Mark Gunzinger and Andre Krepinevich (with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a non-profit defense-oriented think tank), writing in The Wall Street Journal, warn of a reversal of events that contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union—an arms race that they couldn’t afford and so couldn’t win. This time, it’s Russia and the People’s Republic of China that are pursuing an arms race, this time of powerful, fast, accurate weapons that will bankrupt us countering, if we don’t change our weapons philosophy.
Russia and the PRC are actively developing high-energy lasers designed to shoot down incoming weapons, while we continue to rely on expensive—$10 million per shot—missiles and fighters—$150+ million—per to do the same mission.
Gunzinger and Krepinevich report on two types of lasers that we could field in six years, were the will extant to make the switch: solid state and chemical lasers.
Experts in the US Navy state that within six years, using technologies already developed and demonstrated in test firings, they could field solid-state lasers on warships with sufficient power to counter anti-ship cruise missiles, unmanned aircraft, and fast-attack “swarm” craft like those of Iran. These lasers could reduce the need for warships to carry bulky—and expensive—defensive munitions, while freeing space for other weaponry.
On the matter of chemical lasers, they write
…new chemical lasers can generate much greater power outputs than their predecessors, enabling them to engage a wide range of air and missile threats, including long-range ballistic missiles. Also within six years…the Air Force and the Army could field ground-based, megawatt-class chemical lasers to help protect key bases in the Persian Gulf and Western Pacific.
And in the homeland.
But that’s just one set of game changing weapons. Another weapon is the rail gun on which the Navy also is working. Rail guns use electromagnetic energy rather than explosives—gun powder—to accelerate a projectile down their barrels. As a result, such weapons can fire accurately a projectile much farther—out to 100 miles vs a current 13 miles—and the ships carrying them don’t need to commit limited shipboard space to that gunpowder, and so they don’t have to worry about all that explosive going off if the ship is hit in combat.