US Laser and Rail Gun Development News


Senior Member
Any competent or halfway intelligent person could tell you that you need to start working on the tech of any revolutionary warship at least a decade before it hits the water.
Nov 14, 2017
noticed Air Force to begin exploring use of defensive laser weapons on KC-135s
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and Laser weapon for KC-135 ‘still in the infancy stage’
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The U.S. Air Force is on a path to adopt
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, but it’s still on the fence about how to mount such weaponry on its tanker fleet, service officials said Monday.

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is an effort that’s “still in the infancy stage,” said Tom Lockhart, director of the Air Force Research Laboratory’s Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office.

The lab recently conducted an assessment with Air Mobility Command to locate an area on the KC-135 on which it could attach a laser pod, he told reporters during a roundtable at the Pentagon.

“The next phase [is]: Does that make sense, does it make sense to put a pod on there, or do you want to go complete and do a system integration of a laser itself?” Lockhart said. “You can do it a little bit different from just hanging a pod on there. You could integrate it with the rest of the systems.”

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has been a pet project of Air Mobility Command head Gen. Carlton Everhart. Most refueling aircraft were designed without defensive systems, but Everhart has said future conflicts could require tankers to move closer to the fight, necessitating the adoption of situational awareness upgrades or even more intricate systems like laser weapons.

Potential applications include countering unmanned aircraft or cruise missiles.

“The expectation is to have this capability available to our war fighters within two years,” Everhart told Defense News sister publication Air Force Times in November. “It’s time to move out and show we’re serious about this to our airmen.”

Lockhart described the KC-135 integration as a parallel effort with the Air Force’s best-known laser program, the Self-protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator, or SHiELD, which aims to test a laser pod on an F-15 fighter by 2021.

Lockheed Martin is developing SHiELD under a $26.3 million contract. That high-powered fiber laser will be integrated with a pod, which will power and cool the laser, and a beam-control system, which will direct the laser onto the target.

Tests of a 50-kilowatt SHiELD laser will start this summer, followed by the first flight tests next year, said Jeff Stanley, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for science, technology and engineering.

Whether the Air Force opts to attach a podded laser to the KC-135 or integrate it within the airframe itself, the development of a podded system of for the SHiELD program will offer valuable insight about how to stabilize laser weapons and drive down their size, weight and power use.

“With SHiELD, you’re learning a lot about targeting and tracking beyond just the pod itself,” Lockhart said. “What do you need to actually keep the laser on the target? And so that’s some of the stuff we have to learn as part of SHIELD, whether it goes on a KC-135 or on an F-15, you still have to understand those kind of control mechanisms.”

Beyond SHiELD and the KC-135 demonstration, the service is continuing to develop a roll-on laser capability for Air Force Special Operations Command’s AC-130J gunship. A test plan is still in the works, but will likely be concurrent with the SHiELD program, Lockhart said.
I guess you don't want to comment on "increasing the survivability of tankers" by putting nonexistent lasers on, do you LOL
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"... Griffin, head of the Pentagon’s research and engineering office, told the House Armed Services Committee ...

said he would like to see 100 kw laser on a Stryker within a decade, a 700 kw laser on an Air Force tanker so it can defend itself, and “a megawatt device” in space to protect against enemy strategic missiles. “These things are within our grasp…help me get it,” he asked the committee members.

Griffin’s schedule outstrips the one being followed the Army, which only just tested a 5 kw laser on a Stryker under strictly controlled circumstances in March, and has set a goal of five years just to assess the possibility of putting a 50 kw laser into its short-range air defense program.

The Army
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a larger truck-mounted laser — less mobile but more powerful — in the 100 kW range. The Army has said it will be
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source is BreakingDefense
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Dec 7, 2017
Aug 24, 2017

... and more basic reservations are inside Railgun potentially cancelled: what went wrong for the US superweapon?
5 December 2017
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now noticed, though, inside
HASC’s 2019 Bill Boosts Navy Spending, With Focus on Readiness and Pacific Operations
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"In support of technologies the military believes will be relevant in future Pacific operations, the bill also adds ..., an additional $40 million for electromagnetic railgun development, ..."
I didn't read Report to Congress on U.S. Navy Lasers, Railgun and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile
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From the Report:
The Navy is developing three new ship-based weapons that could improve the ability of Navy surface ships to defend themselves against missiles, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and surface craft: the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System (SNLWS), the electromagnetic railgun (EMRG), and the gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP), previously known as the hypervelocity projectile (HVP).

The Navy refers to the initial (i.e., Increment 1) version of SNLWS as HELIOS, an acronym meaning high-energy laser with integrated optical dazzler and surveillance. EMRG could additionally provide the Navy with a new naval surface fire support (NSFS) weapon for attacking land targets in support of Marines or other friendly ground forces ashore. The Department of Defense is exploring the potential for using GLGP across multiple U.S. military services. Anyone of these three new weapons, if successfully developed and deployed, might be regarded as a “game changer” for defending Navy surface ships against enemy missiles and UAVs. If two or three of them are successfully developed and deployed, the result might be considered not just a game changer, but a revolution. Rarely has the Navy had so many potential new types of surface-ship air-defense weapons simultaneously available for development and potential deployment.

