US Navy Steps Up Investments in Laser Weapons Systems

USS Portland tests its laser weapons demonstration system on a floating target, December 14 (USN)

Posted on Dec 15, 2019 2021 4:15 PM by

The maritime executive

The US Navy is making significant investments in laser weapon systems as it seeks ways to offset the growing capability of its close competitors.

On Tuesday, the amphibious USS Portland successfully tested a high-energy laser against a training target in the Gulf of Aden. It used an arc-mounted semiconductor laser (Laser Weapons System Demonstrator Mark 2 MOD 0) to engage the target. Portland previously tested the LWSD in May 2020, when it disabled a small unmanned aircraft while operating in the Pacific.

The 150kw class LWSD laser system was installed on the Portland Bridge in 2019, and it is the successor to the less powerful 30kw LaWS laser system installed on board the USS Ponce. Its primary role is point defense and it can be used to destroy small drones and swarms of drones – two of the main threats the US Navy could face in the Middle East. Both are regularly used by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran and the IRGC’s proxy forces in Yemen.

The Navy has also installed another prototype laser system aboard at least three destroyers, including the USS Stockdale, which now carries the “dazzling” low-power ODIN laser, designed to knock out cameras and infrared sensors. This inexpensive system can be used to target surveillance drones and homing optical sensors of certain cruise missiles.

A larger device manufactured by Lockheed Martin, the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical Glare and Surveillance System (HELIOS), is to be installed on a littoral combat ship platform. HELIOS has an intermediate capacity of between 60 and 150 kW and could perform some of the same sets of missions as LWDS and ODIN.

The service is also speeding up laser weapon testing with the construction of a new R&D facility and test field in Point Mugu, California. A groundbreaking ceremony for the new facility was held on December 3, marking the end of a rapid two-year construction schedule. Officials described the need for its development as an urgent matter.

“The threats of peer-to-peer and real-world confrontation the Navy faces today are so stressful that if we don’t have facilities like this, we just won’t be able to keep pace,” said Vance Brahosky. , Naval Surface Warfare Center. Deputy technical director of the Port Hueneme division. “The speed of war has increased so dramatically and exponentially over the past few years that one of the best ways for our fleet to fight and win is to use laser-type weapons at the speed of light. “

Lt. Cmdr. Levi Jones looks over the roof of the Directed Energy Systems Integration Laboratory (DESIL) on December 3. The facility is designed for testing laser weapon systems in a marine environment, and it has provisions for mounting prototype units on the roof.


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