Lasers to Aid Machine Guns Aboard Ships

By Eric Beidel
Sailors soon may have a new weapon to use on the high seas, one that combines the precision of directed energy with the lethal power of a machine gun.

BAE Systems and Boeing have teamed up to develop the MK 38 Mod 2 Tactical Laser System for the U.S. Navy to help defend its ships. It couples a solid-state, high-energy laser weapon module with the remote-control MK 38 machine gun, which fires more than 180 rounds per minute.

The laser portion of the weapon will be able to deliver different amounts of energy. Enough power can be fired toward a target to disrupt or destroy optics, burn materials and disable weapons, a Boeing spokesperson said.

An operator can switch between the machine gun and laser and control and fire each as the situation dictates. The two also can be used in tandem, with the laser locating and locking onto a target for the machine gun to fire at. The addition of the 10-kilowatt laser will improve accuracy against targets such as small boats and unmanned aircraft.

The new system “combines kinetic and directed energy weapons capability,” said Michael Rinn, vice president of Boeing directed energy systems. “Our approach is an affordable solution for the customer, because this system can be integrated seamlessly into existing shipboard command interfaces.”

Boeing has been working as a subcontractor to BAE Systems over the past two years to build the integrated weapon. Last year, Boeing conducted two field tests to demonstrate the ability to track surface targets and maintain a laser aim-point with high precision.

Topics: Science and Engineering Technology, Homeland Security, Shipbuilding, Surface Ships

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