LASERS - Directed High Energy Marine Weapons - LAWS


The rules for autonomous ships in combat during wars at sea


LAWS laser weapons system


It is a technological race to develop DEWs that are cheaper and more effective than using conventional weapons, especially concerning air attacks and piracy.

A directed-energy weapon (DEW) emits energy in an aimed direction without the means of a projectile. It transfers energy to a target for a desired effect. Intended effects on humans may be non-lethal or lethal.

Aside from uses on people or as a potential missile defense, directed energy technology has also been shown to stop or disable:


1. moving cars 

2. drones

3. jetskis 

4. electronic devices such as mobile phones

The energy can come in various forms:

A. Electromagnetic radiation, including radio frequency, microwave, lasers and masers.

B. Particles with mass, in particle-beam weapons (technically a form of micro-projectile weapon)

C. Sound, in sonic weapons


Clearly, it is possible to neutralize incoming aircraft and missiles, by disabling their electronic control systems. It is also possible to neutralize human foes, without killing them, such as to render them prisoners, or face yet more calming treatments. Such weapons will be ideal for anti-pirate patrols.





DEW weapons are said to be particularly useful for targeting large numbers of small, low-cost targets with high precision, and some estimates put the cost of each shot of directed energy at just $1.


Companies developing DEWs include US defence firm Raytheon, which began publicly demonstrating their weapons in conjunction with the US Navy back in 2010, and Europe’s MBDA, which last year demonstrated a 40kW laser that successfully hit airborne targets at a range of over 2,000m.


Directed energy weapons are often described as electromagnetic weapons as they do not employ some form of projectile motion. As such, directed energy weapons do not require the computation of ballistic trajectories to direct the beam at the target. This simplifies the aiming process for directed energy weapons. Also, re-directing the beam to new targets can be rapid.


In addition, the energy for the DEWs is ultimately derived from the conversion of electrical energy into the electromagnetic beam thus no additional shells, powder, etc are needed to make the system operational. Another advantage touted for these systems is that the output power level can be controlled so that the same system can be used for a variety of applications and/or to create a range of effects on the target (e.g. dazzling a sensor to destroying the target).


DEWs are being designed for use in situations where other weapons do not work well. Since DEWs cost more than standard kinetic energy or legacy weapons (such as rifles, guns and bombs), and are more complex, it doesn’t make economic sense to use DEWs unless other weapons simply can’t do the job.


DEWs have several key attributes: they deliver energy at the speed of light (near instantaneously: 186,000 miles/second); they deliver energy at an exact “line-of-sight” (you don’t have to correct for wind, and lasers are unaffected by gravity); and they have an “infinite” magazine (you don’t have to re-load bullets). These attributes may overwhelm cost considerations if nothing else can do the job – but again, they may not.


What effects do DEWs have on their targets? How would they affect living tissue? 


DEWs transmit photons – packets of energy in the electromagnetic spectrum – [at wavelengths that] typically interact with a target from the “outside in”. A laser’s energy is absorbed on the target’s surface, and depending on the level of absorption and reflection, the laser burns through a target, layer-by-atomic layer. Thus, when a laser interacts with a target, there is not an instantaneous Buck Rogers-like explosion, but rather (depending on the energy) a burn through.


Laser radiation, as with any radiation source, can be harmful to living tissue. Eye tissue represents the most sensitive areas relative to laser exposure. Laser safety has been an inherent part of laser development since the invention of the laser. As a result, there is a well-established set of protocols relative to operating lasers in a safe manner. That said, high-energy lasers used in a weaponeering application present a challenging operational issue. At high energy levels, terms such as “eye-safe” region have no meaning or application.

High-energy laser systems typically refer to lasers with several tens to several hundreds of kilowatts of power (or higher). At these power levels, even a very small percentage of absorption will result in a substantial amount of energy being deposited into the tissue and thus damaging the tissue, even if the laser wavelength is one traditionally deemed as eye safe. Nonetheless, contractors and government agencies have developed procedures to enable the safe and controlled application of these systems.


Strategic lasers such as that demonstrated on the Boeing Airborne Laser testbed aircraft [which successfully] have a destructive range greater than 100 kilometres; tactical lasers, such as those projected for use on Navy ships, have less range.





Rheinmetall made a demonstration of a "high-energy laser" (HEL) on 22/24 October in Ochsenboden (Switzerland) integrated on a ATV BOXER. A complete development and qualification system C-Ram-based laser would be expected for 2020.

MBDA Germany also works in the field of laser power. MBDA Italy unveiled a demonstration program C-Ram at the beginning of July 2013, which was partly funded by Italy with two contracts, one signed in December 2009 and the second a year later 

Based on several research contracts and technology with the German government and the AED , the use of lasers in the solid state has been studied since late 2000. A technology demonstrator was produced with currently four Lasers 10 kW, which was tested in Schrobenhausen to a distance of 500 meters .

Currently, the technology demonstrator (TRL 5-6) weapon system developed by MBDA Germany should be comparable to the size of a CAESAR , and should be capable of being deployed from aircraft A-400M.






For the purposes of this subject, we are  assuming that weaponized unmanned maritime systems of increasing complexity and degree of autonomous operation will be deployed in the future by nearly all countries operating ships, etc. Indeed, that is our mantra. The focus of our analysis will be on the legal compliance as relates to the deployment of Seawolf enabled vessels.





The seven missions identified for the Combat ZCC are:


(1) Mine Countermeasures (MCM);
(2) Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW);
(3) Maritime Security (MS);
(4) Surface Warfare (SUW);
(5) Special Operations Forces (SOF) Support;
(6) Electronic Warfare (EW); and
(7) Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) Support.



Robot warship, ZEV ASV, armed to the teeth

 A robotic (drone) semi-autonomous littoral combat ship. This proposed version is fully autonomous while patrolling, switching to semi-autonomous drone mode when encountering other vessels. The ship may cruise continuously at 7-10 knots on renewable energy, sprint to 20 knots using batteries and up to 40 knots using fuel cells and other active hull features. This is a very low cost endurance vessel, that is designed to operate in close cooperation with other similar vessels to patrol sovereign and other navigable waters to fend off possible amphibious and other close to shore operations that threaten homeland security.






A definition of “semi-autonomous” is that the decision to pull the trigger to fire a laser, or launch a missile from an unmanned system will not be fully automated, but will remain under the control of a human operator. 


“Fully autonomous” signifies full-scale autonomy, with a weaponized ASV making mission decisions from identification to classification to firing, based on pre-programmed parameters.







Submarine Warfare

List of sunken nuclear submarines

Battle Pirates




Cruise missiles

HMS Astute 1st of Class BAE Systems

HMS Vanguard- Trident

INS Sindhurakshak - explosion & sinking

Littoral combat vessels

Lusitania - Torpedo attack

Predator - Covert submarine hunter/killer

SAM missiles

Seawolf - Autonomous wolf pack deployment of Predator mini-subs


U20 - Kapitan Leutnant Walther Schwieger

USS Bluefish WWI submarine

USS Bluefish - Nuclear submarine

USS Flying Fish

USS Nautilus - 1st nuclear submarine & subsea north pole passage

USS Virginia - Class nuclear submarines




Operation Wolverine, Seawolf robotic battleship network



This website is Copyright © 2023 Bluebird Marine Systems.

The names Bluebird™, Bluefish™, ZCC™ and the blue bird and fish in flight logos are trademarks.