back to article US Navy orders laser machine guns

US Navy warships will soon be equipped with fearful combination weapons mounts boasting both heavy machine-guns and high powered laser rayguns, it has been announced. Manufacturer Boeing says it has inked a teaming agreement with the US operations of arms globo-mammoth BAE Systems to build the Mk 38 Mod 2 Tactical Laser System …


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  1. Anonymous Coward

    Minor detail

    It's a 25mm cannon, which is a bit better than a machinegun,

    Yes, the laser does open up the options a lot, including ammo supply. It really does depend on the power levels. But it's likely going to be more precise than an HE shell. If the pointing is stable enough, you have the potential to hit an individual without fragments hitting anyone or anything nearby.

  2. Anonymous Coward

    I suggest you ask your retina on the "feeble"

    Even a couple of kilowatts can cause permanent blindness. Any pirates, suicide bombers, etc on a boat hit by this are guaranteed a slow and painful death from starvation and dehydration while floating blind in the middle of the ocean. Alternatively, they can be picked by marines at will and at leasure without any chance of mounting an effective defence. Cruel. But effective...

    Similarly, even a few watts can knock out the cameras on an average small UAV and keep it blinded without destroying it. If you crank up the wattage you can make the damage to sensors permanent.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Of course....

      Blinding someone with it would definitely not be the intention as this would be classed as causing unneccessery harm, which is not allowed under the Geneva convention. Unless, of course, you class those you are attacking with a warship armed combatants, or the like, then you can do what you like...

      1. stu 4
        Black Helicopters


        Yeh, because the US have always respected the geneva convention. I'm sure they'll add it to the list of depleted uranium shells, phosphorous bullets and water boarding.

      2. Captain Thyratron

        Know what else blinds people?

        Shrapnel, but who's bitching about conventional naval armaments violating the Geneva convention?

    2. Naughtyhorse


      even a few _mili_watts can cause permanent damage to retina.

      dependent on wavelength of course.

      there! fixed it for you

      1. Anonymous Coward

        milli at close range

        milli at close range and aimed appropriately with mm^2 dot size.

        Spread that "love" to a proper killing area of let's say 1m^2 so you aim it off a gun touret, make sure it has enough power at 2-4km out and voila - you need a few Kw.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Its a weapon, and a lethal one.

      This is replacing a chain gun; incidental blindness, is replacing torn apart by high velocity shrapnel for being nearby.

      Objectionable would be the use of a laser weapon like this in a non-lethal role. Killing people is fine, permanently crippling or blinding them is not.

      And no major power cares about breaking non substantial clauses in the Geneva Convention regarding ordnance. The list of violators is long, and include many major powers, and noticeably, the use of White Phosphorous and DU is deplorable, but in practice not on the same level as using Phosgene, Sarin, etc. These weapons have legitimate military uses, the more objectable part, should be that there is war going on if these are being used.

      DU and WP are not considered as NBC implicitly so their (ab)use is more of a technicality.

  3. Wommit


    where does the shark sit?

    People want to know.

  4. hugo tyson

    Blinding weapons

    Isn't the problem with that usage that blinding weapons are illegal? So you have to either set fire to things or burns/kills people with the undesirable, unavoidable side-effect of a bit of blinding, or use a very low power laser which causes only temporary dazzling or short term recoverable blindness.

    Not that I have any moral problem with blinding pirates or suicide bombers personally.... its when you accidentally do it to civilians, after all we're talking about the USA here.

    1. Anonymous Coward


      ...they never kill innocent civillians, they are all "ragheads", "gooks" or any other such name. Anything but innocent civillians as they look the same, talk funny and don't eat hamburgers, so must be evil.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Blinding weapons

      May be illegal but they are extremely effective:

      They command a degree of "terror" in potential targets which damages morale, blinded enemies are more of a drain on enemy resources than dead ones (you need medical support, carers and the like yet you still have to feed and clothe them) and at the end of it all, as a defense for your actions, you can ask the blinded persons whether they would rather be dead instead - the majority will answer "no" and the obvious reply to those that say they would is to ask why they haven't killed themselves yet then.

