US Navy ships to get laser weapons

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Boeing’s Directed Energy Systems (DES) division is teaming with BAE Systems to develop the Mk 38 Mod 2 Tactical Laser System, combining a gun and a laser, for defence of US Navy ships.

The Navy awarded the BAE Systems team an initial contract in March to build a demonstrator unit. Boeing is a subcontractor to BAE Systems under this contract.

The Mk 38 Mod 2 Tactical Laser System couples a solid-state high-energy laser weapon module with the operational Mk 38 Machine Gun System. The addition of the laser weapon module brings high-precision accuracy against surface and air targets such as small boats and unmanned aerial vehicles, Boeing said in a statement. The system also provides the ability to deliver different levels of laser energy, depending on the target and mission objectives.
“Boeing is committed to developing this directed energy system that will significantly enhance ship defence,” said Michael Rinn, Boeing DES vice president. “Combining BAE’s engineering expertise with the proven directed-energy proficiency of Boeing’s DES division creates a team uniquely qualified to integrate directed-energy technology into the Navy’s shipboard armaments.”

Boeing and BAE Systems have been working together for the past two years to develop the laser capability. In 2010, Boeing DES conducted two experiments in the field to demonstrate the system’s ability to track surface targets and maintain a laser aimpoint with high precision.
“The Mk 38 Mod 2 system is revolutionary because it combines kinetic and directed energy weapons capability,” said Rinn. “Our approach is an affordable solution for the customer, because this system can be integrated seamlessly into existing shipboard command interfaces.”

BAE’s Mk 38 gun is a remote-controlled, small-calibre weapon designed to disable small, fast surface threats to ships. Its main weapon is the widely used M242 Bushmaster 25mm autocannon, which has a 1.5-mile range and variable rates of fire.

Meanwhile, Boeing has been building the truck mounted High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator for the Army to shoot UAVs and projectiles, while Northrop Grumman has demonstrated its own ship-mounted Maritime Laser Demonstrator in a test for the Office of Naval Research.