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Republic of Korea Minister of National Defense Tours Directed Energy Facilities at US Navy Base

By John Joyce, Naval Surface Warfare Center | | Nov. 7, 2016

DAHLGREN, Va. (NNS) -- U.S. Navy scientists and engineers briefed a delegation of defense officials from the Republic of Korea (ROK) on directed energy technologies at Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), the Department of Defense announced Nov. 4.

The ROK delegation, led by Minister of National Defense Han Min-koo, saw new and emerging technologies from the electromagnetic railgun to laser weapons under development at NSWCDD.

"Minister Han's visit to NSWC Dahlgren Division was an important opportunity to showcase several next-generation systems and technologies that could bolster the capabilities of the U.S.-ROK alliance," said Abraham Denmark, deputy assistant secretary of defense for East Asia.

The South Korean delegation watched and listened intently as NSWCDD scientists and engineers explained the Laser Weapon System they developed and installed aboard afloat forward staging base (interim) USS Ponce (AFSB[I] 15) to operate seamlessly with its ship defense system two years ago.

Ponce Sailors, trained by the Dahlgren team on the Laser Weapon System's operation, reported the weapon performed flawlessly during testing in the Arabian Gulf -- including tests conducted in adverse weather conditions of high winds, heat, and humidity.

The briefings on directed energy programs, included the electromagnetic railgun -- a long-range naval weapon that fires projectiles using electricity instead of traditional gun propellants such as explosive chemicals.

"The electromagnetic railgun took center stage as the focal point of the visit," said Capt. Brian Durant, NSWCDD commanding officer, adding the meetings were held Oct. 19 to support the United States' defense relationship with the Republic of Korea.

The electromagnetic railgun uses magnetic fields created by high electrical currents to accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at 4,500-5,600 mph.

"While here, the South Korean delegation learned about directed energy weapons covering high-power radio frequency and high-energy lasers, hypervelocity projectiles, and our USS Dahlgren testing, including unmanned systems integration," said Durant.

The hypervelocity projectile is a next-generation, guided projectile capable of completing multiple missions for gun systems such as the Navy 5-inch, 155 mm, and future railguns.

USS Dahlgren is a cybernetic test bed which enables emerging technologies such as electromagnetic railgun, solid-state lasers, or similar cutting-edge weapon systems to be evaluated side-by-side with fielded naval systems.

"Working together with our allies during the science and technology, as well as RDT&E (research, development, test and evaluation) phases can lead to many benefits such as program improvements, cost and time savings, plus enhanced interoperability," said Jed Ryan, NSWCDD International Partnering Office lead.

In addition to the ship-based Laser Weapon System, Han and his delegation saw a ground-based, directed energy system designed for use on light tactical vehicles such as the Humvee and Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.

This Ground-Based, Air Defense Directed Energy On-the-Move program, commonly referred to as GBAD, aims to provide an affordable alternative to traditional firepower to keep enemy unmanned aerial vehicles from tracking and targeting Marines on the ground. The Office of Naval Research is working with NSWCDD and industry partners on the development of GBAD's components and subsystems, including the laser itself, beam director, batteries, radar, advanced cooling, and communications and command and control.

Navy leaders have made directed-energy weapons a top priority to counter asymmetric threats, including unmanned and light aircraft and small attack boats that could be used to deny U.S. forces access to certain areas. High-energy lasers offer an affordable and safe way to target these threats at the speed of light with extreme precision and an unlimited magazine.

Han and his delegation's tour of Naval Support Facility Dahlgren also included Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) headquarters and the Aegis Training and Readiness Center (ATRC), where they visited with ROK sailors temporarily assigned to the center as students.

Aegis BMD is the naval component of the Missile Defense Agency's Ballistic Missile Defense System. ATRC courses focus on the operation and maintenance of the Aegis Combat System and the Ship Self-Defense System aboard surface warships.

NSWCDD is a premier research and development center which serves as a specialty site for weapon system integration. The command's unique ability to rapidly introduce new technology into complex war fighting systems is based on its longstanding competencies in science and technology, research and development, and test and evaluation.