back to article Raygun dreadnought project reports 'remarkable breakthrough'

US Navy boffins say they have achieved a major milestone in their quest to build an invincible raygun battleship. The breakthrough comes in the Free Electron Laser (FEL) project, intended to produce an electrically powered, megawatt-range laser able to sweep the skies of pesky aircraft, hypersonic shipkiller missiles etc. …

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  1. S Larti
    Heart

    Hmmmm...

    ...the FEL programme has been underway since the 1980s...

    ...The raygun team hope to test a full-power prototype laser turret at sea as soon as 2018...

    Forty years from idea to prototype? That's the sort of timescale BAe can only dream of, isn't it Lewis?

  2. Paul_Murphy
    Alien

    Thank you for your Shark-raygun thoughts.

    But try to think about other solutions.

    If the shark towed a large solar array behind it, obviously charging up a storage system of some sort - maybe a really high-density battery - then it's perfectly possible.

    Or, of course, there is always the 'alien-tech' approach that guarantees to provide any needed tech without question.

    I'm sure that our soon-to-be space-faring alien overlords have cracked the 'laser on a shark' problem and are positively itching to telling people about it.

    ttfn

  3. Matthew Smith

    Bows and arrows against the lightning

    Its not long since Lewis was singing the praises of projectile weapons and railguns.

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/12/15/blitzer_trials/page2.html

    They would seem to be outclassed already. Other than aircraft launching its a shame that there doesn't seem to be a civilian use for the tech. A communication device is excessive, unless you are phoning Jupiter.

  4. despairing citizen
    Happy

    Interesting, but is it ever going to be a practical system?

    Some nice science in getting this far, but would you be able to create a practical weapon system out of it?

    Questions like what amount of energy does it deliver over what area at what distance, in what atmospheric conditions.

    If it is a pin point, how do you target it?

    If it is an area, what atenuation do you get per Km to target?

    How suseptible is it counter measures, e.g. smoke, fog, shiny surfaces, heat absorbing materials?

    and finally are there cheaper and easier means of achieving the same effects(results)?

    Probably still worth the reasearch, even if it never produces a viable system.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Pint

    Smoke and mirrors

    All the incoming warhead needs to do is be highly (nearly perfectly) reflective. If 99.99% of the incoming energy bounces off, then the remaining kw-class energy can be absorbed, ablated, cooled. ...whatever - along with the probably-larger amount of heat generated by plunging through the atmosphere at Mach 10.

    Invert in companies that make polishing machines.

    1. Ministry of Truth

      Tuneable laser...

      So you'd have to make it almost completely reflective across a huge em spectrum...

    2. M man

      shark powered...

      I bow down to our laser toting overlords come to farm our seas of sharks.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Lasers need Line Of Sight

      Whereas a railgun could sit over the horizon and hurt you?

    4. Ben M

      Totally different weapons

      These lasers are presumably line-of-sight only (unless they've been able to make light bend). Thus they'd only be useful for defence and 'close' (up to the horizon) combat.

      The projectiles cover much greater distances. 200 miles at Mach 5. Over-the-horizon stuff. More useful in attacks.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Over the Horizon...

        A projectile has to come over the horizon at some point if it is going to land on a surface target. As soon as it does then it becomes a target. If you can deliver focused energy at speed of light then you have a chance of killing/turning it. I'd say that this sort of weapon is just what an aircraft carrier needs to protect it and just what a ground station needs as well.

        But, hey, I'm no military weapons expert.

    5. F111F
      Boffin

      Offense vs Defense

      Lasers will be limited to LOS (line of sight), or the horizon for ships attacking ground/sea based targets, whereas railguns are projected to have hundreds of miles of effective coverage. So, if a ship's laser is 10m above the water (seems a reasonable height), then multiplying by 12.7 and taking the square root...means the horizon is about 11.27 kilometers away. For sea-skimming, supersonic missiles (assuming a standalone radar at the same height as the laser), that comes out be around 32 seconds (or less) to acquire, target, and engage the missile, or not much time at all. Since the FEL is supposed to have a continuous rate of fire, it can hold a beam on the missile, where a railgun might have to fire repeated shots (assuming you can reload/recharge in less than 32 seconds).

