US Navy officials are pinning their hopes on laser and directed-energy weapons, claiming that lasers would even replace some existing missile systems, providing a much higher rate of annihilation. The US Navy is considering the possibility to equip America’s next-generation aircraft carriers with powerful laser weapons, according to US journalist Zachary Keck, who has interned at the Center for a New American Security and the US Congress, where he worked on defense issues.
Citing Rear Admiral Michael Manazir, Director of Air Warfare, the journalist pointed out that the aircraft carrier is a perfect platform for the installation of laser weaponry. Currently this weapon can be used only for defensive purposes, but Rear Adm. Manazir believes that as technology gets more sophisticated, the US carriers will be able to boast new laser offensive technology.
“The USS Gerald Ford is able to generate 13,800 volts of electrical power, over three times as much as Nimitz-class carriers, which can generate 4,160 volts of electricity,” Keck elaborated, adding that while some of this energy will be needed to power the carrier’s Electro-Magnetic Aircraft Launch System (EMALS), the rest of it can be used by laser weaponry systems.
By placing direct energy weapons on aircraft carriers, the US Navy plans to solve a number of problems traditional missile defense systems still suffer from. First and foremost, offensive missiles are far cheaper to manufacture and operate than the interceptors which are used for defensive purposes.
On the other hand, aircraft carriers have limited space on board for interceptors, since they should also carry offensive weapons. However, it is expected that laser arms will solve both of these problems.
“The US Navy already operates a directed energy weapon system; namely, the Laser Weapons System (LaWS), which is onboard the USS Ponce. It is primarily intended to engage threats posed by Iranian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and small boats that could be used to overwhelm US Navy ships in the Persian Gulf,” Mr. Keck noted.
However, directed-energy weapons still need further refinement, the journalist stressed, quoting the Center for a New American Security report, which stated that “few weapons have held as much promise – and have consistently failed to live up to that promise – as directed-energy weapons.”
Megawatt-class anti-missile weapons remain a distant prospect for the US Navy, which currently uses tactical lasers to shoot small boats and low-cost drones. Still US military officials do not give up hope for obtaining powerful directed-energy arms in the future. Believing that at some points lasers will one day replace some existing missile systems, they insist that lasers will be able to provide a much higher rate of annihilation than traditional missile interceptors.