The US Navy isn’t going to let the Air Force be the only branch of the US armed forces wielding frickin’ laser beams. The Air Force is far along in the testing of an airborne laser for blowing missiles out of the sky and the Navy has now announced that its own Free Electron Laser (FEL) program is nine months ahead of schedule.
The threshold for making a laser into a weapon is the 100 kilowatt of power mark. The prototype FEL has so far been able to muster a paltry 14 kilowatts worth of power. The Navy has that power issue licked, or at least it thinks it does. The use of a new injector has put the prototype laser into the megawatt class of lasers.
The Navy admits that a test of the laser aboard a ship is still years away with the shipboard test not expected until at least 2018. Perhaps the Navy can fit the laser about the same time it starts outfitting ships with that awesome rail gun it tested a while back that fired a 33 megajoule shot sending a bullet at mach 8.