      So think of the FEL as your goalkeeper (except not the English ones), and the railgun as your Xabi Alonso (Liverpool vs Newcastle, 2006(?)) and you'll do fine.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @F111F - "THE" missile???

        Missiles tend to be fired in pairs, as a minimum.

        So, 32 seconds to detect, acquire and destroy multiple incoming missiles - not much time to protect your multi billion dollar asset.

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Along with wavelengths

      The first hit would be enough to remove the mirror and take the warhead down at the same time. It might make it even easier to target by flashing brightly and showing off the wavelength it wants to reflect most. As well as flying for miles through the atmosphere picking up dust, dirt, bugs and water.

    7. Ru
      Boffin

      Reflection is only skin deep

      The moment the shell of the warhead begins ablating, its reflective characteristics are gone. Then it will begin cooking.

      There are various sophisticated ways to protect against powerful lasers, but it seems like a fair amount of effort... all a warhead needs to be is dumb, solid and fast. Invest in companies that make railguns. Oh, that's an ONR project too.

    8. Pirate Dave Silver badge
      Pirate

      and don't forget:

      "The fact that the team is nine months ahead of schedule provides us plenty of time to reach our goals."

      Woohoo! After 20+ years, they're 9 months ahead of schedule with plenty of time left to drain our wallets. I mean reach their goals. And hey, let's push out the scheduled full-power test until Quentin Salter is securely nestled into retirement. After 30 years, what's the hurry?

  6. Matware

    The problem with lasers is....

    There are three pretty good ways to shield your aircraft or missile from them. The first and most effective is a mirror; the second is a material with the same colour as the laser; the third, is an invisibility cloak that works at the laser frequency.

    Kinetic or explosive weapons don't suffer from this weakness and can apply said shielding, so good luck protecting your fleet.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    That's all well and good

    Send two missiles.

  8. Conrad Longmore
    Pirate

    Not much use..

    Not much use against torpedoes then? That was always one good way of sorting out capital ships in the past..

    On a side note, the Nimitz class carrier generates 190MW from its reactors, so it's certainly possible to put plenty of juice in a large enough ship.

  9. G4Z
    Terminator

    Potential to make Euro fighter and F22's etc redundant?

    Why bother with advanced war planes when a sea or land based laser can take them and any ordinance out from 200 miles away?

    We should probably just bin eurofighter now and start saving for some laser defence. Presumably this would work against ICBM's as well so really, no need for any military spending other than on ground defence lasers eh?

  10. breakfast
    Thumb Up

    A great leveller

    So with this to work against missiles and planes, ship-to-ship combat goes back to, effectively, cannons?

    I for one welcome our new old-fashioned swashbuckling navies.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    US technology - it must be invincible!

    Or so says Lewis Page. Again. And Again. And Again. If the UK had come up with this, he'd have ridiculed it.

    Back on planet earth, I thought they were having problems just building the worlds most expensive electric fence:

    https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/14/AR2011011406893.html

    Still, its only taxpayers money...

    1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

      The interesting parth here

      is that this is a tunable laser, effetively negating methods two and three, and possibly limiting the effectiveness of the first (think raising or lowering the wavelength beyond the range of those reflected, x-rays will quite happily travel straight through your common-or-garden bathroom mirror for example)

    2. F111F
      FAIL

      Title

      You missed the part about "multiple kills simultaneously"

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @F111F

        Use your head, send three missles, the fail icon for your post is correct.

    3. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Stop

      RE: Potential to make Euro fighter and F22's etc redundant?

      ".....no need for any military spending other than on ground defence lasers eh?....." Yes, and the last time we heard similar short-sighted waffle like that was from a certain Duncan Sandys, who proclaimed that manned aircraft were obsolete in the face of guided missiles. That piece of idiocy just about killed off the UK aircraft industry.

      What you fail to see is that as soon as a new weapon is announced, rival teams will start work on a counter. In the case of manned aircraft, first they simply flew higher and faster to keep out of the reach of missiles, then they switched to proactive counter-measures like "Wild Weasel" aircraft and jamming pods. Being an operator of a guided missile radar system has become a very unhealthy occupation, as shown in Viet Nam, Iraq, and the later Arab-Israeli wars.

