Boeing building lasers for Navy machine guns

The aerospace giant enters into BAE Systems contract to develop laser weapons system that would be coupled with the existing Mk 38 machine gun.

Tim Hornyak
Crave freelancer Tim Hornyak is the author of "Loving the Machine: The Art and Science of Japanese Robots." He has been writing about Japanese culture and technology for a decade. E-mail Tim.
Tim Hornyak
The laser will have variable energy levels to counter small surface and air threats. BAE Systems

Boeing is formally joining an effort to give directed-energy capabilities to U.S. Navy machine guns through a BAE Systems effort to develop the Mk 38 Mod 2 Tactical Laser System.

The technology will unite a solid-state, high-energy laser weapon module with BAE's Mk 38 Mod 2 gun system. It will add adjustable levels of laser energy to counter threats such as small boats and UAVs.

"This is revolutionary--to combine kinetic and directed energy weapons capability into one system," says Boeing spokesperson Elizabeth Merida. "Adding the laser system provides extremely precise targeting ability."

The tie-up comes after BAE was awarded a $2.8 million contract in March to demonstrate lasers that can integrate with existing Navy gun mounts, but the companies have been working together on this for two years.

BAE's Mk 38 gun is a remote-controlled, minor-caliber weapon designed to disable small, fast surface threats to ships. Its main weapon is the widely used M242 Bushmaster 25mm autocannon, which has a 1.5-mile range and variable rates of fire.

Boeing, meanwhile, has been building a truck-mounted laser for the Army to shoot UAVs and projectiles, while Northrop Grumman has demonstrated its own ship-mounted offensive laser in a test for the Office of Naval Research.

When are we going to see handheld lasers already?