Laser stands for "Light Amplification by Stimulated Emission of Radiation", or a device that focuses an amplified beam of light on a small surface area. Lasers are popular weapons due to their low cost compared to other energy weapons and because they do not rely on ammunition, which simplifies logistics. Laser rifles are one of the most effective weapons infantry units have when fighting vehicles or 'Mechs.
Standard lasers cause damage by firing an intense beam of light at a target, flooding concentrated energy in the form of heat, which can melt material and overwhelm heat-sensitive electronics. The various Clan militaries do not use standard lasers, having phased them out in favor of more advanced laser types. All standard lasers are typically grouped into three broad classes based on their damage potential:
Binary Laser Cannon
Nicknamed the Blazer, the Binary Laser Cannon was an experimental system widely regarded as a dead end technology. Essentially two standard large laser systems combined to fire at once, the Blazer proved inefficient, combining high heat levels (200% of a Large Laser) with little increase to damage potential (50% increase over standard Large Laser).
Pulse lasers differ from traditional laser weaponry, in that instead of firing one powerful beam, they maintain several laser beams fired off in quick succession. While offering an overall increased rate of fire, the heat output also increases accordingly. Pulse lasers increase damage because they allow vaporized armor to dissipate from the location of damage. This allows subsequent pulses to reach the target area without being diffused by the vapor.
Pulse lasers were initially developed for use by the SLDF during the Star League Era(2450). Like much of the advanced technology of the period, the ability to make pulse lasers was lost to the Inner Sphere during the Succession Wars. It was only with the discovery of the Helm Memory Core that the various Inner Sphere powers could reproduce the technology. Clan pulse lasers, perfected by Clan Nova Cat during the Golden Century, were developed from the original Star League era models and tend to weigh less and shoot farther then comparable Inner Sphere models.
ER Pulse Lasers
The technicians of Clan Wolf were interested in creating an improved pulse laser with extended range. Unlike their Inner Sphere counterparts, who simply pumped more energy into a standard pulse laser, the Wolf techs combined the best features of their Pulse and Extended range lasers to create the ER Pulse Laser family. The events of the Refusal War and the creation of Clan Wolf-in-Exile interrupted production.
Laser Anti-Missile System
Variable Speed Pulse Lasers
Developed by Word of Blake technicians, the Variable Speed Pulse Laser (VSP) family has only been seen on a few units. Similar to a Snub-Nose PPC the VSP inflicts more damage at close range in exchange for a dropoff in damage at longer ranges. Unlike the Snub-Nose PPC, which fires a single bolt of energy, the modified pulse laser system can alter the speed of the pulses fired based on the distance to the target. This allows the Variable Speed Laser to generate more damage and increase the odds of a hit at short range, but the damage and hit probabilities drop off at medium and long range.
X-Pulse Lasers are an attempt by Federated Commonwealth technicians to increase the range of Pulse Lasers to compete with the longer ranges of similar Clan models. X-Pulse lasers are not an new weapon per se, but an upgrade to Pulse Lasers that pushes extra energy through the system in order to extend the range. X-Pulse lasers also build up tremendous heat but this has been considered a necessary drawback for their extended range. The Large, Medium, and Small X-Pulse Lasers are currently still in the prototype stage.
Extended Range Lasers
As the name suggests, the Extended-Range (or ER) laser variants increases the power of the beam to project it to much farther ranges. The power necessary to facilitate the production of such generates a greatly increased quantity of waste heat.
The first ER laser system, the ER Large Laser was initially created for use by the Star League. Much like the pulse laser, the ER laser was lost to the Inner Sphere due to the Succession Wars. The Clans continued to improve the ER Laser, resulting in ER lasers in medium and small varieties. The current Clan versions of these weapons were perfected by the Nova Cats during the Golden Century. With the recovery of the Helm Memory Core, the Inner Sphere once again began producing ER large lasers. Thanks to salvage from Clan machines, the Inner Sphere has also been able to replicate their own version of ER Medium and ER Small lasers.
Both the Inner Sphere and Clans use the three most common size of Extended Range laser. Typically the Clan versions of these weapons inflict more damage to the target than their Inner Sphere counterparts. The Clans also use the ER Micro Laser.
Clan Star Adder developed the family of Heavy Lasers in 3059 as a way of packing more punch into a relatively small package. All Heavy Lasers, however, build a tremendous amount of heat and interfere with a 'Mech's sensors. Only the Clans use Heavy Lasers.