      Who knows what the boffins will think up to defeat or limit the effect of ship-borne lasers, but I suspect the key will be that the lasers still need a guidance system (radar and/or optical), which will be susceptible to jamming and spoofing just like the current guidance systems we use are. A simple approach might be a long-range stealth missile that can be fired by an aircraft (or drone!) from over the horizon, with dozens of attendant decoys. Whilst the laser is busy mopping up the decoys the stealth one can zip in for the kill.

    4. longbeast
      Welcome

      Fighting aircraft won't be redundant...

      ... the following generation of fighters will just be a lot bigger and carry their own doom-beam emitters.

      Air combat becomes a contest to get the first accurate shot, with speed and agility taking a role only in being able to get to the battle without crashing. A laser in the air can have better range than one on the ground.

      Until anti aircraft lasers become common throughout the rest of the world though, we're still going to need the current generation of aircraft. No need to panic.

  12. Tom_

    Weaknesses?

    If the laser is capable of destroying an incoming missile almost instantly, you'd have to look for other ways of defeating it.

    Maybe you could exploit the limits of the target identification and acquisition stages by building stealth missiles or firing loads of missiles or dummy missiles at it at once.

    Would it be possible to build missiles that have lasers on the front, so that they can be firing back at the ship's laser equipment on their way in?

  13. Avatar of They
    Pint

    Glad to see

    The Register is addressing the questions that really need asking. Where the shark could be fitting into an article about lasers.

  14. Pen-y-gors Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    All we are saying...

    ...is give peace a chance!

    The money spent trying to develop more and more technologically extreme ways of killing people gets more obscene by the day. I know that there are some civil spin-offs of military research (GPS) but I'm hard pressed to think of any peaceful use for this.

    Although I suppose it does suggest that the ConDumbs were being rather prescient when they decided to equip the Navy with aircraft carriers (sorry, a carrier, single) without any aircraft.

    1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
      Black Helicopters

      Paint your missile

      like one of your enemy's aircraft, and send it in to land? Might need a little bit of IFF hacking. See icon for missile design.

  15. Ben 50
    Troll

    Ah, isn't war glorious!!!

    and terribly exciting... oh my... I can't wait to see this kill some people!

    Ironic that its designers shown in the video all come from ethnicities that will be on the receiving end! Laugh? I nearly cried. An intended surely, to the tune of some good traditional american death metal.

    Keep bringing on the war porn el Reg!

  16. Anonymous Coward
    FAIL

    EM pulse proof?

    And the submarines renders them all useless. Methinks that just as in land warfare, air superiority is all important, then in naval warfare, undersea superiority is vital. Scrap the lot! as Jackie would have written.

  17. Real Ale is Best
    FAIL

    Hmmm.

    Or fire your missile on a foggy day.

  18. KjetilS
    Coat

    Sharks...

    "As we've noted on these pages before, what with the cumbersome laser machinery and large power source, one would really be looking more at a kind of raygun semi-submersible U-boat or barge with a more or less superfluous shark attached."

    Sharks with friggin' u-boats on their head?

    1. Paul_Murphy
      Joke

      So that would be putting..

      Das Boot on the other fin then?

      Oh the possibilities.

      ttfn

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

    3. Britt Johnston
      Boffin

      weaponmongers are like bankers

      This is so unlikely that it is confirms war won't be getting worse for civilians any time soon.

      Like banking, weapons research absorbs a large amount of a developed economy's real money and talent. The trick is to keep both groups from messing around with the real world.

    4. Ammaross Danan
      FAIL

      Fail

      You missed the "tunable" part that would allow it to pass through clouds, rain, etc. UV has no trouble getting through clouds/fog. Since spysats can see through clouds, I doubt the targeting system will have any trouble either.

      1. raving angry loony

        tune out the fog?

        I didn't know that. Ignore my other post then...

        Unless the frequency necessary to get through rain/fog is limited, in which case using some sort shielding impervious to just those frequencies would make attacks in rain/fog at least more likely to succeed?

  19. graeme leggett

    Two thoughts

    1) Rayguns deadly as they might be are limited to line-of-sight

    2) Lasers don't work well underwater, so torpedoes might be the laser battleship's enemy

    As an adjunct to no.1. I read one historians view that aircraft carriers displaced battleships as the primary naval weapon not because their weapons were more powerful or that they were better protected but because of the range at which they could deliver an attack.

