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Shark The Military United States Technology

US Navy Authorizes Use of Laser In Combat 225

mi writes The U.S. Navy has declared an experimental laser weapon on its Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) in the Persian Gulf an operational asset and U.S. Central Command has given permission for the commander of the ship to defend itself with the weapon. The 30 kilowatt Laser Weapon System (LaWS) was installed aboard USS Ponce this summer as part of a $40 million research and development effort from ONR and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to test the viability of directed energy weapons in an operational environment. No word yet on a smaller, shark-mounted version.
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US Navy Authorizes Use of Laser In Combat

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  • USS Ponce? (Score:5, Funny)

    by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) * <(mojo) (at) (world3.net)> on Wednesday December 10, 2014 @06:28PM (#48568183) Homepage

    Really? Does "ponce" mean something different in US English or is there some story behind it?

    I thought poncy names for ships was the preserve of the Royal Navy.

  • by Ungrounded Lightning ( 62228 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2014 @06:37PM (#48568243) Journal

    One of the religious prohibitions in Islam is making war with fire.

    If this is used it will be interesting to see the effects on recruiting by the Islamic State and other anti-US organizations among those Muslims who are currently either opposed to them or unaligned.

    Also: How do you keep a 30 kW laser, at any frequency, from blinding everybody in the general direction of the target? The last I heard, weapons that blind are banned by the current "laws of war" as recognized by the western powers - and that's been the major impeidment so far to deploying laser (and other directed energy) weapons. Has something changed? Or did the current administration just decide to play with the new toy despite past promises to the other kids?

    • yeah... it's going to be the laser weapons that makes them hate us.

      and i get the feeling that this is going to "blind" combatants in the same way a bullet blinds them. utter removal of the seeing apparatus.

      • by rtb61 ( 674572 )

        I have got the feeling that using high energy lasers on boats with the unpredictable reflective nature of the surface of the sea, waves and such, might not be the safest thing to do for anyone involved in those laser shenanigans. Perhaps a rethink might be in order or at least many damn good pairs of sunglasses for the crew of the vessel, crews of any nearby friendly vessels or planes or people on the shore. So what fraction of second for the partial reflection of a high energy laser is required to blind s

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          your right of course, obviously no testing has been done and you certainly sound like you're more knowledgeable then the many, many people i'm sure worked on this. Yes that's it, i'm sure there was never even a thought about the safety and security of the crew. /s

          jesus christ this place is a landfill opinions.

        • I would imagine that if you shot the water, it would turn to steam. I doubt it would remain very reflective for long, or that it effectively would reflect much in the first place.
    • by DavenH ( 1065780 )
      It's not illegal to use weapons that blind, it just cannot be their primary purpose to do so. Like, a nuke can probably blind someone. This laser is ostensibly designed for non-human targets.
      • by vux984 ( 928602 )

        It's not illegal to use weapons that blind, it just cannot be their primary purpose to do so

        Exactly right. Nearly all weapons can blind. But if the reason the weapon was fired was to kill a target, or destroy a missile, or sink a boat... or whatever than its 'fine' if someone gets blinded.

        But if your just pulling the trigger with the intention to blind people, then its against the "rules".

    • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2014 @06:51PM (#48568349) Journal

      That "Law" only applies to weapons whose primary purpose is to create blindness. Incidental blindness in pursuit of an "acceptable" primary purpose is specifically permitted.

      Though, really, rules concerning the appropriate way to make war are just another example of a cartel colluding to protect their monopoly on the use of deadly force by raising the bar of entry.

      The purpose of war is to shatter a social system that is harming our species and make space for something better. If your war is moral, the cruelty of your weapons is immaterial.

      • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2014 @07:12PM (#48568513)

        The purpose of war is to shatter a social system that is harming our species and make space for something better. If your war is moral, the cruelty of your weapons is immaterial.

        Oh please.

        "War is diplomacy by other means." - Carl von Clausewitz

        There's nothing moral or immoral about waging war. It is one of many methods in which a country pursues it's strategic objectives in opposition to another country or organized group. The conduct by which war is fought is moral or immoral however, which includes the cruelty of your weapons. Weapons such as chemical weapons were banned specifically because they were indiscriminate and horrific in their effects. The exact opposite of what you just said is true.

        • Immorality destroys itself. That is what distinguishes it from morality, which sustains itself.