Improved Heavy Lasers
After the Star Adders introduced their Heavy Lasers, the other Clans started projects to duplicate or improve on them. Clan Goliath Scorpion was the first clan to introduce in 3069 an effective Improved Heavy Laser, but it still possessed several tradeoffs that some warriors wouldn't accept.
In the late 20th and early 21st century, humanity developed the first lasers for combat units. Based on chemical processes, these lasers were bulky and expensive. The chemicals used to create the laser beam were also toxic and dangerous to handle. For these reasons, when reliable fusion powerplants became available, chemical laser systems were retired, and became little more than a footnote in weapon development history.
In 3059, the Clan Hell's Horses Scientist and Technician Castes received a mandate from their Khan: Find a way to make lasers that didn't need power amplifiers. With the preponderance of combat vehicles in their Touman, the Hell's Horses Khans wanted to devote more vehicle tonnage to weapons and armor instead of the power amplifiers required by units lacking fusion engines. The scientists and technicians weren't able to find any way to meet their Khans instructions until one of them stumbled across the ancient accounts of chemical lasers. Though the chemical processes still required toxic chemicals, improvements in materials technology allowed the Hell's Horses Scientists and Techs to create an improved lasing chamber that could accept "shells" that contained the toxic chemicals and isolated them from the crew. These "chemical shells" were then mated to an ammunition handling system derived from autocannons long used by the Horses, allowing the chemical laser systems to fire a beam of laser energy at a target without requiring a fusion engine or power amplifiers.
The chemical laser was deemed a success by the Khans, and production of Small, Medium, and Large variants started immediately. Though these chemical lasers have the performance profile of standard Inner Sphere laser systems and can actually run out of ammunition, they can be refitted onto ICE or Fuel Cell powered vehicles without requiring additional power amplifiers. In combat, the chemical lasers have more in common with autocannon or other ballistic weapons than fusion powered lasers, including the fact that they can't be used in strafing attacks.
Free Electron Lasers
In the early 21st century, humanity developed the first high powered lasers that did not require a magazine of chemicals, solid or gas state mediums to generate a laser beam. Instead free electron lasers use an accelerated electron beam as the physical lasing medium. As such, since an FEL does not depend on expendable fuel mediums, it can continue to operate as long as it has a source of electrical power. The nature of using an electron beam means it can also be adjusted to tune the output laser beam to a wide range of EM frequencies, Microwaves, visible light, or infrared and ultra violet.
The Naval Laser (NL) systems used aboard WarShips and planetary defense systems (SDS) are massive versions of the standard laser systems used on 'Mechs and other combat vehicles. In addition their huge size makes them impractical for targeting small craft or AeroSpace Fighters; Like their Naval PPC and Naval Autocannon counterparts they can only target sub-500 ton craft with extreme difficulty. In addition, Naval Lasers were often used in by Terran Hegemony Space Defense Systems to defend important worlds.
Engineers working for the Word of Blake created these weapons in 3073. Derived from the huge Naval Lasers mounted on WarShips, the Sub-Capital Laser family was designed to be used on a DropShip sized platform. These weapons could also be mounted on WarShips, space stations, or be used as part of a Space Defense System.
By mounting these weapons on a Pocket WarShip, the Word of Blake was able to create combat vessels that could challenge WarShips in their own environment. In addition, these Sub-Capital weapons were considerably smaller and less expensive than their larger counterparts, which made repairing a damaged WarShip much easier.
Infantry Laser Weapons
Minuature versions of standard lasers, see the infantry weapons page for information on indivdual infantry lasers:
- Extended Range Large Laser
- Extended Range Medium Laser
- Extended Range Micro Laser
- Extended Range Small Laser
- Heavy Large Laser
- Heavy Medium Laser
- Heavy Small Laser
- Large Laser
- Large Pulse Laser
- Medium Laser
- Medium Pulse Laser
- Micro Pulse Laser
- Small Laser
- Small Pulse Laser
- Laser Category
- ↑ Tactical Operations, p. 320
- ↑ Tactical Operations, p. 321
- ↑ Maximum Tech, p. 92
- ↑ Tactical Operations, p. 321
- ↑ Tactical Operations, p. 320
- ↑ Technical Readout: 2750, p. 122: Explicitly states that these weapons may only fire on DropShip-sized or larger targets.
- ↑ Total Warfare, p. 303, provides to-hit penalty to capital weapons info.
- ↑ BattleSpace rulebook, p. 38