  20. relpy
    Pirate

    Dive! Dive!

    It's still a target as far as I'm concerned.

  21. annodomini2
    FAIL

    tut tut

    "Powerful megawatt beams could potentially blast fast-moving targets out of the sky almost instantly, largely negating the threat of supersonic (or in future hypersonic) missiles skimming the sea to knock out ships. Mere aircraft would have no chance. The only things which might be able to penetrate a major warship's laser defences would be heavy armour piercing cannon shells, mostly or entirely made of solid metal - or perhaps one day hypersonic railgun projectiles, again much more difficult for a laser to destroy than a thin-walled missile or aircraft packed with explosive fuels and warhead."

    You forgot torpedoes

  22. crowley
    Grenade

    Hackneyed cliche

    I, for one, welcome our <regurgitate article adjectives here> overlords.

    Oh - except they're a bunch of right-wing, armageddon seeking, religious nutcase yahoos*...

    ...the ones who get to use the weaponised version, anyway.

    [prays for a lethal new swine-flu variant activated by low neural density]

    * I highly recommend 'The Authoritarians' - free at http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Happy

      Easy solution.

      If we're talking ridiculous miracle hyper-tech, the simple solution is.......

      ..............FLYING LASER BATTLESHIP!!!!!!

      How about a B-52 (or bigger - a freakin' laser Airship!) with a nuclear plant and a laser? Also helps with LOS issues too.

      Let your mere submarine torpedoes catch that!!!

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't there substance that reflects

    Directly back? Note that mirrors don't reflect light as such, they scatter it. If they reflected light all you would be able to see in a mirror would be your own retinas.

    Anyway, if you coat a missile in this and shoot it at the ship it will reflect the beam back and destroy the laser gun itself. Ideally in a big Death Star blowing up type explosion. Even if it was a boring fizzle you just need to shoot another missile and it's game over, man!

    Quick look up on google returns retroreflector, like a cat's eye apparently. So there you are, shoot kittehs at the raygun destroyer if you want to defeat it.

  24. Desk Jockey
    Boffin

    Timing?

    So a bunch of boffins are talking up a potential break through, ahead of schedule, coincindentally just at the same time as the Pentagon is thinking about which budgets to cut? I wonder which projects the Pentagon might think of cutting first? Oh I know, what about those projects which started in the early 80s and have yet to deliver a viable product?

    Don't bee too disappointed if no FEL laser makes an appearance in 2018!

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Reflection doesn't work that way.

      Mirrors do indeed reflect light, and they do so for ALL angles of incidence. That's why you can see a reflection--the light reflected on you carries essentially the same characteristics (albeit altered in one direction) as if you were looking directly at someone else. The light rays just bounce off the mirror (at whatever angle it takes) before they get to your eye.

    2. Chris 244
      Troll

      Epic FAIL or Warning: Troll?

      By definition: Mirror -> a surface that reflects light.

      A matte surface scatters light, and does not form an image of an object placed in front of it.

      Using Google to look up a page on Wikipedia to then (mis)quote on the Reg? I'm guessing troll.

    3. Ru
      Flame

      Retroreflection won't save you

      Similarly, mounting a nice parabolic mirror on your plane won't save you either. The problem is one of energy densities, and focus. The laser will be bounced off a big mirror at the weapon end (low energy density), and focussed down to a dot on the target to fry it. The energy densities at that dot will simply incinerate any mirror or prism you put in the way.

      And that is if you somehow managed to reflect the whole beam and perfectly aim and focus it on its target, a tricky job for something that needs to be small, fast and aerodynamic and carry a warhead to its target.

      Missiles are not an appropriate weapon to use against a laser-armed battleship, any more than the huge cannon of WW2 battleships were appropriate weapons to use against aircraft carriers.

  25. Anonymous Coward
    Black Helicopters

    I'm not optimistic, but....

    ...it would be nice if, for a while at least, defensive weapons outpaced offensive weapons and made war unproductive.