          Talking about why this nation makes war on that nation is irrelevant to the question of "What evolutionary advantage does war give to the human race.", which is the foundation of all morality.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward

            That's a childish and superficial philosophy. You haven't thought it through, can't support it, and make no effort to live by it.

        • "There's nothing moral or immoral about waging war".

          As that is a value judgment, I shall not say that it is incorrect. It does differ sharply, however, from all international and national laws and norms. Wikipedia puts it simply:

          'The International Military Tribunal at Nuremberg, which followed World War II, called the waging of aggressive war "essentially an evil thing...to initiate a war of aggression...is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime, differing only from other war

      • by mjwx ( 966435 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2014 @08:48PM (#48569107)

        The purpose of war is to shatter a social system that is harming our species and make space for something better.

        This is about the silliest thing I've read all year... And it has a lot of competition.

        The purpose of war is to gain land, money or power. Ultimately it comes down to power as money and land are just methods to get it. Even the enforcement of an ideology is to get more power for those who control or benefit from that ideology being enforced. No religious war has ever been waged to benefit god, men have always been the primary and intended beneficiaries.

        If your war is moral, the cruelty of your weapons is immaterial.

        OK, now this is the silliest thing I've read all year. At least your consistent.

        When men decide that all means are necessary to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy.

        You're essentially saying that any method can be defended by the outcome. The wholesale slaughter of civilians with chemical and biological weapons is just and moral?

        Sorry, but the people who were exposed to such things long ago decided that in order for a conflict to remain moral, such weapons and tactics should not be permitted. What makes a side in a conflict moral is not just why the conflict is fought, but how it is fought. You cannot keep moral intentions if your actions are immoral.

        • When men decide that all means are necessary to fight an evil, then their good becomes indistinguishable from the evil that they set out to destroy.

          From your point of view, yes... what happens when the other side doesn't agree with you?

          You're essentially saying that any method can be defended by the outcome. The wholesale slaughter of civilians with chemical and biological weapons is just and moral?

          It could be, if that is the moral point of view of those doing it. "moral" and "immoral" are not absolute terms.

          Sorry, but the people who were exposed to such things long ago decided that in order for a conflict to remain moral, such weapons and tactics should not be permitted. What makes a side in a conflict moral is not just why the conflict is fought, but how it is fought. You cannot keep moral intentions if your actions are immoral.

          We used nuclear weapons against Japan, and I consider that to be a quite moral act, it saved far more lives than it took. What Japan was doing was immoral, and had to be stopped, no matter the cost. Germany too...

          Frankly, had we been willing to use nuclear weapons in Afghanistan 10 years ago, back when Bin

        • by AmiMoJo ( 196126 ) *

          The only acceptable purpose for war is defence. Under international law countries cannot use military force for any purpose other than defence, and when they win they must return everything to how it was before rather than trying to grab land from their opponent. A war of aggression is illegal, and those starting one can be tried for war crimes.

      • The purpose of war is to shatter a social system that is harming our species and make space for something better.

        Said every genocidal dictator ever.

      • by tsotha ( 720379 )

        Though, really, rules concerning the appropriate way to make war are just another example of a cartel colluding to protect their monopoly on the use of deadly force by raising the bar of entry.

        Eh... no. The rules are there to ban the use of weapons which are low on utility but high on pain and suffering. Gas, mostly. The poor man's deadly force is still RDX and its children.

      • raising the bar of entry

        Not really. Countries that haven't signed the treaties aren't officially bound by them.
        See it more as a formalization of what was thought to be just wrong. The countries that signed it formally declare that they aren't going to use it anymore.

        In practice it is used as a handle to allow an incursion if these weapons are used. Even when the user hasn't signed the treaty.
        And I don't think that is wrong. Most weapons on that list (biological, chemical, incendiary and mines) are not specific. They can't see the

      • by Malc ( 1751 )

        Yeah really. And we should have a secret spy agency that doesn't ponce around but just tortures people to get answers.

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus ( 1223518 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2014 @07:03PM (#48568439) Journal
      Protocol IV [wikipedia.org] of the 1980 Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons is unlikely to be a problem.

      Per Article 1, weapons specifically designed as their sole combat function, or one of their functions, to cause permanent blindness are Not OK.

