BAE Putting Lasers on Mk 38 Naval Gun

So, BAE Systems and Boeing have teamed up to add lethal lasers to the already tricked out Mk 38 chain gun system used for close-in defense on U.S. Navy ships.

In March, BAE — maker of the MK 38 system (shown above) — recieved a contract to build a demo laser system to show that such a weapon could work. Now, they’ve teamed with Boeing to produce that gun/laser demo weapon.

BAE’s Mk 38 25 mm chain gun system was originally designed to be manually aimed and fired. However, the latest version of the system, dubbed the Mk 38 Mod 2,  is completely remote-controlled using an electro-optitical/infrared sensor ball and laser range finder to find and track targets.  Add a laser to this system and it could be even deadlier when engaging fast moving targets such as UAVs or speedboats.

From a BAE-Boeing announcement:

The Mk 38 Mod 2 Tactical Laser System couples a solid-state high-energy laser weapon module with the operational Mk 38 Machine Gun System. The addition of the laser weapon module brings high-precision accuracy against surface and air targets such as small boats and unmanned aerial vehicles. The system also provides the ability to deliver different levels of laser energy, depending on the target and mission objectives.

Boeing and BAE Systems have been working together for the past two years to develop this capability. In 2010, Boeing DES conducted two experiments in the field to demonstrate the system’s ability to track surface targets and maintain a laser aimpoint with high precision.

Check out this video of Boeing’s work to built a laser-machine gun version of its Avenger air defense system. It features a Mk 38-style 25 mm cannon and a laser in addition to a number of other surface-to-air missiles.

  • Ragin Cajun

    Friggin’ LAZERS!!!!!!!!

    • PukinPutin

      NO !!!….RAZORS !!!

      • PukinPutin

        OH….MAZERS ????

  • blight

    What’s the effective range of the laser? If we can pack a laser into point defense, is it time to look into packing one into fighter craft? And if turret-mounted, there may be a place for them as a defensive weapon on slower aircraft, like tankers, cargo planes and bombers.

    • jeffdg

      i think everyone must have misread what the laser is for … it is to enhance their guidance system so they can lock onto a target. the laser is not used as a defensive weapon. we’ve had lasers and detectors on military aircraft for a long time already.

  • usa

    wow no one can touch usa now

    • ralexnicholas

      Damn STR8! Nobody!

    • usa!usa!

      I agree :) “Mess with the best die like the rest”

  • STemplar

    The combination system is interesting. Even were the laser to not necessarily destroy the target could it be used to increase its thermal signature and make some infra red seeker missile more accurate,or degrade the target so the chain gun is more effective.

    • blight

      It would be terrible to have a fast-traveling laser slaved to a slow-traversing mount. Hoping they think about that…

  • brian

    the point is to detonate the warhead or scramble the circuits/optics of the incoming missile. If not, hit it with fire.

    • blight

      There’s an emphasis on “small boats and unmanned aerial vehicles”, moreso than stuff CIWS would cover (like missiles).

      • Flying Rasta

        Yes, seeing that most of the US recent conflict have mainly been in asymmetric warfare. Recent threats to the Air-Sea doctrine has really come from China and Middle East with the proliferation of UAVs. Without information you cant target.

      • brian

        Same deal, a small boat if a combatant is highly combustable filled with munitions. If the laser can’t get the boat, the gun will

  • Alton

    Well if the bad guys are looking down the laser and losing their eyesight too, they are probably thinking that “yep they are locked on us. when will they turn loose?”. So it could have it’s advantages..

  • citanon

    Well if the MK 38 gun manages to cause fuel leaks and leaks of other types of flammables the laser could ignite them. However, wouldn’t incendiary rounds do the trick?

    • Bhu

      HE-Incendiary is already the standard mk38 round

      • citanon

        Exactly my point.

    • Mastro

      Well- one big advantage of going to lazers is that electrical energy is safer that WP rounds.

      let’s face it- ammo is dangerous.

  • Oblat

    This is just a beat up of adding a laser dazzeler to the mount. There is no scenario where you would use both at the same time and no possibility since they have completely different pointing requirements. There is no need to have such a slow heavy mount for a laser, it’s just a way to add a low value device (the laser) to an existing mount’s targeting system. For a small improvement in capability that cant justify it’s own mount.

  • Tyler

    This has been out in the news for a while, at least the testing part. The range on this laser is miles. It is pretty much the same laser that lit that speed boat on fire a while back.

    • Cheesed

      Are you sure? I’m not sure that you’re sure. See Oblat’s post above, and my surprisingly-not-thumbs-downed post earlier.

      • Tyler

        Yes I am sure. To answer your above question, the range is expected to be about 10km due to the limitations of the Mk 30 mod 2 sights. Here is the link:,15240,229554,0

        • Tyler

          btw, that is an April 2011 article if you check the date, so yes, out for a while.

        • blight

          “The Mk 38’s current electro-optical/infrared fire-control system would be used for initial detection of small boats, for example, at ranges of about 10 km. Targeting would then shift to the optics within the laser beam director at about 8 km.