    Offensive weapons that couldn't be defended (i.e. nuclear bombs on ICBMs) spectacularly failed to deter war: it seems that people will have wars as long as they can have wars. Maybe if battles are reduced to two sides standing off at 200 miles shooting down whatever expensive ordinance the other side puts up, we will have reached a level of futility that even the military mind can grasp?

    Of course, there are two major reasons to be pessimistic. One, historically speaking every defensive advance has been obsoleted by an offensive response. Plate armor was obsoleted by rifles; stone fortresses by cannons and mortars; the Maginot line by tanks and mechanized infantry.

    And two, there seems to be no limit to the stupidity of military leaders and their willingness to throw away the lives of troops against superior defenses.

    1. Ken Hagan Gold badge
      Alien

      Re: I'm not optimistic

      "Offensive weapons that couldn't be defended (i.e. nuclear bombs on ICBMs) spectacularly failed to deter war"

      Er, I must have missed that global thermonuclear war then. I think the Russians missed it, too. They seem *very* concerned that the deployment of an effective defence against ICBMs might be a problem.

      "there seems to be no limit to the stupidity of military leaders and ..."

      Welcome to Earth. You may come in peace, but don't make any assumptions about us. We're all bat-shit insane.

  26. Steve X
    Coat

    missile fuel

    Drive your hypersonic missile with a Bussard ramjet. The more ions you pour into the scoop from the FEL, the faster the missile will travel. As for targeting, it can just zero in on the free food...

  27. Tigra 07 Silver badge
    IT Angle

    Here's a genuine question...

    Wouldn't a nuclear powered warship provide enough energy?

    I'm sure there's already some in use.

    1. Daniel Evans

      Ions?

      I'll let you have the ion point, as the laser would do a pretty spiffy job of ionising the atmosphere between A and B. Wouldn't it have a slight fit over the rest of the high energy photons which weren't used in plasma-fying the atmosphere?

      (All the above words are obviously the correct technical terms.)

    2. MeRp

      great idea... except

      the FEL doesn't fire ions. It uses Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation to deliver it's killign energy... ie. it is not a particle weapon (which could fire ions), but rather an EM energy weapon/LASER.

  28. Mike Richards

    Last paragraph

    Is genius.

    Although are we limited to shark-deployed weapons? Would one of the members of Tylosaurinae (15m of pure bloody-minded viciousness) make a better platform ?

    Or even a brachiosaur with water wings.

    Just so long as this wouldn't delay the delivery of my pet dinosaur.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      "15m of pure bloody-minded viciousness"

      You've met the wife, then?

      Anon, 'cos I like keeping my nuts attached.

  29. james4765
    Boffin

    One thing to remember about shiny defense

    No mirror in existence can handle 100 megawatts for long. In order to protect yourself, it would have to be a 100% reflective surface. A 99.9% reflective surface would still absorb 100KW of energy, which would do the melty thing on pretty much any material in existence.

    Plus, the best lab-quality first surface mirrors are around 99.5% reflective. That would net you 500KW of heat energy being unloaded on your missile.

  30. Gobhicks
    WTF?

    @Lee

    Mirrors don't reflect, they scatter.... only able to see your own retinas...???

    I thought the idea that light pours out of the eyes went out with the ancient Greeks?

    Your face absorbs some light and reflects the rest in many directions (diffuse reflection). A mirror reflects some of the light from your face back onto your retinas. A real mirror diffuses a bit of light to be sure, but the whole point of a mirror is that it exhibits specular reflection - light from a single incoming direction is reflected in a single outgoing direction - angle of reflection equals angle of incidence. If you want to reflect a beam back to its source you need a retro-reflector.

    1. Fluffykins Silver badge

      I've got a mirror from the 1940's

      Is that enough of a retro-reflector?

    2. crowley

      Yeah? Try this:-

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kAe7V7tcBys&feature=channel

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W4nnLP--uTI&feature=channel

      http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/5158972/Starlite-the-nuclear-blast-defying-plastic-that-could-change-the-world.html

      http://itotd.com/articles/653/starlite/

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Starlite

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @ Gobhiks

      Did you actually read what I wrote? Cos I state you need a retroreflector to reflect the beam back to its source rather than a mirror but you have seen fit to lecture me (with a small amount of ridicule it seems) because what you really need is a retroreflector and not a mirror.

