The U.S. Navy has achieved milestone developments in free electron laser technology that may lead the way to shipboard lasers defending fleets from attacking aircraft and cruise missiles. Recent demonstrations have generated 1-kilowatt low-frequency beams, and scientists are on the brink of attaining 10-kilowatt laser beams.
The dot-com bubble may have burst, but the U.S. Navy is still in the market for entrepreneurs with promising innovations. It has revamped an office within the Office of Naval Research to seek out solutions then move them rapidly to the fleet. As the Navy sees it, this is a win-win proposition. Warfighters get cutting-edge tools that meet their requirements, and companies have the opportunity to get a piece of a $28 billion pie-the service's acquisition budget.
Decisions that the U.S. Navy makes in key areas during the next several years could shape not only the sea service itself, but also the way U.S. and foreign militaries fight in the future. Ships and aircraft under development, next-generation weaponry, unmanned systems and joint concepts are among the issues that experts believe the Department of the Navy must address today so that alternative strategies can be analyzed well in advance of the need to take action.
As with the weather, the ongoing rollout of the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet is sometimes sunshine and sometimes storms. Now entering its fourth year of work, the program has experienced smooth sailing and unexpected squalls in its adaptation of commercial processes. Despite some grumbling in the ranks and the underestimation of the magnitude of issues such as legacy applications, the U.S. Navy not only is making steady progress but also is discovering unforeseen benefits from its decision to tackle information technology acquisition in an innovative way.