          “That gives a high-resolution capability to determine how many crewmen there are on a small boat, if they have weapons and what kind of weapons they are,” says John Perry, BAE Systems’ manager of business development for advanced systems. “We then transition to a low-power, eye-safe, green-laser, visual interruption mode.”

          If the threatening behavior continues, there are more options available to the defenders. “We can switch to the [10-kw] high-energy laser mode and start to engage at 3-4 kilometers,” Perry says.”

          Unless I read the quote wrong, they are talking detection at 10km, optics at 8km (with a “visual interruption mode”, aka blinding or dazzler) and the 10kw laser at 3-4km.

          • Tyler

            yes, I meant more that the tracking would begin at 10km, that is my mistake in the way I wrote it. The effective engagement range isn’t an exceddingly long distance, but this is first gen systems being deployed on an exsisting platform. Better than when they try and take a system to self-sufficient and just what they want, then it is too expensive and never gets fielded. Baby steps are the best way to go here.

          • blight

            The Bushmaster’s range is given as 3km effective and 6.8km maximum. I wonder about the yawning gap between 8km dazzler mode and 4 km engagement…

          • Tyler

            It may be that is all they want to claim for testing purposes until it is fielded. Plus, the atmosphere does bad things with lasers.

          • Alex

            You forgot OPSEC

          • Tyler

            Fair enough, but that’s a give in, I was referring more to the later range that will be released.

  • Mart

    Meh, according to Middle East conspiracy experts Israel already uses lasers to direct sharks attacks. This sounds like scrap yard technology..though admittedly it still is a very big step forward.

    • blight


      Considering most of Israel’s enemies have been land powers, directing shark attacks is probably a big waste of time. However, the world has no shortage of conspiracy theorists; and the need for government secrecy makes even the strangest things half, quarter or tenth-true.

      • dr evil

        They are land attacks becasue of they know of the lurking sharks with FRIKKEN LAZERS!

  • Sanem

    this is but a hint of the future

    less than 10 years from now lasers will be used for air defence by ground and sea units

    they’ll shoot down anything comming at them, be it fired from ground level (shells, mortars, missiles) but especially from the air (bombs, missiles)

    combined with long range missiles and other air defences, this will give ground/sea units a huge advantage, able to project an impenetrable area which long range attacks cannot hope to penetrate

    this will give the West an excellent defence against upcomming long range weapon systems (balistic missiles, UAVs), but will also potentially degrade Western air surpremacy against major powers like Russia and ofcourse China (having all those stealth aircraft won’t help much when your bombs and missiles can’t even reach their targets)

    btw, laser on aircraft is only useful for air-to-air combat, to shoot down missiles and enemy aircraft at short range. against ground/sea targets they’ll face more numberous, thougher and more powerful enemy lasers+other weapons, meaning they’ll always be at a disatvantage

    • Oblat

      yea sounds like 1990

      • blight

        Without the “networked”, “transformational”, “integrated” and other ’90s buzzwords.

    • Rob

      Someday i see lasers on heliodrones. As you say mostly air to air effective but when hovering would provide perimeter protection for our naval fleets where its needed most.

    • I agree completely with your prediction. Problem is when the Chinese and Russians deploy the same air defense laster systems, and then of course start exporting them to anybody able to pay (Iran, Syria, North Korea…) now the West loses the primary military advantage its held for over 50 years now, air superiority.

      • anonimouse9

        Or that’s when we start flying planes that bend light around them and look invisible. The technology already exists in labs, therefore it will…eventually… evolve to a useful size/power-need and be militarized. (Let alone, just using mirror plating and other defenses ).

  • Pepsi4all

    why not make billions and cut lawn grass with lasers. It could put a lot of lawn workers out of work though.

  • Eric

    I think a big advantage would be reduced need for consumables/ ammo on a nuclear ship if the laser could decrease dependence on projectile weapons.

  • Navy Hater

    You guys are idiots. The LASER is for range finding and helps develop the fire control solution for the weapons system.

    • wyntrout

      Amen! It ain’t a beam weapon! I have a laser on my Kahr K9… Laser Grips. It’s for aiming.
      We also use lasers as target illuminators for laser seeking/tracking missles and artillery shells… old stuff. And of course, it has been used for ranging for a long time.

      Being a former aviator(bombardier-type) I don’t like the idea of burning guys eyes out with lasers.

      Beam weapons are big and heavy… the power requirements are tremendous.


    • gfh

      agreed, idiots

  • now how about shields?

  • Tony Baloney

    Lasers don’t work under the water….Submarines FTW!

  • walt

    Article writer needs to work on their spelling skills. Same for proofreader if there was one.

  • look long story I keep trying to save this object by green laser theyv dissapeard well now back in same f in damn cordance night time x cept what did they bring with them there fff in pist how does this thing no to go to same cordnance east south to south west from fresno night sky….. I’m the N.I.A intell agency I’ve been studying this same pattern for years I’m not just some kid of the block havong……….§££ SUNIBIRU

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