      Which is why they are outlawed in various conventions - the same conventions that only seem to count when the other side breaks them.

  5. Mystic Megabyte Silver badge

    Half Nelson?

    I wouldn't like to be the poor sailor whose job it is to wipe the salt spray off of the lens.

  6. Anonymous Coward

    My Dear Watson

    Slight problem with these things as light does not go around the curve of the Earth, thus limiting the range.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge
      Thumb Down


      The accuracy will be far better than the 25mm shell it fires.

    2. Wize


      ...if you can see it, you can hit it.

      1. Aaron Em

        If you can see it, *it* can hit *you*

        Which is why we have artillery, the whole point of which being to loft shells in a trajectory which doesn't require line of sight from the battery to the target. Of course, radar-directed counter-battery fire effectively nullifies this capability, but how many insurgents have the technical support and training they'd need for that?

        And that's the whole point of this system -- to serve as a means of standing off threats which involve small craft making kamikaze runs. It's not even meant to engage anything larger than that -- it can't be, because it simply is not capable of effectively doing so. (On the other hand, ballistic-profile AShMs have long since rendered the aircraft carrier obsolete, and we're still deploying them, so...)

        1. Captain Thyratron

          Not this again.

          I rather doubt they've rendered obsolete the capability to put a few hundred aircraft anywhere in the world on short notice, accompanied by dozens of support vessels, many of which are festooned with weaponry designed specifically to deal with things like sea-skimming supersonic ramjet missiles, or do you think the first person to think of that was some goon on an internet forum? No carrier fights alone unless it's on a suicide mission, and it's been that way since a good few years before transistors were invented. That's why we speak of "carrier battle groups", and why there are other kinds of warship.

          Something isomorphic to "aircraft carriers are obsolete because fancy missiles exist that are capable of destroying them" (note: this is true of every object on Earth) is a perennial favorite among internet armchair naval commanders, it seems.

    3. Captain Thyratron

      There are different weapons for that role.

      Missiles and whatnot.

      The lasers here are of greatest utility as anti-incoming weapons. You can't bump off a capital ship with 'em, but they're the best thing for popping flying ordnance and enemy aircraft quickly, in rapid succession, without missing, and without using up any of your own ordnance (see also: THEL). Considering how many rounds it takes, say, a Phalanx gun to shoot down a single shell, a laser like this could probably save a fat wad of cash on ammunition. Put a naval reactor behind that, or even just some good generators, then you can just save all your bullets for the occasional prickly situation in which lasers are inconvenienced by fog or smoke or something.

      And, yeah, I admit there are some jobs where you just need a plain old deck-mounted machine gun. They're reliable and they work, and I doubt anybody will come up with any kind of weapon in the next five hundred years as reliable, effective, and logistically straightforward as guns. There'll be better materials, guns with higher rates of fire, guns with lower failure rates, better ammunition, and some amazing new new mechanical engineering, but in the end you'll still have some device containing a barrel, a chamber, something to feed rounds, and something to make them go bang. In exotic cases, maybe the bang will even come from something other than burning powder.

  7. TRT Silver badge


    Combination light and heavy weaponry.

  8. Peter2 Silver badge


    Raygun Dreadnought? Seriously, is that the best you can do?!

    You should call it the Deathray Dreadnought, Beaming Battleship or something similar! I'm sure that other people here can come up with something better, but Raygun Dreadnought is not exactly inspiring.

  9. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    A whole new range of options

    To have a friendly fire incident with.

    Where the US military is concerned *always* keep close to them.

    It won't stop a friendly fire incident, but it will take a few of them with you.

    1. Aaron Em

      I like "Floating Target"

      Because these piddly little antipersonnel lasers aren't going to do anything more against ballistic-profile AShMs than the Bushmasters already on the CIWS mounts.

      1. SkippyBing Silver badge

        RE: Ballistic Profile

        You do know ballistic profile AShM are easy to take out because they come down in an arc from up high and can be seen for miles right? Sea skimming ones with a terminal weave, they're the ones you have to worry about...

