On April 8, 2011, Fox News in an article presented the US Navy’s new laser weapon. A test was made off the coast of Central California from the deck of the Navy’s self-defense ship.

In a video from the test a small boat can be seen catching fire and ultimately bursting into flames, a conflagration caused by the navy’s distant gun. Some details of the test were classified, including the exact range of the shot.

The Navy, Army and other armed forces have been working to incorporate so called “directed energy” laser weapons in a number of new guns, from tank-mounted blasters to guns on planes or unmanned balloons. This was the first test of a laser weapon at sea.

The weapon, called the maritime laser demonstrator, was built in partnership with Northrop Grumman. It focused 15 kilowatts of energy by concentrating it through a solid medium.

Quentin Saulter, the research office’s program officer, said that:

We call them solid state because they use a medium, usually something like a crystal.

This and other types of laser weaponry could also be effective against planes and targets on shore.

The Navy is working as well on a gun called the FEL — for free-electron laser, which doesn’t use a gain medium and is therefore more versatile. It was tested in February 2011. Also in the Navy’s futuristic arsenal: a so-called “rail gun,” which uses an electomagnetic current to accelerate a non-explosive bullet at several times the speed of sound. Railguns are even further off in the distance, possibly by 2025, the Navy has said, but some laser weapons are just around the corner: Northrop Grumman plans to field them in 2014.

On April 13, 2011, another Northrop Grumman creation was presented in an article by Fox News: it will be the most technologically advanced plane in the arsenal of the US Navy.

The Navy’s experimental X-47B combat system won’t be remotely piloted, but is otherwise almost completely autonomous. The plane would be piloted by 3.4 million lines of software code. The rest of its functions will be handled by non-pilot personnel (or your average child), as they will only require clicks of the mouse.

The X-47B has already taken to the skies from Edwards AFB earlier this year, but it is a Navy plane for carrier operations.

Simulated takeoffs and landings are starting in 2013 and when completed it will be landing autonomously on a sea-tossed carrier deck by 2014.


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