to keep our satellite antennae correctly pointed. Oh, and you assume that the platform isn't performing radical maneuvers 'cause somebodies not sent a plane, torpedo or missile your way. Less chance of that on an amphibious vessel such as the USS Ponce, though.

What I wonder is why they haven't taken a directed energy weapon (laser), used the thermal blooming problem as an and drop high-voltage into the plasma. Should do a proper number of a lot of things, not just drones. Especially if you use a beam right up there in the green/nitrogen frequencies. Oh well.

2
0

There is a cracking episode of Horizon available on iPlayer, called the Race to Ruin. It dates from the 1981-82 series, and is about the US military industrial complex. Laser weapons are shown in the episode, and it explains why they are not practically viable (at least in the early eighties).

It's great. Watch it.

1
0

If you've been looking into optical weapons for that long, either they're very ineffective or you're lucky to have kept your eyesight...

2
0

"Looks like it traverses and elevates exceptionally slowly relative to standard guns. I wonder if the innards can only take so much acceleration."

<snip>

This is true but the ship in question is sponsored by Johnson & Johnson which effectively means it has its own supply tanker of KY jelly standing by. This means that acceleration of the innards and rapid erectile traverses, elevation and blow back are mitigated by the constant application of the said product.

Having said that, my military specification was "Deep Penetration of the Enemy's Rear" make of that what you will.

0
0
Silver badge

Sounds like the enemy just needs to cover everything with silver / mirror paint. Of course, then it becomes far easier to see them coming...

As far as stopping the laser, drop a tar bomb on it.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Polished metal mirrors are not perfectly reflective, at least not at all wavelengths. From a quick check on Wikipedia, silver is no better than about 95% below 1000nm (and even worse at visible wavelengths). You can do better with carefully designed optical surfaces (interference based mirrors), but those aren't something you just paint onto a surface. Depending on the beam spot size, even 5% of 30KW might deposit enough heat to tarnish the brightly polished mirror that you've somehow managed to maintain at sea, and "tarnish" is not generally highly reflective.

(That said, I'm assuming they are seriously over-selling the capabilities, and when they say it "performed flawlessly in tests", I assume that translates to "100% of the money we spent on it went to defense contractors"...)

9
0
Silver badge

"Polished metal mirrors are not perfectly reflective, at least not at all wavelengths."

No, but I wonder what would happen with a glass light pipe or fibre optic type of defence, or even a coating of simple glass spheres? I'd be VERY interested to see the videos of trials of this weapon system against this sort of materials. Even simple reflective chaff would seem likely to risk eye damage to anybody unfortunate enough to be looking towards the target in the fraction of a second before it burns through.

I'd accept that you'd still take out the target, but the countermeasures could already have been effective in "sharing" the damage. We're already using $1m missiles to take out Toyota pick ups in Syria and Iraq. Perhaps the price of blowing up an Iranian gunboat will be blinding a couple of unlucky US fast jet pilots and a handful of seamen? Glass spheres or prisms could have a very interesting effect:

"Ensign!"

"SIr, yesir!"

"Target that Palantir"

"Errr...is that wise sir?"

"Just do it"

"Yessir!

"Oh bugger"

It is worth bearing in mind that various middle east nations have shown themselves adept at asymmetric warfare, countering technologically advanced forces with simple, cheap techniques. If the US picks yet another fight with the locals the results could be interesting if this thing is around.

2
0

Or, drop a tar bomb on any target which is silver / mirror painted. Then target the tar with the laser.

Toasty

1
0
Silver badge

"Or, drop a tar bomb on any target which is silver / mirror painted. Then target the tar with the laser."

If you can drop a tar bomb on it, why not just drop a bomb on it?

5
0
Silver badge

"why not just drop a bomb on it?"

Because new toys are always so much more fun.

I was watching a tv programme last night about the 1304 siege of Stirling Castle. Edward I has besieged it for 4 months to no avail, until he got his engineers to come up with the biggest trebuchet ever made. On seeing it, the Scots surrendered and came out, but Edward refused their surrender and sent them all back inside just so he could try out his new toy.

7
0
Silver badge

"On seeing it, the Scots surrendered and came out, but Edward refused their surrender and sent them all back inside just so he could try out his new toy."

A man after my own heart.

1
0
Bronze badge

A man after my own heart

with a knife and fork and a spot of worcestershire sauce

1
0
Bronze badge

Re: A man after my own heart

In 1304 you used your fingers and brought your own knive.

0
0
Boffin

cloaking metamaterials?