Although the Navy in recent years has made considerable progress in developing technologies for these new weapons, a number of significant development challenges remain. Overcoming these challenges will require additional development work, and ultimate success in overcoming them is not guaranteed.

The issue for Congress is whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s funding requests and proposed acquisition strategies for these three potential new weapons. Potential oversight questions for Congress include the following:

  • Using currently available air-defense weapons, how well could Navy surface
    ships defend themselves in a combat scenario against an adversary such as China
    that has or could have large numbers of missiles and UAVs? How would this
    situation change if Navy surface ships in coming years were equipped with
    SNLWS, EMRG, GLGP, or some combination of these systems?
  • How significant are the remaining development challenges for SNLWS, EMRG,
    and GLGP? Are current schedules for developing SNLWS, EMRG, and GLGP
    appropriate in relation to remaining development challenges and projected
    improvements in enemy missiles and UAVs?
  • When does the Navy anticipate issuing roadmaps detailing its plans for procuring
    and installing production versions of SNLWS, EMRG, and GLGP on specific
    Navy ships by specific dates?
  • Will the kinds of surface ships that the Navy plans to procure in coming years
    have sufficient space, weight, electrical power, and cooling capability to take full
    advantage of SNLWS and EMRG? What changes, if any, would need to be made
    in Navy plans for procuring large surface combatants (i.e., destroyers and
    cruisers) or other Navy ships to take full advantage of SNLWS and EMRGs?
  • Given the Navy’s interest in HPV, how committed is the Navy to completing the
    development of EMRG and eventually deploying EMRGs on Navy ships?
  • Are the funding line items for SNLWS, EMRG, and GLDP sufficiently visible
    for supporting congressional oversight?


Registered Member
I found a research paper related to the PLAN EM gun.
  1. As I have said before, the storage system seems (99% certainty IMO) to be combination of Chemical Battery and Super Capacitor.
  2. There was one project (started from Jan 2015) which seems to be outcome of this paper.
  3. Zhang Xiao (female PLAN researcher of Ma's team) is the project leader. She is the co-author/co-advisor of the paper together with Ma. Note, the name in the English substract "ZHAN Xiao" is wrongly spelled.
  4. The design goals are
    1. 32 MJ at muzzle
    2. 12 shot per minute (requirement of the gun in a burst)
    3. 100 shot per hour (seems to be the goal for the storage system therefor the sustained rate of the gun).
The paper has also stated the reason of choosing Chemical Battery over alternator/flywheel being that alternator is too slow in discharging fully, incapable to reach high rate of shot.
Last edited:
May 8, 2018
Dec 7, 2017
now noticed, though, inside
HASC’s 2019 Bill Boosts Navy Spending, With Focus on Readiness and Pacific Operations
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"In support of technologies the military believes will be relevant in future Pacific operations, the bill also adds ..., an additional $40 million for electromagnetic railgun development, ..."
now the latest is inside of
Navy Making Room for Railguns in Next Warship, But No Extra Investments
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program for electromagnetic railgun technology in 2005, and in 2012 ONR began a second phase that focused on getting the railgun ready for operational use – specifically, demonstrating a 10-shots-per-minute firing rate. Though the INP spans until 2020, it covers only the science and technology development portion of the program and cannot conduct the shipboard integration piece – engineering a gun mount that connects to the ship and its combat system; engineering a battery or other power system to support the railgun if the ship cannot supply sufficient power on its own; and marinizing the system to withstand the saltwater, sand, wind and other conditions at sea.

Several sources suggested to USNI News last year that railgun was struggling to gain support to make the transition from a research project to an acquisition program, and that if it were to get wrapped up in the Future Surface Combatant momentum then it may have an easier time getting funding for the gun mount and other integration efforts.

Though ONR could not talk about the future of the railgun program, ONR Electromagnetic Railgun program officer Tom Boucher told USNI News in December 2017 that “we have been working with our transition partner, PEO IWS (Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems), and the Staff of the Chief of Naval Operations to chart a path forward for the follow-on development of an integrated Railgun System. The Navy is continually assessing the maturation of key Railgun/[high velocity projectile] system technologies and the associated schedule to deploy an operational capability on a ship. The results of land-based testing will guide future risk reduction demonstrations and inform system requirements and the timeline to a deployable system.”

Asked about what it would take to get from today’s railgun to a deployable system for a warship, Boucher said, “in addition to our progress on hardware development we have also been working hard to reduce the size and weight of our system. We have increased energy density and improved the packaging of capacitors. We believe we have a system design basis that will allow a 32 MJ system to fit in a destroyer-sized hull right now without impacting other critical weapon systems, for instance the number of VLS cells available. … The only significant issue remaining in creating an operationally useful system is development of a Railgun mount to support Railgun’s installation in a ship. That work is normally conducted during the research and development phase by the acquisition community and requires a separate source of funding. There are no known show stoppers to the launcher and power system work being conducted by ONR. Rather, it will be an engineering effort to develop the mount.”

