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Weapons: Always The Weapon Of Tomorrow
   Next Article → INTELLIGENCE: We Must Be Quick
October 5, 2010: Recently, the U.S. Navy successfully tested a laser weapon that pierced the hulls of small boats hundreds of meters away. But this was a static (on land) test against immobile targets. Next, the MLD (Maritime Laser Demonstration) will be mounted on a ship for more realistic tests. MLD is scalable (it can use higher energy levels) up to 100 kilowatts. This raises a major issue; power supply. MLD will only work effectively in an all-electric ship (where the engines produce just electricity, and all ship equipment is electric powered.) Some all electric warships are already in service, and most navies are planning to build only this type of shipboard power plant in the future. At that point, MLD will be a practical weapon.

MLD was developed based on the earlier THEL (Tactical High Energy Laser) system. This was a joint U.S.-Israel project from the 1990s. Israel eventually dropped out because of the cost, and slow progress. But by 2005, THEL was looking good, and a smaller, commercial version, Skyguard, was developed.

The original THEL laser and radar system could track up to sixty targets (mortar and artillery shells, rockets) at a time and fire on and destroy these projectiles at a range of up to five kilometers. THEL could destroy about a dozen targets a minute, at a cost of some $3,000 per shot. Each THEL system (radar and laser) could thus cover about ten kilometers of border or front line.

The Skyguard version of THEL has a range of up to eight kilometers, is using improved software and can more easily link to other radar systems to obtain targeting information. Skyguard is designed mainly for knocking down portable anti-aircraft missiles fired near airports, at aircraft that are landing or taking off. Since Skyguard is stationary, power supply is not a big problem. But this baby needs lots of juice, and there have been no buyers yet.

Such laser weapons have been the weapons of the future for decades, and will continue to be for at least another decade.

 

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Colonel Korg    Power for the All Electric Ships...   10/5/2010 11:45:20 AM
One of things you need for an all electric ship is power. So 25 years ago when a prominent nuclear physicist named Dr. Robert W. Bussard told the Navy of his idea for a clean nuclear fusion power source, they took up the challenge and funded the initial development. Dr Bussard's company, Energy Matter Conversion Corporation (EMC2). The funding was small, only $14 million, but they were able to solve all of the basic physics issues that have been the hold up on a clean, almost radiation and radioactivity free nuclear reaction. The same reaction that powers the sun and other stars. Fusing hydrogen nuclei into helium and producing large amounts of energy. The problem is, you have to heat the hydrogen nuclei to millions of degrees in order for them to fuse.  Many approaches have been tried but all have failed to reach the critical level of "break even" where the output produces more energy that the input energy used to heat the reactants. The Navy had put a gag order on Dr. Bussard and his team until the contract expired in 2006. Dr. Bussard was then able to tell the world what his team had achieved. He gave a google tech talk (links to the video can be found here   > with other information about the project and where they are heading now.)  Tragically, Dr. Bussard died from cancer in 2008, but he left a very capable team in place to carry on his life's work and they have had more successes under a new Navy contract. Again the US Navy has placed a "gag order" on the team until the contract is up. But some news has leaked out and so far, everything looks promising.  If they fully succeed in building a Fusion reactor, then the worlds dependence on fossil fuels will be over and the US Navy will have Fusion powered all electric ships that it has dreamed about for decades. 
 
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