      However, Per Article 3, "Blinding as an incidental or collateral effect of the legitimate military employment of laser systems, including laser systems used against optical equipment, is not covered by the prohibition of this Protocol." Just aim for a legitimate target and stock up on braille sympathy cards.

      Problem solved.

      As for making war with fire, light isn't fire, and conventional explosives(never mind thermobarics and incendiaries) are markedly more strongly associated with fire. Lasers have that novelty thing going against them; but anybody who actually cares about the letter of the law probably has hangups about tracers, attacks on fuel dumps, and other routine stuff. As soon as the novelty wears off lasers will recede into the background.
    • I don't see how this is more making war with fire than firearms.
    • Silly rabbit, laws of war don't apply to dealing with unlawful combatants.

      Also, lasers are fairly well collimated, so you'd have to aim directly at the person to blind them, and then I think they would have more problems than just blinding. You can also blind someone by shooting them in the eye with a gun, but for some reason it's ok as long as they have a good chance of dying outright.

    • This could get sticky. The most effective property of the lasers may be that they blind, even though that isn't their stated function. Similarly to using white phosphorus against humans, the legality is debated.

      Everyone on a ship with the laser will need eye protection all the time. Crude metal corner cubes will be pretty effective and since the goal of the weapon is rapid response, the crew will need to always be ready, or they risk blinding their own people. It will have a really tough time burning thro

      • These types of weapons are generally mounted on the outside of the ship, and they fire outwards. They generally do not turn in or fire along the length of the ship, so the crew should be fine. Likewise, there typically aren't many bystanders while at sea.
        • I'm worried about a reflector on the target ship. If I were planning a terrorist attack on a US navy ship, after reading this, I'd mount an optical retro-reflectors. (though of course that makes you more radar-visible... The retroreflectors are a big hazard to crew on the firing ship. They don't need to be very good if you are just trying to blind, not do physical damage.

          The blinding problem is more an issue if the ship is in harbor somewhere. There is also the risk of a clever terrorist on a boat reflec

          • It's going to take more than a bathroom mirror to reflect the beam, so I don't think we need to worry about terrorists doing so. Likewise, there are still plenty of conventional weapons on board to take care of a mirrored craft.
            • A modestly shiny piece of metal will do quite a good job of reflecting. You won't get a coherent beam but a diffuse spot that will still blind at a long distance. think of the sun reflecting off of a modestly well polished metal surface. Something you could easily get with a buffing wheel.

              Or for more humor value - a disco ball......

          • A reflector will become seriously non reflective very very quickly. Mirrors don't reflect 100% of the energy, otherwise every hall of mirrors in the world would be unbearably bright.

            So if you do manage to get something reflective in the path of the laser the amount of energy it will absorb rather than reflect will have two effects. One it will cause the reflector to ablate and become useless, the second is it will absorb so much energy that the resultant laser reflections will have been robbed of most of

            • The only demo I saw of one of these was against a small boat.

              Missiles might be a valid target, but they could be designed to be very laser resistant - picture a reentry shield......

              I don't really see much use for these anyway - "won't work in rain and fog" is a pretty big problem.

              • Missiles are right on the border line of blowing up in flight already. At the moment speed is the key thing to get you past other point defence systems. Any laser counter measures that are added will inevitable increase weight or reduce payload. If you reduce speed then the existing vulcans are more likely to hit it.

                Also you wouldn't mount the lasers on the the ship you were trying to protect. They would be on the surrounding ships. So the laser can hit the control surfaces or even the engine. All you

              • That just means they keep the ballistic CIWS type setups along side the lasers. "Sir, we've got another disco zodiac inbound." "Seriously? Fine. Spin up the R2, and put Disco Inferno on the 1MC."
            • Would you be able to put up a lens instead? Potentially you could just widen the beam, or refract it somewhere else... Clearly, not practical on a missile, but if they were aiming it at your boat, you might be able to do something, I guess...?

    • To your 2nd question (Score:4, Informative)

      by s.petry ( 762400 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2014 @08:14PM (#48568953)

      The last I heard, weapons that blind are banned by the current "laws of war" as recognized by the western powers - and that's been the major impeidment so far to deploying laser (and other directed energy) weapons. Has something changed? Or did the current administration just decide to play with the new toy despite past promises to the other kids?

