Skip to comments.Will Space Battles Be Fought with Laser Weapons?
Posted on 03/22/2012 1:34:51 AM PDT by U-238
What would science fiction be without laser beams? From handheld ray guns to spaceship-mounted turbolasers, the futuristic weapon of choice definitely involves bright, colorful blasts of energy.
In the early 21st century, projectiles still remain the standard means of inflicting damage from a distance. Yet continued research into "directed-energy" weapons by the United States military, among others, could someday bring lasers to a battlefield near you.
Lasers are already used in guidance, targeting and communication applications, but significant technological obstacles stand in front of turning them into weapons by themselves. For certain niche scenarios, lasers might prove themselves ideal. It seems unlikely, however, that they will ever outright replace missiles and bullets, as they do in so much sci-fi warfare.
No conventional weapon is a panacea," said Douglas Beason, former associate lab director at Los Alamos National Laboratory. "Why would we expect directed-energy weapons to be any different?"
Lasers are tight rays of photons generated by the excitation of atoms in a liquid, gas or solid; or electrons in a beam. Weapon makers are attracted to lasers because they can shoot faster than any projectile. "You can deliver energy at the speed of light," said Beason.
They also can reach targets with absolute precision while potentially never running out of ammunition. "They call it unlimited magazines," said Beason. "Rather than being able to drop one bomb, you're limited only by the amount of energy you can carry."
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Evidently not by America if Obama has his way
I would assume that in space firing projectile weapons would pose significant navigational challenges. Recoil and all that.
Captain! They are firing...lasers at us?
How quaint, number one.
Beam a quantum torpedo on to their bridge...
That would be a photon torpedo.......ahem.......
Photon torpedoes are so 23rd Century.
As I am sure you know the US Navy is already developing magnetic rail gun systems. Because the projectile is accelerated using electro-magnetic energy a recoil in the classical sense dose not occur. Rather there will be an energy transfer from the source of the magnetic field within the gun to the projectile and vice verses.
A projectile fired from a spacecraft would continue on its trajectory for millions of miles without loss of momentum. Conceivably that projectile could slingshot around a planet and return to the point of origin destroying the spacecraft that launched it comic book style.
Good point. I was thinking more along the lines of classic propellant type projectiles. Rail guns are different.
An excellent point. Space travel would have enough problems with space junk that was accidental in nature without adding projectiles flying all over the place.
True....got me there.
Some other considerations: Railguns are being researched as weapons with projectiles that do not contain explosives, but are given extremely high velocities: 3,500 m/s (11,500 ft/s, approximately Mach 10 at sea level) or more (for comparison, the M16 rifle has a muzzle speed of 930 m/s, or 3,050 ft/s), which would make their kinetic energy equal or superior to the energy yield of an explosive-filled shell of greater mass. This would allow more ammunition to be carried and eliminate the hazards of carrying explosives in a tank or naval weapons platform. Also, by firing at greater velocities railguns have greater range, less bullet drop and less wind drift, bypassing the inherent cost and physical limitations of conventional firearms, “the limits of gas expansion prohibit launching an unassisted projectile to velocities greater than about 1.5 km/s and ranges of more than 50 miles [80 km] from a practical conventional gun system.”
the projectile could be made to explode after having traveled beyond their target. For that matter, a guidance system could be incorporated into them minimizing misses. Ideally, the projectiles would have to be rocket propelled as opposed to the usual gun powder to avoid the recoil issue. The warheads could then be loaded with a semi automatic guidance mechanism and an appropriate amount of explosive and by explosive I mean anti-matter of course.
Because the projectile is accelerated using electro-magnetic energy a recoil in the classical sense dose not occur. Rather there will be an energy transfer from the source of the magnetic field within the gun to the projectile and vice verses.
I'm not sure what you mean; but please do the following thought experiment. Put a railgun on a raft with a flexible connection to power. Is it your contention that if the railgun is fired that the raft will not move?
Like all wars, they will be fought with weapons not today developed or understood. It might be lasers. It might be something that harkens back to the day when lasers were thought to be cutting edge technology.
If man ever takes up residence in space, the question is not what weapons he will use but can man find a way to live in space without fighting a war there. History does not speak well to that possibility.
Evidently not by America if Obama has his wayThat was my first thought.
There was an actual exchange that was better than that.
Worf: “Captain, they are now locking lasers on us.”
Worf: “Yes, sir.”
Picard: “Lasers can’t even penetrate our navigation shields. Don’t they know that?”
Riker: “Regulations do call for yellow alert.”
Picard: “Hmm, a very old regulation. Well, make it so Number One. And, reduce speed . . . drop main shields, as well.”
Riker: “May I ask why, sir?”
Picard: “In case we decide to surrender to them, Number One.”
In technical terms, the recoil caused by a gun exactly balances the forward momentum of the projectile and exhaust gasses (ejecta), according to Newton’s third law. Because rail guns do not use a rearward propellant and all the momentum is transfered between the rails (which surround the ‘barrel’)and the projectile the transfer of that momentum to bring the equation back to zero does not constitute recoil in the classic sense.
Does the raft move?
Distruptors and Bat’leths me thinks...
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