Navy 4 years away from laser guns
Danger Room reports that the Office of Naval Research is close to having a solid state laser with military value in about 4 years. The article talks to the difference between solid state and free electron lasers. The difference is of great effect because a solid state laser of 100Kw can deal with a few threats, but still has a dwell time on a target of many seconds to nearly a minute, demanding on the target and the conditions. This means you can’t deal with many more targets than you have lasers.
The Free Electron laser, with 10 times the power or more, can deal with many more targets than lasers – the holy grail of shipboard missile defense – a high power “shield” that makes a vessel virtually immune to missile attack. The power for this will likely require going back to nuclear power plants on surface ships to provide the necessary power, and a new generation of power handling equipment to deal with moving several Megawatts of power around a ship.
So in the near term, lasers have the potential to provide defense against a handful or 2 of small boats or a single enemy ships typical salvo of anti-ship missiles. Given that the future is likely going to see a return of Cold war era massive saturation sraids of scores of missiles against a carrier battle group, the SAM will not be made obsolete until an air defense ship has 10 Mw of power and a man battery of 4 to 6 Free electron lasers.