Will U.S. Navy submarines be armed with laser weapons?
That’s the implication of a new Navy research project.
At first glance, the project seems fairly routine engineering: developing connectors that will allow transmission of hundreds of kilowatts of electricity through a submarine’s hull.
But what’s interesting is what all that electricity will be used for. “The Navy seeks technologies for transmitting high electrical power required for operating Directed Energy (DE) weapon systems from inboard the submarine to an outboard DE system, submersible platform, special operation, etc.,” states the research proposal.
In other words, Navy subs will become giant batteries, supplying juice to power-hungry lasers, or underwater platforms, or equipment used by special operations forces. But first, the Navy must develop an electrical connector embedded in the sub’s hull. “Currently, the Navy needs to tow the generator to support a similar system,” the proposal notes.
Yet the fact that the proposal mentions an “outboard” directed energy weapon is interesting. “By ‘outboard,’ the proposal could mean a system attached externally to the submarine, but that is only connected to the inside of the submarine via external hull penetrators,” says Bryan Clark, a former Navy submarine officer who is now an analyst for the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments think tank. “These penetrators are electrical connectors that provide an electrical circuit between the inside and outside of the submarine, but that are built into the hull so cables do not need to pass through the hull.”