  31. phuzz Silver badge
    Heart

    Sharks and fricking LASERs

    "[a] whale-sized prehistoric megashark - perhaps crossed with electric eels using genetic-meddling abomination technology"

    Oh el reg, don't ever change :)

    (isn't it about time we got a shark+laser icon?)

  32. AJames
    Happy

    You missed the headline!

    "Divert all power to weapons!"

    I guess the captain of future warships really will say that!

  33. Luther Blissett

    Free electrons?

    Is that free as in a beer, or free as in speech? Or merely free as in free-fire zone?

    1. Daniel Evans

      Hmm

      Well, they're free to do what they want, so I'd have to go with speech.

      Pointing one of those things around would probably still result in free beer, mind.

  34. Random Coolzip
    Stop

    Are torpedoes really effective anymore?

    Aren't "dreadnaught-class" ships equipped with hulls on the order of a dozen or so feet thick? ISTR that the *Iowa* class battleships were supposed to have the ability to withstand several direct torpedo hits (from WWII-era torpedoes). Aren't most submarines just damp missile platforms nowadays?

    1. Ed Deckard
      Thumb Down

      Nope

      Dreadnought class (the original): 11 inch (maximum) belt

      Yamato class (the largest): 410 mm (16.14 inch) belt

      Vanguard class (the last built): 14 inch (maximum) belt

      Iowa class (the last in service): 12.1 inch (maximum) belt

      1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
        Boffin

        RE: Nope

        I think what Ed meant to point out was that the torpedo defence measures (thick plate belt armour and hull "blisters") that designers thought would make their later battleships immune to torpedoes were defeated by developments in torpedo design. In the Yamato's case (the battleship with the heaviest belt armour), the fatal blows to this collosal ship were delivered by aerial torpedoes with the new Torpex warheads. Those aerial torpedoes were much smaller and lighter than the older TNT-armed torpedoes the Yamato had been designed to resist, much smaller and lighter than modern hunter-killer sub torpedoes (and that's before you consider modern H-K torpedoes can have nuke warheads to produce massive pressure waves to rupture an opposing ship's or sub's hull).

  35. raving angry loony

    the fog of war

    Sounds awesome. I wonder if they've bothered to test it on a foggy day? I smell... marketing, trying to get yet more taxpayer money.

  36. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    @One thing to remember about shiny defense

    That goes both ways of course.

    Unless you are intending to put the entire laser lab on a turret and have it track and point at an incoming supersonic target from a rolling ship - then you are going to have to feed the laser beam to a tracking telescope - with mirrors.

    The real pain in high power laser tech is keeping the mirror surfaces intact. Even at kW levels you need carefully matched interference coatings, spotless cleanrooms and water cooled mirrors. Even them you need to replace the mirrors regularly

    Piping a MW beam from the bowels of a ship to a tracking turret telescope is going to be 'interesting'. Of course thats just an engineering detail that the scientists don't need to worry about.

  37. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge

    I dont care

    if it works or not

    I'm off to corner the market in sharks that have been cross bred with electric eels

  38. Stephen Booth
    Grenade

    May still get funded

    The thing about zany military tech is that does not have to work all that well or be deployed in large numbers to be worth having.

    OK there are lots of ways of countering a super laser but its going to cost the other side a lot of money to develop these especially when they are not sure how well your super laser works.

    The more laser shielding you can persuade the other side to put on their missiles and planes the less effective they will be.

    Yes subs are probably immune and its probably easier to harden surface ships than planes.

    Thick armour plate would take a while to melt and might help against rail-guns too. No wonder the navy seem keen on this.

  39. Matt Bryant Silver badge
    Coat

    Good luck defeating my flock-of-seagulls-missiles!

    Hey, Obambi, send me some cash! I have a right smart idea for making robot seagulls, with artificial feathers, that act so real they even cr*p on your car and steal your fish'n'chips! Each one carries a small incendiary charge, only a few hundred grams, but I'll be sending out about a hundred at a time to crash into your ship and drop their loads (and the incendiary material too) down the funnels, vents, hatches and portholes. They won't be fast 'cos otherwise that would look suspicious, but there's no way nutters like PETA will let you toast every flock that comes within twenty clicks of a USN fleet, so I reckon I've got a good chance of getting a strike in and overwhelming your fire-fighting teams before you can get permission to toast them al out of the skyl. If you don't want me to sell my ideas to the Ruskies or the Chinese, best send me enough funds for forty-plus years of research, and I'll probably have something ready for you in 2051....

