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Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Hypervelocity Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress

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Technical Report

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Congressional Research Service Washington United States

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The Navy is currently developing three potential new weapons that could improve the ability of its surface ships to defend themselves against enemy missilessolid state lasers SSLs, the electromagnetic rail gun EMRG, and the hypervelocity projectile HVP. Any one of these new weapon technologies, if successfully developed and deployed, might be regarded as a game changer for defending Navy surface ships against enemy missiles. If two or three of them are successfully developed and deployed, the result might be considered not just a game changer, but a revolution. Rarely has the Navy had so many potential new types of surface-ship missile-defense weapons simultaneously available for development and potential deployment. Although the Navy in recent years has made considerable progress in developing SSLs, EMRG, and HVP, a number of significant development challenges remain. Overcoming these challenges will likely require years of additional development work, and ultimate success in overcoming them is not guaranteed. The issue for Congress is whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navys funding requests and proposed acquisition strategies for these three potential new weapons.

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