  10. Arctic fox

    What else might we legitimately assume about this system from Boeing?



    1. It will be delivered at least 5 years late in relation to the original contract terms which they will not be penalised for because they have too many "friends" in Congress.

    2. There will be at least 30 - 40% cost overrun in relation to the original contract terms which they will not be penalised for because they have too many "friends" in Congress.

    3. It will not perform according to the original specifications which they will not be penalised for because they have too many "friends" in Congress.

    Other than that I am sure it will be a very impressive weapons system.

  11. Christoph Silver badge

    "set a small boat on fire"

    They can now set a boat on fire with a beam of light?


    It's only taken them about two thousand two hundred years to catch up with Archimedes.

    1. Alien8n Silver badge


      Actually it's already been proven that while Archimedes may have invented a "Deathray" it's highly unlikely that he ever built one. The details regarding Archimede's Deathray were actually centuries later, there's no evidence to say he did it and all the testing so far suggests that with the technology available at the time it simply would not have been able to perform as suggested.

      Much like Boeing's attempt...

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        It is indeed like Boeing's attempt

        It did not need to set a boat on fire. All it needed was to blind all the soldiers onboard.

      2. IsJustabloke Silver badge

        I refuse to enoble a simple forum post!

        I believe Mythbusters may have had some small success with Archimedes Deathray

        1. Anonymous Coward

          the title is charred now...

          Yes, they did. But it took some time to get the boat cooking. A battle ready crew would simply steer the ship to avoid the light beam.

          Even a drunken soldier could put it out or get the lit place colder with a beer.

    2. Captain Thyratron

      Did Archimedes shoot down missiles and artillery shells?

      I mean, like some of those neat things they test at White Sands have managed to do reliably for years.

      Not every idea gets turned into a working device, much less every idea permuted through several layers of historians and hearsay in the absence of any other evidence.

  12. annodomini2

    Missed something

    "while the laser can potentially keep beaming as long as there is power on the mount."

    Assuming it's solid state!

  13. Anonymous Coward

    re: a small boat on fire...

    Allegedly, Archimedes did this:

    1. during the day. a bright, sunny day;

    2. ashore, from stable ground;

    3. with ginormous reflective surfaces. Brass shields, whatever.

    You probably won't have all 3 conditions. A gyro-stable base I assume is provided in the bushmaster platform, already. Definitely you can use this stuff at night. Big reflective surfaces won't go with systems that are trying to be inconspicuous.

    I guess you just needed the joke icon instead.

  14. Southern

    "We aren't told the power level offered by the laser..."

    ...just a guess at something over 9000, perhaps?

    In all seriousness, while lasers are certainly more accurate, I was under the impression that they weren't yet powerful enough to perform the destruction we expect from science fiction. The power requirements must be huge, not to mention reloading spent cells.

    But nice to see that scientists haven't given up on the idea just yet :)

  15. xeroks

    Naming ceremony

    Aren't these weapons given names? If so, how long before there's a "Ronald" or "Nancy"?

  16. GougedEye

    Boys and their toys

    Someone please tell the Yanks that they are broke. The last thing they need right now is a bunch of new barely functional, mission limited, extremely expensive toys for their overstaffed military to play with.

    1. John Smith 19 Gold badge


      "Someone please tell the Yanks that they are broke. "

      Not *quite* broke.

      The US govt has about 1 week to raise it's borrowing limit (on what *it* borrows) above 13 Teradollars.

      So far the Democrats wish to continue with tax rises and their shot at putting in a healthcare system that works for *everyone* while the Republicans want want to *cut* taxes and dump that and any welfare they can, being pushed heavily by various assorted Tea Party sponsored babble and drool cases.

      Meanwhile *everyone* is playing the blame game.

      If they don't reach agreement it's going to Greece, Italy, Spain, Ireland, United States in *rising* order of defaulted debt repayment, with the US out front by a *very* wide margin.

