The Star Trek Navyon April 9, 2013 @ 5:38 am (Updated: 8:54 am - 4/9/13 )
It's a weapon that's been in development for six years. Nobody else has anything like it and the Navy has announced that it's is going to be deployed in the Persian Gulf.
"This will indeed, be the first, real-world deployment of a directed energy weapon," explains Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder.
Klunder is describing a weapon that a few years ago you could only find in Naval publicity videos that boasted, "The high power F.E.L. uses a super conducting electron gun which is powered by a microwaved tube."
The F.E.L. is the free electron laser.
Yes, this is a laser which accelerates electrons to the speed of light, then shapes the beam into a sinusoidal wave, so that, basically it releases a really powerful beam of photons.
And I know what the Trekkies are thinking ... but no, this is not the photon torpedo. For one thing, it's quiet and the beam is invisible. It can't shoot down a fighter plane - yet.
It can fire a beam from a moving Navy destroyer, focus it on a flying drone, and set it on fire. Which is why it's being deployed in the Persian Gulf.
It also never runs out of ammo, and unlike a missile, which can cost half a million dollars a shot, "When we shoot one pulse of directed laser energy it's about one dollar, it's a little less than one U.S. dollar - think of that there for a second," says Klunder.
Which is why I'm glad we're the only country that has it. Because it occurs to me that the Navy has just invented a technology that --in unfriendly hands -- could very cheaply take out our drones too.
A big collection of equipment that would make James Bond envious is on display in Seattle
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