An artist's depiction of the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) in action. (Courtesy of Lockheed Martin)
The Navy is scared to death that rival countries like China, Russia and Iran might sink its multibillion dollar surface ships with powerful cruise missiles and waves of cheap drones. But while ship-mounted lasers could be the Navy's most effective response to these threats, a new Congressional Research Service report on directed energy weapons indicates many of the Navy's newest destroyers might not have enough power to fire them.
The Navy "will have to either remove something or look at 'very aggressive power management,'" in order to install one 60 kilowatt laser system, called the high-energy laser with integrated optical dassler and surveillance (HELIOS), onto the newest flight of Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, the report said, citing Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, director of Navy Surface Warfare, who was quoted in several news articles.
"[W]e are out of Schlitz with regard to power," Boxall said, noting that the Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers are already strapped powering the new AN/SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar. "'We used a lot of power for that and we don't have as much' extra for additional functions."
The Navy will continue to fund research and development efforts related to the service’s much-hyped electromagnetic railgun but will likely not pursue a shipboard tactical demonstrator, according to sources briefed on the matter, a development that will likely condemn the more than $500 million project to a R&D; limbo as the Department of Defense focuses on other directed energy programs.
As part of its proposed $171.5 billion fiscal year 2018 budget request, the Navy carved out a hefty $2 billion for a suite of futuristic weapons systems ripped straight from the pages of a science-fiction flick. And a good part of that cash is going toward the service’s much-touted electromagnetic railgun: According to a new report from the Congressional Research Service, the service is on track to equip guided-missile destroyers and cruisers with the fancy launcher within the next 10 years. But despite this progress, it appears that the next-generation cannon won’t immediately see combat the way the Navy originally planned.