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article imageOp-Ed: Laser weapons threats are here

By Eliot Elwar     Dec 13, 2012 in Technology
Arms designers developed more lasers for drones, warplanes, warships, and combat vehicles. Laser weapons will augment defense systems in the army, air force, and navy within a few years. Energy weapons will eventually replace many existing armaments.
The next generation of military drones will not just carry a limited supply of rockets, but will be fitted with an ultra-light laser, capable of repeatedly destroying objects at the speed of light. This kind of laser weapon system would give the US combat drones an unlimited magazine, according to a person working in the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) program. Over the past few years, the Defense Advance Research Project Agency (DARPA) has given contractor General Atomics millions of dollars to develop and then scale HELLADS: a powerful 150 kW ray with a difference. Current lasers of that strength, capable of destroying incoming missiles or warplanes, are bulky and that means these weapons can only be placed on stationary defense systems, according RT news.
Russia’s high-energy airborne laser system project is back in the frame. The Russian laser station will be assigned for space counter warfare when a space arms race begins. Russia’s primary objective is making inoperable adversary space vehicles’ sensors and optical electronic systems by directed laser beam impulse, which is the first stage of the project. The second stage is, in case the laser gains sufficient power of the beam, the system will be able to engage ballistic targets, according to the director of the Center for Analysis of World Arms Trade, Igor Korotchenko.
The US Navy’s research office expects that ship-based laser weapons will be ready for deployment in two years, which is two years ahead of schedule. But this futuristic weaponry could face setbacks because of looming budget cuts. “We’re well past physics,” Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, the chief of the Office of Naval Research (ONR), told the press during an interview after announcing his expectations, according to RT news.
Scientists at Los Alamos National Lab, N.M., have achieved a breakthrough with the Office of Naval Research's Free Electron Laser (FEL) program, demonstrating an injector capable of producing the electrons needed to generate megawatt-class laser beams for the US Navy's next-generation weapon system, according to Science Daily.
Boeing recently completed system integration of key components for the U.S. Army's High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HELTD). The integration included installation of the Beam Control System and critical hardware onto the Oshkosh Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck, HELTD's vehicle platform. This milestone helps prepare HEL TD for low-power system testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, according to Space War news.
Boeing' s Directed Energy Systems (DES) division signed a teaming agreement with BAE Systems to develop the Mk 38 Mod 2 Tactical Laser System for defense of U.S. Navy ships. The Navy awarded the BAE Systems team an initial contract recently to build a demonstrator unit of the system. Boeing is a subcontractor to BAE Systems under this contract. "Boeing is committed to developing this directed energy system that will significantly enhance ship defense, according to Space War news.
Analysis
Energy weapons will eventually replace many existing military arms. Laser means light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation. Lasers are devices that amplify light and produce coherent light beams, ranging from infrared to ultraviolet. A light beam is coherent when its waves, or photons, propagate in step with one another. Laser light, therefore, can be made extremely intense, highly directional, and very pure in color and frequency.
The airborne laser beam weapon is now progressing very quickly. Its progress in the last few years have been very astonishing. The weapons can now destroy missiles when they are launched. The laser locks onto a missile just when it is launched, and then fires a high intensity laser beam, which melts the superstructure of the missile and thus destroying it in flight. Advance laser guidance systems for missiles, aircraft, and satellites are being developed worldwide.
The use of laser beams has been proposed against hostile ballistic missiles, as in the defense system urged by President Ronald Reagan in 1983 (Strategic Defense Initiative). The ability of lasers to excite selectively an atom or molecule could open up more efficient ways to separate isotopes for construction of more deadly nuclear weapons. Within just a few more years, the ability of laser weapons will be amazing and this modern weapon system should replace many existing armaments.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com
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