The ONR INPs’ “goal is to develop and test a prototype railgun barrel that can fire a projectile with 32 megajoules muzzle energy, that has long bore life and is capable of being fired at 10 rounds per minute,” Boucher said.
“Our current generation of Railgun launchers has already achieved our objective size and 32 MJ launch energy,” and the bore life is already looking better than conventional guns and is set for even better performance in the future thanks to ongoing work with advanced materials.

The last piece, the 10-rounds-a-minute rate, is still being worked on. It could not be achieved at the previous test facility because the launcher was not cooled, limiting it to just three shots in a row before it would need time to cool down. With a new test site stood up that has a thermal management system for the railgun, “we expect to achieve 10 rounds per minute at 32 megajoules by the end of 2018.”

ONR could not be reached this week to provide an update since the December 2017 comments Boucher provided.

The Fiscal Year 2019 National Defense Authorization Act that was signed into law earlier this month added $20 million to the Navy budget to ” accelerate Navy railgun development and prototyping,” though it is unclear if this funding could cover any of the gun mount and integration work that ONR can’t do under the scope of its INP program. The congressional appropriators have not yet passed a 2019 spending plan, and that increase in railgun spending would not go into effect unless the appropriations bill also included the money.

Boxall told USNI News this week that “we’ve made more progress putting lasers on ships than we have for putting a railgun [on a ship], because it’s not just about the gun, it’s about the power distribution and all those things. So those are exactly the things we’re looking at.”

Though he said the Navy would not make a specific effort to accelerate railgun to match its development with that of the new surface combatant, he said the large surface combatant would be waiting for the railgun whenever it matures and is ready for shipboard operations.

“When we design [the large surface combatant], we want to make sure we have the opportunity to put those in in a modular fashion. So if you’re going to put some whatever in the future, you’re going to put it in this space, and here’s the space and weight and power it should fit into. So we’re designing, we hope, for the future to build enough of that potential future power and weight to get what we think we need.”


Junior Member
Nothing new in this party of the military? Are we missing out on this potential game changer? Or has our higher ups seen that it is not worth it, with the advancements of missile technology ranges? I always thought if we had these in Afghanistan or Iraq atm they'd make unbelievable artillery sitting on base with their fire range
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USAF Wants to Study More Powerful Airborne Laser to Follow F-15 Pod


oh really
The Air Force is beginning to think about more powerful laser weapons that could replace a less-advanced beam on a fighter jet, according to an Air Force Research Laboratory document posted earlier this month.

This six-month study, dubbed the Compact High-Energy Laser Subsystem Engineering Assessment (CHELSEA), asks industry to look at ways to build a weapon that is significantly more powerful than that created by the Self-Protect High-Energy Laser Demonstrator program.

“CHELSEA is intended to identify the most promising technology options to scale laser power by calendar year 2024,” according to a Jan. 11 AFRL announcement. “The data and results may also be used to guide government technology investment decisions beyond 2024.”

SHiELD aims to demonstrate a defensive laser on Boeing’s F-15 by Fiscal 2021, but it’s still unclear how powerful the weapon will be. An official from Lockheed Martin, which is building the beam subsystem, told reporters in November 2017 the laser would wield “tens of kilowatts.”

The announcement characterizes the technology that will be considered under CHELSEA as a “possible drop-in replacement” for the SHiELD laser. SHiELD is comprised of three parts that are still in development: Lockheed’s laser beam, a Northrop Grumman subsystem to control it, and a Boeing pod to carry the weapon. Their development contracts are worth around $155 million.

Tom Lockhart, director of the Air Force's Strategic Development Planning and Experimentation Office, said in early 2018 the service planned to start ground-testing the SHiELD weapon that summer,
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(Note: This story is behind a paywall). He expected initial flight tests will take place in summer 2019. High-power tests to prove whether the laser can shoot down an incoming missile were expected in Fiscal 2021.

Whatever CHELSEA discovers could also become part of a new laser prototype that would be installed onto an aircraft, AFRL said. Such a weapon would fly at or slower than the speed of sound. The Air Force eventually plans to tweak the SHiELD laser to be carried internally,
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, so a future laser could sit inside an aircraft rather than hang outside in a pod.
“Directed energy weapons, including high-energy lasers, are potential game-changing technologies for United States national security,” the notice said. “Past efforts in integrating HELs aboard aircraft have resulted in large, dedicated platforms which lacked tactical utility and presented significant problems of sustainment. Recent advances in laser amplifier technology enable the development of effective laser weapon systems within the constraints of existing or near-term operational air platforms.”

Responses to the notice are due Feb. 26.
inside (dated today)
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Asked about the perpetual Next Big Thing, a rail gun attached to the deck of a ship, Richardson wasn’t quite so confident. The “rail gun is a case study for how innovation maybe shouldn’t happen,” he said. “It’s been around for 15 years, maybe 20. So rapid doesn’t come to mind when you’re talking about time frames like that.” But, he added, “we’re going to continue after this…it’s going somewhere,” but exactly where, he couldn’t say.