The future of warfare is coming, and it's bringing lasers

This week, both the British Ministry of Defense and the US Navy have made strides towards directed energy weapons that could change the face of warfare as we know it.

The British, for their part, are eyeing a laser system that could compliment the Phalanx close-in anti-missile system, which detects, tracks, and can destroy approaching threats at closer ranges than other missile defense platforms.

Currently, the Phalanx is a computer-guided system that relies on a 20 mm Gatling gun. The British are looking to do away with the gun and substitute a laser.

“It’s better to spend money on the laser than on the mount,” Andy Rhodes, a business development executive at Raytheon UK told Defensenews.com.

Lasers offer a number of advantages over traditional guns. As they rely only on electricity, lasers can be fired for less than $1 a shot. Also, no round will ever travel anywhere near as fast as a laser, which obviously travels at the speed of light.

As military powers around the world race to create hypersonic weapons that can foil missile defenses through speed alone, the need for laser-aided missile defense becomes clear.

“The potential of laser-based weapons systems has been identified as an opportunity and offers significant advantages in terms of running costs as well as providing a more appropriate response to the threats currently faced by UK armed forces,” the British MoD stated.

Additionally, lasers on lower power settings can be used to overwhelm enemy sensors and instruments.

The Phalanx Close-In Weapons system.

The Phalanx Close-In Weapons system.

The US Navy for their part has also taken a step towards directed energy weapons. On Monday, Raytheon delivered pulse power containers for the Navy to test out on a new railgun design.

Unlike lasers, railguns fire actual projectiles, however, they use directed energy to do it.

Raytheon says the pulse power containers, when incorporated into a completed railgun design, will be able to launch projectiles at speeds in excess of Mach 6, or about 4,600 mph. At those speeds, there is little need for an explosive round with a chemical charge.

“Directed energy has the potential to redefine military technology beyond missiles and our pulse power modules and containers will provide the tremendous amount of energy required to power applications like the Navy Railgun,” said Colin Whelan, vice president of Advanced Technology for Raytheon’s Integrated Defense Systems business.

The USS Zumwalt. | Raytheon

The USS Zumwalt. | Raytheon

The Navy’s railgun could find itself aboard the Futuristic USS Zumwalt as soon as 2018,Reuters reports.

“The Navy is determined to increase the offensive punch of the surface warships,” said Loren Thompson, a defense analyst at the Lexington Institute. “To do that with a limited budget, it needs to look at everything from smart munitions to railguns to lasers.”

TOP ARTICLES
This Halloween-themed bomb was as dumb as it sounds

Still a few years out from the Manhattan Project being completed, a dentist / mad scientist came up with a disastrous and inhumane plan — the "bat bomb."

These are the contenders flying off to replace the A-10

Four planes are flying off for the chance to try to replace the beloved A-10 Thunderbolt. Here's how they hold up.

This was a major problem with the South Vietnamese army

"Be glad to trade you some ARVN rifles. Ain't never been fired and only dropped once." — Cowboy from "Full Metal Jacket."

9 reasons why you should have joined the Army instead

The only down side is knowing that when you get out, you will never be as cool as you were when you were doing "Hooah things" with your boys.

7 things all troops should know before becoming a sniper

With Hollywood tapping into the sniper lifestyle with films like "American Sniper," many young troops get a misconception what it's like to be one.

The first home-built Japanese supersonic fighter was a ship-killer

The Mitsubishi F-1 was designed to carry out the maritime strike mission, but also could carry AIM-9 Sidewinders.

This is why Bowe Bergdahl says he plead guilty

US Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, held captive by the Taliban for five years after walking off his post in Afghanistan, is expected to plead guilty.

Say hello to America's newest 40mm grenade machine gun

The Mk-47 Mod 0 Advanced Grenade Launcher takes the auto 40 mike-mike to a whole new level.

10 craptastic Halloween costumes completely out of regulations

It's that time of year again! Halloween parties are being planned and folks who wouldn't hack it in the real military pick up cheap ass costumes.

This is how one man tried to end slavery all by himself

John Brown believed in American freedom but didn't trust democracy to guarantee it for all. His failed slave revolt was the opening salvo of the Civil War.