Navy Vows to Fight for Its Superlaser, Hypersonic Gun

Rear Adm. Nevin Carr is the Chief of Naval Research, in charge of hundreds and hundreds of different R&D programs — about three billion dollars’ worth of science projects, next-gen gadgets, and upgrades to the Navy arsenal. But of all those many efforts, there are two that get Carr really pumped: a superlaser and a hypersonic gun. Both are capable of revolutionizing how the Navy fights at sea. Both are considered “marquee” programs by Carr as his legion of scientists and engineers.

And both of them are on the precipice of destruction from Congress.

Lawmakers have traditionally left military research budgets intact, tinkering at the margins only when they feel money is being seriously misspent or the R&D projects are seriously off-track. Rarely, if ever, do they go after a service’s top research priority.

Last Friday, however, the Senate Armed Services Committee broke with tradition, and declared that Carr’s babies, the Free Electron Laser and the Electromagnetic Railgun, weren’t fit to grow up any more. The panel said funds for the programs should be terminated.

Neither project was in trouble — in fact, both had recently broken records in their respective fields. But in Washington’s new atmosphere of austerity, the ray gun and the railgun were suddenly considered futuristic luxuries, not the “game-changers” Carr had touted for so long.

The recommended recommended cuts took the Navy by surprise, according to ace naval reporter Sam LaGrone at Jane’s. Carr’s shop has said nothing since then, referring all questions to Big Navy.

Big Navy, at least, isn’t throwing in the towel.

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