      Don't you love the smell of fear in the air?

    2. Captain Thyratron

      And you think you know how to make us rich?

      Technically, we spend a lot more on entitlement programs than on defense programs (of course, whenever you talk about the financial burden of pouring money into a labyrinthine bureaucracy that promises it's helping poor people, you're automatically a filthy Rush Limbaugh worshipper.) Of these two parts of our budget, guess which one also injects billions of dollars annually into science ranging from medicine to astronomy.

      By the way, to name one example, the adaptive optics that some ground scopes are now using to get better than Hubble resolution descended from beam-correcting technology developed for our directed energy weapons program. In fact, it was some of those same weapons scientists who popularized its use for peaceful purposes, even though the original point was to keep a high-power laser beam nice and straight and collimated so we could toast Soviet spacecraft. Straight from the Starfire Optical Range to the Keck observatory.

      If you think the way to make the country richer is to fire thousands of our best scientists, then I'm damn glad you don't vote here.

    3. Marketing Hack Silver badge

      @ GougedEye

      All true about our American finances, but if we don't keep BAE busy, then you guys have to. We all know where that leads: Lewis Page articles about how MoD weapon program X is (pants/bollocks/not fit for purpose, insert other Britishisms as needed) and the MoD procurement arm are a bunch (insert more Britishisms, e.g.--muppets/tossers/numpties).

      And then there will be the inevitable 200 comments that follow said article.

      That way lies madness, my friend!

  17. Dave Rickmers

    Couldn't the pirates hide in the fog?

    Wouldn't a well placed smoke grenade render the laser useless?

    1. Yet Another Commentard

      Or a mirror

      Says this man who knows nothing about lasers, photonics, weaponry, or (due to being from the midlands) maritime stuff.

    2. Anonymous Coward

      Given how everybody gets blinded by regular light in highways...

      ... my bet is on other way around. and the laser is dispersed in every direction with lethal consequences, when the water moisture become a lens matching the exact frequency needed to refract the laser...


      The laser will hit (er, heat) the fog to steam in a split second and cut a path in the fog like a knife. Now that would be fun to watch, a section of fog being cleared just as wiping a windshield.

      Off to Patent Office to register a " mobile low-power laser for clearing fog powered by motor vehicles".

  18. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

    The pitch

    The problem:

    A huge and expensive navy designed to re-fight WWII against the Japanese fleet

    The enemy is people who live in caves in a land locked country

    The most dangerous threat to the navy is a car bomb planted outside a bar next to a naval base

    The only maritime threat to the country is guys running drugs and guns into Florida in boats that can be sunk by a flare pistol

    The solution is a $Bn laser ray gun project

  19. Zippy the Pinhead

    screw the naval ships

    When are we gonna see these things attached to frickin sharks!!!

  20. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Latest news: war suspended due to fog

    I suspect we will see a move towards foggier places for warfare. Those with them ol' technology called "shells" will gleefully murder the modern, never-running-out laser cannons which need clear visibility to shoot.

    On the other hand, that's one hell of a laser sight. When you see the dot, you no longer need to wait for the round to arrive. You've got the hole already..

  21. Mike Richards Silver badge

    Anyone noticed?

    It was about the time BAE became heavily involved in selling weapons to the Americans that the US economy went tits up?

    Just saying...

  22. Anonymous Coward

    Somali pirates are watching this...

    ...And just ordered a few big mirrors online. Archimedes was a smart fellow btw.

  23. Peter Murphy

    The US deploy laser weapons that can blind you. Whaddaya do about it?

    There's already companies working on goggles with automatic tinting for "accidental exposure" to lasers.

    It's not the same as "deliberate exposure", but it's a start. I expect there are a few people in the Chinese and Russian military who are looking closely at the US's laser weapon development, and thinking along similar lines.

    Give it ten years, and these protective goggles will be just another popular consumer item - prized among Somali pirates, Al-Qaeda terrorists, or wannabe Breiviks of all descriptions.

    I'd prefer to call them "Peril Sensitive Sunglasses".

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