SHIPS WITH FRICKIN LASER BEAMS: The U.S. Navy Is Funding Lasers and Killing the Railgun.
The so-called Navy Laser Family of Systems is meant to get laser weapons to sea in the near term, giving the U.S. Navy the ability to deal with what might be called “pesky” threats: unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned ships, and armed speed boats, also known as fast inshore attack craft (FIAC). Such threats cannot sink America’s large warships directly, but they can surveil, harass, and even damage a ship as large as a destroyer. The “family” also includes larger 150-kilowatt weapons that could be useful against missiles and aircraft.
But what about the U.S. Navy’s vaunted railgun, also known as Project 3370? The 2019 budget provides zero funding for the railgun. In its place, the Navy is funding the Gun Launched Guided Projectile, also known as the Hyper Velocity Projectile Block 0, which will “double the range of the current 5-inch conventional ammunition while meeting multi-mission operational requirements for Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), Anti-Air Warfare (AAW), and Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) missions.”
Both systems require huge amounts of electricity, but only the railgun has the reach to engage over-the-horizon threats. China is reportedly preparing to test-fire their own railgun.