      The US does not honor International Law on banned weapons, nor does any other country in reality. Weapons that are "banned" are normally relabeled to make them look good, but does not change what they are. As long as you are on the winning side who is going to prosecute you? As a prime example, cluster bombs are against the law yet the main artillery round of the MLRS fires a warhead packed with 1001 "grenadelets". See that? By renaming "cluster bomb" to be "grenadelets" you have not broken the law. Firing a weapon at a "person" with a round of .50 caliber or higher is illegal by international law. The main sniper rifle used by all troops in the Middle East has become a.50 caliber, and look at the video of the Reuters reporter killed by the 30MM chain gun on an Apache.

      Countries today use what they think they can get away with, and in the case of Western countries that is quite a lot. Look at all the depleted uranium dumped in the middle east causing serious health problems for over a decade.

    • Weapons whose purpose is to blind are banned. Weapons where the side effect is going blind are not. I can still put a laser on my gun to help me aim, but it's not going to get me in trouble if I blind someone while taking head shots. Likewise, if I shoot you in the face with a regular gun, and you are blinded, it's fine because the intent of the gun is not to blind.
    • by mjwx ( 966435 )

      One of the religious prohibitions in Islam is making war with fire.

      Has anyone explained to them how guns operate?

      or bombs and mortars?

      The first significant user of firearms in Europe were the Ottoman Empire (modern day Turkey) as hand held guns came in from Asia via the middle east.

      Then again a little hypocrisy in religion is nothing new. So I highly doubt it will have any effect on Muslims what so ever.

    • Oh really? They seemed to be fine using flamethrowers in the Crusades. They used siphons with naphtha in combat.

    • by clovis ( 4684 )

      One of the religious prohibitions in Islam is making war with fire.

      If this is used it will be interesting to see the effects on recruiting by the Islamic State and other anti-US organizations among those Muslims who are currently either opposed to them or unaligned.

      Also: How do you keep a 30 kW laser, at any frequency, from blinding everybody in the general direction of the target? The last I heard, weapons that blind are banned by the current "laws of war" as recognized by the western powers - and that's been the major impeidment so far to deploying laser (and other directed energy) weapons. Has something changed? Or did the current administration just decide to play with the new toy despite past promises to the other kids?

      Re ban on blinding weapons. Here's the Geneva Conventional protocol on Blinding Weapons:
      https://www.icrc.org/ihl/INTRO... [icrc.org]
      Article 3:
      Blinding as an incidental or collateral effect of the legitimate military employment of laser systems, including laser systems used against optical equipment, is not covered by the prohibition of this Protocol.

    • by gl4ss ( 559668 )

      it doesn't blind in the general direction of the target...
      besides, the blinding is accidental by product.

      also, it's not "fire". just like bombs are not "fire" and using a fire to make swords is not "making war with fire". So I think they only mean some shit like a forest fire. they don't have any forests anymore soo..

    • You are reading it wrong. The laws of war prohibit using weapons with the purpose of blinding. The purpose of this is blowing stuff up.

      Article 3 [wikipedia.org]
      Blinding as an incidental or collateral effect of the legitimate military employment of laser systems, including laser systems used against optical equipment, is not covered by the prohibition of this Protocol.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday December 10, 2014 @06:47PM (#48568309)

    Why make the laser smaller when you can make the shark bigger?

  • by Freshly Exhumed ( 105597 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2014 @06:50PM (#48568337) Homepage

    Is it the kind of continuous beam that sounds like it is activated by an industrial elevator servo and emits a high-pitched screech even in space, or is it the kind that goes in segmented little blasts that go ptew ptew ptew and bounce off of bulkheads with little sparks?

  • by dfn5 ( 524972 ) on Wednesday December 10, 2014 @06:51PM (#48568343) Journal
    Navy faces fine for pointing laser at aircraft.
  • >> U.S. Navy has declared a "laz-er" ...an operational asset and ...has given permission for the commander of the ship to defend itself with the weapon

    Today, we finally begin to close the Shark Gap.

  • What people are missing is that this is meant (mostly) for inbound missile defense. It isn't a matter of *pew* *pew* *pew* *BOOM*; a sustained beam is held on target for a fairly long period of time (up to a second).

    Also works well against motor boats and other third world potential mass suicide attack.

    Thank you for thinking out of the box and kicking ass Lt. Gen. Riper! [wikipedia.org]
  • I want to see the railgun. That is where things change. With the railgun, you can shoot 100 miles and over the horizon.

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