    /no, I'm putting on my labcoat, not heading for the pub, honest!

    1. Charles 9 Silver badge

      Real birds can be scared off.

      Most birds know better than to stick idly around when particular noises abound...such as a sound that might occur when a bird's about to be grabbed from above. Point is, there are ways to humanely make birds scatter--usually through the application of sound or directed air.

      Directed air would divert even a bird bomb (since it'd have to behave like a bird), and since it would ignore a sound-based chaser, it could be distinguished from a real bird.

  40. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Wow!

    They have experts!

    They are based in laboratories!

    Wow!

  41. Eduard Coli
    Grenade

    Nice but just so

    Outside sable rattling, impressing the locals, etc. a missile cruiser can do pretty much everything a carrier can do for less. It is the politics that keep carriers operational.

  42. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I for one

    I for one await the Macross Cannon http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7r25c8Ke1I

  43. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ruse

    How can I get my enemies to spent huge amounts of money on a completely useless wild goose chase? I know, I'll issue a press release.

  44. Gotcha Lookin

    And by the way ... tunable and multiple wavelength output ...

    A free electron laser is not only tunable - but with enough power - it can deliver multiple output wavelengths as harmonics of its tunable microwave resonance cavity. The desired weapons effect is therefore not to produce just one output frequency - but can be set to group multiple EM wavelengths to pump a solid to liquid, liquid to gas, and gas to plasma - simultaneously.

    When dealing with meta-material cloaked projectiles - this ability to rapidly reset whole groups of EM output frequencies in response to observed target state changes allows the FEL / PHASER to penetrate metamaterial cloaks through plasma shock ablation.

    Simply put, with a couple of nuclear reactors behind it, a FEL/PHASER is a Star Trek disintegrator beam with potential orbital reach - especially when provided with reverse conjugate acoustic gas-phase optics to correct for atmospheric scatter. By being able to ramp thru EM frequency ranges from radio to infrared to visual to X-ray, solid phase projectiles can be simply erased in flight with a sweep of the output beam.

    This ability has special value for penetrating reinforced command and control bunkers. It would be considered a more humane penetrator than current penetrator warhead designs, since direct contact with the beam would disintegrate a human instantly. Note that secondary plasma shockwaves can be extremely damaging to surrounding human tissues and organs, with enough force to shatter bone, as well as 20 foot thick reinforced concrete walls.

    A mobile sea-based platform is ideal for the same reasons ballistic missile submarines provide deterrence. Nothing in the FEL/PHASER specs prevent it from being submarine-based. or capable of producing EM wavelengths tuned to penetrate water to submarine operational depths, or from submarine depths to orbit. Torpedo defense is possible with sufficient FEL/PHASER power at radiowave frequencies.

    Nominally, there are current space treaties preventing the use of nuclear power in near earth space for military purposes. While these treaties are honored, sea-faring FEL/PHASER systems will remain its principal mode of deployment.

    We are not talking about deadly white sharks with lasers mounted on their heads.

    We are talking about really, really, big sharks capable of running silent and running deep for months at a time with arrays of FEL/PHASERS installed into converted sea-launched ballistic missile silos. The big boomers will have a new mission protecting the fleet and near space.

  45. solaries
    Big Brother

    death dreams

    The problem is these weapons will have to be made smaller to be useful and wend that happens air craft will again be a threat to surface ships and as others have pointed out there is the good old submarine torpedoes can do the job on a surface ships thou who knows what the future holds

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      Pirate

      RE: death dreams

      Immense, nuke-powered hovercraft, maybe? Torpedo-proof but still capable of carrying a useful load of weaponry. And for all the submariners, it is possible to shoot lasers through water, it's just a lot harder to do so. Should lasers reach the point where they are powerful enough and can reliably shoot down multiple airborne targets then it wouldn't take much to produce a torpedo defence, even if it was limited to a range of a kilometer or two.

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