Despite budget cuts. The United States is preparing for future conflicts
The US Navy
No longer the fantasy weapon of tomorrow, the U.S. Navy is set to field a powerful laser that can protect its ships by blasting targets with high-intensity light beams.
Early next year the Navy will place a laser weapon aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf where it could be used to fend off approaching unmanned aerial vehicles or speedboats.
The Navy calls its futuristic weapon LAWS, which stands for the Laser Weapon System. What looks like a small telescope is actually a weapon that can track a moving target and fire a steady laser beam strong enough to burn a hole through steel.
A Navy video of testing conducted last summer off the coast of California shows how a laser beam fired from a Navy destroyer was able to set aflame an approaching UAV or drone, sending it crashing into the ocean.
“There was not a single miss” during the testing, said Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of Naval Research. The laser was three for three in bringing down an approaching unmanned aerial vehicle and 12 for 12 when previous tests are factored in.
But don’t expect in that video to see the firing of colored laser bursts that Hollywood has used for its futuristic laser guns. The Navy’s laser ray is not visible to the naked eye because it is in the infrared spectrum.
The US Air Force
The U.S. Air Force has designated six cyber tools as weapons, which should help the programs compete for increasingly scarce dollars in the Pentagon budget, an Air Force official said on Monday.
Lieutenant General John Hyten, vice commander of Air Force Space Command, which oversees satellite and cyberspace operation, said the new designations would help normalize military cyber operations as the U.S. military works to keep up with rapidly changing threats in the newest theater of war.
“This means that the game-changing capability that cyber is is going to get more attention and the recognition that it deserves,” Hyten told a cyber conference held in conjunction with the National Space Syposium in Colorado Springs.
Hyten’s remarks came a month after U.S. intelligence officials warned that cyber attacks have supplanted terrorism as the top threat to the country. Spending on cyber security programs has gone up in recent years, but may face pressure given mandatory across-the-board cuts to the Pentagon’s planned spending on military equipment, programs and staff.
Hyten said the recent decision by Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark Welsh to designate certain cyber tools as weapons would help ensure funding.
“It’s very, very hard to compete for resources … You have to be able to make that case,” he said.