Military wants protection from laser weapons

Laser weapon programs challenge security

The US military, one of the world's largest developers of laser-based weapons is looking to develop technology that protects its own systems from the same weapons. 

The Office of Naval Research (ONR) today put out a call for "Counter Directed Energy Weapon Research" that could diminish the laser weapon threat to ship, sub, aviation and and/or weapon systems. 

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According to the lab, Directed Energy Weapon systems it is looking to counter include:

  • High Energy Lasers
  • Radio-Frequency weapons, such as High Power Microwaves
  • Dazzlers or Non-lethal Lower Energy Lasers
  • Weapons that combine the effects of the above, or are otherwise part of the electromagnetic spectrum, as characterized by the transmission of energy by a means other than kinetic energy to defeat targets. 

The lab said the primary focus of this effort is to research and educational opportunities where these broad scientific principles evolve from laboratory testing or applications and where low technical readiness exists, or no capabilities exist. "It is expected that high risk research and development will need to be initiated as a product of this research effort. Some efforts may be shown to have no value due to external constraints, but physics or mathematical simulations may show that trade space is still indeed not only viable - but potentially fruitful. Efforts may be considered as part of a longer term research effort, in order to more fully expand the breadth of understanding over time," the lab stated.

The research should include "theoretical studies of how the human body is affected by such weapons, and how the human body can be protected from various directed energy weapon effects," the lab stated.

The military of course is one of the largest purveyors of such weapons.  For example the Navy is developing a number of systems including the Free Electron Laser; the Army is working on its High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator and the  Air Force recently test-fired its Advanced Tactical Laser from a flying C-130. 

Such protections are seemingly more important as nations such as China and its  People's Liberation Army (PLA)develop advanced laser weaponry.

 A recent Wall Street Journal article noted that in 2006, the PLA used ground-based lasers to blind or "dazzle" a US satellite, and in January 2007 demonstrated a ground-launched satellite interception. Last November, Chinese experts noted that the PLA may develop "assassin" satellites and "laser-armed" satellites. 

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