Report On Laser Technology Made To ASNE Long-Beach-Greater L.A. Section

The first meeting of the 1981- 82 year for the Long Beach- Greater Los Angeles Section of ASNE was held recently at the Los Alamitos Armed Forces Reserve Center Officers Club. Following dinner, Capt. J.A. Gildea, USN, chairman, welcomed the 57 members and guests.

Chairman Gildea next introduced the speaker for the evening, Capt. Alfred Skolnick, USN, whose topic was "Laser Development and Application to the U.S. Navy." Captain Skolnick is project manager of High Energy Lasers, P.M. 22, of the Naval Sea Systems Command.

Captain Skolniek's presentation covered the Navy's application of high-energy lasers. He reviewed the laser research and development programs of all of the branches of the military with a look at the manning effort and costs of each, rating the Air Force, Navy and Army in that order.

He interspersed his talk with color slides of some of the developmental work done at TRW's Mission Viejo facility and cited the lasers' ability to shoot down a towed missile that was only 6 inches in diameter and 6 feet long. He explained that the focused energy of the laser beam melted the outer dome cap of the missile and the molten metal shorted out the fuse, thus exploding the missile. He said that there is currently under development a laser which uses a chemical reaction to create a high-energy pulse that can be focused on a target by means of mirrors. Since the laser is used to burn or melt the metal of the target vehicle, the power of the laser beam must be increased as the thickness of the metal it is to attack increases.

On ships or other vehicles having plating in excess of half an inch, present lasers would merely burn off the paint and do little or no damage to the metal. Also, he pointed out, laser beams are attenuated by atmospheric conditions such as fog, rain, and clouds and thus have rather severe limitations in low altitude combat applications. However, he noted, laser beams in outer space or in upper atmosphere can be very effective since vacuum is very beneficial to laser beam range and intensity.

While much of the laser development is highly classified, Captain Skolnick said that the Russians are spending tremendous amounts of resources in research and development of the subject.

The U.S. Navy is currently building a test facility at White Sands Proving Grounds, New Mexico, to further research and d e v e l op laser techniques and applications.

Captain Skolniek's presentation of the unclassified elements of a very sophisticated area of current technology held the attention of the audience for almost an hour, and he further enlightened them in the ensuing question and answer session which followed.

Maritime Reporter Magazine, page 58,  Nov 1981

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