After more than 20 years of research and development, the Navy’s dreams of laser weapons are about to come true. But like the dog who chases the car and doesn’t know what to do when he catches it, the Navy’s thoroughly unprepared for its coming arsenal of focused-light weapons. A new congressional study warns that the Navy runs the risk of outfitting its surface ships with laser guns that their on-board power systems can’t handle.
As Chris Partlow says to Marlo Stanfield in The Wire, this is one of those good problems.
Laser weaponry has progressed to the point where it’s only a matter of time before they’re disabling ships and burning missiles out of the sky. “Over the next few years,” estimates a new Congressional Research Service report acquired by Danger Room, lasers “capable of countering certain surface and air targets at ranges of about a mile could be made ready for installation on Navy surface ships.” Laser weapons with a 10-mile range aren’t much farther away. If only the ships can handle them.
If the Navy hasn’t come to grips with the imminence of its laser cannons, Congress needs to step in, the report suggests. One major issue: “the potential implications of shipboard lasers for the design and acquisition of Navy ships, including the Flight III DDG-51 destroyer that the Navy wants to begin procuring in [fiscal year] 2016.” In plain English: Unless the Navy starts designing ships to carry laser weapons right from the shipyard, it may never get the futuristic weapons it wants.