Both Boeing and BAE Systems have been working on laser weapon systems for use at sea for a number of years and now the two companies have teamed up to develop the Mk 38 Mod 2 Tactical Laser System for the U.S. Navy. The system combines both kinetic and directed energy weapons capability by coupling a solid-state high-energy laser weapon module with the Mk 38 Machine Gun System that is already in use on many U.S. Navy vessels.
The Mk 38 Mod 2 is a remotely operated machine gun whose main weapon is the widely used M242 Bushmaster 25-mm Chain Gun - a proven NATO standard auto cannon with 2.5 km (1.5 mile) range and selectable rates of fire. Boeing says the addition of the laser weapon module will provide high-precision accuracy against surface and air targets such as small boats and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). It will also provide the ability to deliver different levels of laser energy, depending on the target and mission objectives.
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"The Mk 38 Mod 2 system is revolutionary because it combines kinetic and directed energy weapons capability," said Michael Rinn, Boeing Directed Energy Systems (DES) division vice president.. "Our approach is an affordable solution for the customer, because this system can be integrated seamlessly into existing shipboard command interfaces."
Boeing and BAE Systems say they have been working together to develop a Tactical Laser System that can be integrated with existing Navy gun mounts for two years. But the companies have only just signed a teaming agreement to develop the Mk 38 Mod 2 Tactical Laser System for the U.S. Navy following BAE being awarded an initial US$2.8 million contract in March 2011 to demonstrate such a system.