Free Electron Laser Program
The Navy’s future Free Electron Laser (FEL) weapon system is being designed to be game changing. The capability of having speed-of-light delivery for a wide range of missions and threats is a key element of a future shipboard layered defense. The design is to be able to have selectable wavelengths for use at sea.
An Innovative Naval Prototype program for the free-electron laser technology will begin in FY10. It will demonstrate scalability of the necessary FEL physics and engineering for an eventual megawatt-class device. It will focus on the design, development, fabrication, integration and test of a 100-kW class FEL device. Future needs for ship integration and beam control will be considered. This revolutionary technology allows for multiple payoffs to the warfighter. The ability to control the strength of the beam provides for graduated lethality, and the use of light vice, an explosive munition, provides for low per engagement and life cycle costs. In fact, it provides an effective alternative to using expensive missiles against low value targets. Not worrying about propulsion and working at the speed of light allows for precise engagement and the resulting low collateral damage. Speed-of-light engagement also allows for a rapid reaction to moving and/or swarming time critical and swarming targets.