Just a thought...

We've all heard of cloaking metamaterials which will (one day) bend light around a shed/tank/boat. While it's true that this stuff is still in its infancy, when it is actually scaled up, presumably it will provide 100% protection against lasers because the beam will just bend around and continue on its merry way?

1
0
Silver badge

Re: cloaking metamaterials?

Yes, but metamaterials still need to interact with light to bend it around the object, so wouldn't the same problems exist with dirt, sub-100% efficiency, limited wavelength response, etc. exist with these as already discussed with mirrors?

1
0

Re: cloaking metamaterials?

I can see (no pun intended) how dirt and sub-100% efficiency might cause problems, but limited wavelength response shouldn't be an issue as long as you pick the wavelength which matches that of the laser. That's one of the things about lasers: precise single wavelength.

0
0
Silver badge

Pretty feeble compared with Phalanx

Phalanx delivers 4,500 rounds per minutes, each round a tungsten penetrator with a mass of about 100g, at a muzzle velocity of 1,100 m/s. That's an energy of 60kJ per round, and a total potential power delivered to the target of over 4.5MW. It doesn't worry about fog, smoke, or what type of camouflage the target is adorned with, either. For all their potential, current laser systems look pretty feeble next to old-fashioned cannon-based weapons.

11
1

Re: Pretty feeble compared with Phalanx

Matchlock muskets looked pretty feeble compared to pikes, too. Expensive to make, took ages between shots, didn't like bad weather either. I take it you'll be using a pike next time you go to war?

3
2

Re: Pretty feeble compared with Phalanx

Phalanx, hmm and goalkeeper. Brilliant weapons, but try and stop an Exocet and you are in deep do do.

it is early days and the laser in question is very limited in its capability and the way they mounted it (lots of metal to rear and ship has to point or have target on beam) is crappy. But the wonderful Ponce is a test bed and they are just out to prove the concept. From little acorns , mighty oaks grow.

More to point from little ponces mighty pimps grow.

4
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Pretty feeble compared with Phalanx

So, a rail gun fed with a big reel of iron wire. The mechanism chops the wire into segments and feeds it into the accelerating rail. Correct the aim with a radar that brings the hose of metal onto the target. Simples?

0
0
Silver badge
FAIL

Re: Pretty feeble compared with Phalanx

> and feeds it into the accelerating rail.

Until the rail deforms because of the torsion and heat generated. At which point your nice shiny slugs are now coming out off-axis and start to shred the rail/crew/hull..

0
0

Re: Pretty feeble compared with Phalanx @Credas (Agreed with caveats)

Credas, You would be correct, the best COTS solution is a chaingun.

However the US Navy is also looking at Rail Guns to replace Phalanx, but the laser could have some capabilities against incoming anti-ship missles as they often present themselves head-on and the speed of light is kind of hard to beat.

All they need to do is fry the electronics in the guidance section to bring it down.

Whose to say you could not have multiple weapons sharing the same radar?

As far as penetrating projectiles go, those from a rail gun would be much faster than those from a chaingun. It does take longer to "charge" the weapon but have you ever seen what one can do? The projectile goes 5,000 miles per hour and ranges approaching 100 miles. (and 32 megajoules of energy at the muzzle) That's like being hit with an asteroid, not much can stop it.

Look for the video link at the bottom of this web page

http://www.onr.navy.mil/media-center/fact-sheets/electromagnetic-railgun.aspx

BTW, mirrors or light guides as anti-laser "armour" are often ineffective. The "Star Wars" program from the Reagan era used spinning mirrors as part of the space based laser itself. They spun to increase wear life but had to be replaced very often as the first surface mirror material would vaporize after a few shots.

This newer shipboard laser is solid state and is further described in this link:

http://www.onr.navy.mil/Media-Center/Press-Releases/2014/LaWS-shipboard-laser-uss-ponce.aspx

In order to do any real damage the ground based laser would have to emit infrared energy (think CO2 Laser) which would melt anything like a mirror in a few seconds or less without even having tar on it.

0
0
Anonymous Coward

Re: Pretty feeble compared with Phalanx @Credas (Agreed with caveats)

"the ground based laser would have to emit infrared energy (think CO2 Laser) which would melt anything like a mirror in a few seconds or less without even having tar on it"

The shipboard laser is infrared too.

Does the system have "a few seconds" to ensure the mirror or whatever is sufficiently melted to knock down the incoming missile before impact occurs?

Phalanx seems to win on so many counts.

0
0

Page:

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Forums

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2018