The Engineer Q&A: Laser weapons

Laser weapons are about to become reality, with the US Navy recently demonstrating such a system that can shoot drones out of the sky, and announcing plans to deploy a laser onboard a ship in 2014.

We’ve seen lasers used previously as an anti-piracy measure to dazzle would-be attackers, but now so-called directed energy weapons are likely to become a more familiar sight in warfare as defence companies around the world prepare to introduce their own versions.

The weapons are particularly useful for targeting large numbers of small, low-cost targets with high precision, and some estimates put the cost of each shot of directed energy at just $1.

For our latest reader Q&A we’ve lined up a panel of experts to answer your questions on weaponised lasers, the engineering challenges behind them and how they might change warfare.

Submit your questions using the comments box below by midday on Thursday and we’ll publish the answers in the next digital edition of The Engineer (as well as on our website).

Your questions will be answered by:

  • Raytheon, the US defence firm who began publicly demonstrating their laser weapons in conjunction with the US Navy back in 2010.
  • MBDA, the European missile manufacturer whose German operations last year demonstrated a 40kW laser that could pierce a 1.5 inch-thick steel plate in seconds.
  • Dr Mike Cathcart, a senior research scientist at Georgia Tech Research Institute in the US who specialises in directed energy technology and recently chaired the Directed Energy Conference in London.
  • Dr J Doug Beason, author of ‘The E-Bomb: How America’s new directed energy weapons will change the way future wars are fought’ and a former associate laboratory director of La Alamos National Lab.

Comments are now closed. Thank you for your questions. Check out the May digital edition of The Engineer for the answers.