The Mk15 Phalanx system was originally developed as a ship’s final hope against incoming missiles: a radar-guided 20mm gatling gun would would fire up to 6,000 rounds per minute, throwing up a last-ditch wall of lead. Phalanx has become a popular naval weapon that’s also effective against helicopters, UAVs, and even small boats. It has even migrated onto land, where its “Centurion” version can protect a 1.2 km square area against incoming mortars and rockets.
In September 2007, Jane’s reported from the British DSEi exhibition that Raytheon is working on a Phalanx variant that can fire lasers. Kevin Peppe, Raytheon’s Phalanx program director, said that:
“The Centurion system has provided a near-term C-RAM (Counter-Rocket, Artillery and Mortars) solution for our deployed forces. But we know that our customers would like a larger defended footprint beyond the kinematics of a gunbased system. A missile is too expensive, so we are looking instead at a solution based on the adaptation of a robust but relatively lowpower, low beam-quality commercial laser… By using clever optics to focus the laser beam at range, we demonstrated that we could achieve sufficient energy on target to deflagrate a 60mm mortar round.”