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.
- 1 Standard Lasers
- 2 Binary Laser Cannon
- 3 Pulse Lasers
- 4 Extended-Range Lasers
- 5 Heavy Lasers
- 6 Chemical Lasers
- 7 Naval Lasers
- 8 Infantry Laser Weapons
- 9 Heat Management
- 10 See Also
- 11 References
- 12 Bibliography
Standard lasers were introduced during the Age of War and 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 range and damage potential:
These standard small and medium lasers are considered to be prototype systems in the year 2290. Small and medium lasers entered full production in 2300. While they function identically to their production counterparts, they generate twice the heat when fired. The large laser was prototyped in 2306 and reached full production in 2310.
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). With the reintroduction of the double heat sink, this technology has reentered production and relevance, though on a small scale.
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. 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 than comparable Inner Sphere models.
Extended-Range 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 and Free Worlds League technicians, the Variable Speed Pulse Laser (VSP) family have only been seen on a few units when they first appeared during the Jihad. Similar to a Snub-Nose PPC the VSP inflicts more damage at close range in exchange for a drop-off 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.
Variable Speed Lasers initially were available only to the Word of Blake and Free Worlds League Military in small, medium, and large sizes. After the Jihad, the weapons would soon be used throughout the Inner Sphere by the thirty-second century.
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 a 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 were still in the prototype stage during the Jihad. However, just before the war ended, they would enter limited production in 3078. By 3145, the weapon Class would become standard technology and enter mass production.
There is currently no information on whether the X-Pulse modification can be made to other Pulse Lasers, such as the Clan Pulse Lasers, the Re-Engineered Lasers, or Micro Pulse Lasers.
Re-Engineered Lasers were developed by the Federated Suns in 3130 by trying to mate a pulse laser with a Clan Heavy Laser. Though unsuccessful in that effort the weapons created had one odd benefit: They totally ignored specialty anti-laser armors, inflicting their full damage on a unit equipped with such armor. The twin pulses fired by a Re-Engineered Laser hit so close together on a target that they bore straight through Reflective Armor, Hardened Armor, and Ferro-Lamellor Armor. The Federated Suns quickly put small, medium, and large versions into production.
RISC Laser Pulse Module
The RISC Laser Pulse Module was an experimental piece of equipment that could be mounted alongside any Standard or Extended Range laser, effectively turning that weapon into a Pulse Laser. It had downsides, however, such as increase in heat which firing and the fact it occupied valuable space. It is currently unknown (and not even mentioned in most official material) if Chemical Lasers, Bombast Lasers, or even Target Acquisition Gear can be modified in this way, but it is most likely that they cannot.
Prototype Pulse Lasers
Pulse lasers went into their prototype phase circa 2595. It took over a decade and a half to get to the state of production grade pulse lasers in 2609. Unlike "normal" pulse lasers, prototype lasers only offer a -1 hit modifier in CBT play. They also randomly run hotter than a standard pulse laser, (roll a die, divide its value by 2, and round down for extra heat generated) as a result of the less refined technology.
As the name suggests, the Extended-Range (or ER) laser variants increases the power of the beam to project it to much farther ranges. This effect is achieved via three-stage firing process which occurs over the course of nanoseconds. An initial targeting laser pulse is immediately followed by a second, more powerful pulse that destroys dust and other particulates along the firing path, clearing the way for the final full-powered beam to damage the enemy. However the additional power necessary to facilitate this process generates a greatly increased quantity of waste heat as well. The end result is a laser weapon with an approximately 33% greater reach and that generates 50% more waste heat than its standard counterpart.
The first ER laser system, the ER Large Laser, was initially created for use by the Star League and widely produced across the Inner Sphere; development of smaller ER systems was not pursued at the time as it was deemed unnecessary and overlapping with previous laser weapons. 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. They come in small, medium and large varieties, but do not have a Micro version, nor do they have an ER or Pulse counterpart.
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. Most notable of these, it could explode if it suffered critical damage, much like a Gauss Rifle.
Intended to be the ultimate in BattleMech laser technology, the prototype Hyper Laser was developed by RISC engineers in the 3130s using technology from heavy lasers, but the project was presumably canceled after many problems arose, such as its immense heat output (equivalent to three large lasers being fired at once), and a worryingly frequent tendency to explode.
In the late twentieth and early twenty-first 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 power plants 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 internal combustion engine or fuel cell powered vehicles without requiring additional power amplifiers, and can be equipped on ProtoMechs without counting against their Heat Capacity. 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.
There is currently not an Extended Range, Pulse, Heavy or Micro version of the chemical laser.
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
Miniature versions of standard lasers, they come in the form of pistols, rifles, or support weapons.
Lasers, like all energy weapons, can produce considerable heat. A few different technologies were specifically developed to help with this, but two very unique ones were the Laser Heat Sink and the Laser Insulator.
- 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 Chemical Laser
- Large Laser
- Large Pulse Laser
- Medium Chemical Laser
- Medium laser
- Medium Pulse Laser
- Micro Pulse Laser
- Small Chemical Laser
- Small Laser
- Small Pulse Laser
- Laser Category
- Interstellar Operations, p. 118: "Prototype Weapon Dates for Basic Weapons"
- Tactical Operations, p. 320
- Tactical Operations, p. 321
- Maximum Tech, p. 92
- Tactical Operations, p. 321
- Technical Readout: Prototypes, p. 207: Jihad Technology Advancement Table - X-Lasers are rerated as Advanced Technology
- Record Sheets: 3145 Unabridged, p. 10: Dark Age Technology Advancement Table - X-Lasers rerated from Advanced Technology to Standard, effectively becoming mass produced
- Field Manual: 3145, p. 244
- Interstellar Operations
- Interstellar Operations, p. 73: "Pulse Lasers-P"
- Era Report: 2750, p. 99
- Interstellar Operations, p. 93
- Tactical Operations, pp. 319–320
- 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