On Phasers and Photon Torpedoes

Multiple, recent papers from the Navy think tank community1 has espoused the benefits of solid state lasers (SSLs), electromagnetic rail guns and hyper velocity projectiles (HVPs) to increase the magazine depth of Navy ships when defending against cruise and ballistic missile strikes.

Laser Weapon System aboard USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) in November 2014 (05).JPG
LaWS on Ponce

However none of these technologies has come close to shooting down even simulated cruise missiles.  At best SSLs have shot down small, light weight UAVs.


Current HVP programs haven't even done this.  They are still heavily in the research phase.

The one exception is the OTO Melara Strales/DART program, which appears to be far closer to production.  However, it is purely a Close-in Weapon System (CIWS) replacement.   It's unclear to me how many successful tests of this system have occurred.

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OTO Melara Strales 76mm gun

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OTO Melara DART munition

Before we "bet the farm" on the transformational power of SSLs and HVPs to allow our ships to penetrate the peer A2/AD zone, maybe we should ask them to shoot down a few representative threats first.  And then do so under operational conditions, with multiple inbounds and inclement weather.  

Until then, they're just science fiction.

Image result for phasers pew pew

1 "Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress", https://fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/R44175.pdf.



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