The US Navy has shown off a much-anticipated advanced laser weapon system, capable of blinding enemy sensors and downing aircraft. It was seen in action for the first time as it disabled a drone in mid-flight.
“By conducting advanced at sea tests against UAVs and small crafts, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of the Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator against potential threats,” US Navy Capt. Karrey Sanders, the ship’s commanding officer, said in a press release.
“The Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator is a unique capability the Portland gets to test and operate for the Navy, while paving the way for future weapons systems, ” Sanders added. “With this new advanced capability, we are redefining war at sea for the Navy.”
Video clip from Navy shows advanced Laser
The first glimpse of the Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) was a brief video clip shared by the Navy on Friday, in which the solid-state laser takes down an unmanned aircraft in its first-ever test at sea. The laser is fixed atop the USS Portland, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, currently deployed near Pearl Harbor.
“By conducting advanced at-sea tests against UAVs and small crafts, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of the Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator against potential threats,” the Portland’s commanding officer, Captain Karrey Sanders, said in a statement.
The Navy hopes laser cannons can defend the fleet from drones and even the long-range missiles being fielded by rivals like China, which can outrange a US carrier strike group’s jets and missiles. China’s land-based missiles could overwhelm a carrier group’s ability to intercept with a finite supply of missiles, which is where the laser comes in.
More Laser weapons in the pipeline
The Navy is also developing a medium-strength laser, the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance (HELIOS), which is expected to reach 60 kilowatts and could be installed on a wider variety of ships, including destroyers.
The US Army is developing its own laser weapon, the Indirect Fires Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL), which is expected to range up 300 kilowatts and intercept rockets, artillery, and mortars.
While the Portland is currently the only warship equipped with the LWSD, arms contractor Lockheed Martin is working on a similarly powerful 150-kilowatt laser, which the Navy said could be deployed for testing later this year on the littoral combat ship USS Little Rock, but gave no exact time frame for when that might happen.
What is a Laser Weapon System Demonstrator?
Developed by the Office of Naval Research and Northrop Grumman as a successor to the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) – the military’s first fully approved laser platform – the LWSD was deployed to the Portland in 2019 soon after the ship was commissioned, where it’s undergone a series of tests. The initial contract to produce the weapon was granted to Northrop for $53 million, with a total budget of $91 million allocated for the project over 34 months of development.
Running at 150 kilowatts, the weapon is the Navy’s strongest laser, some five times more powerful than the 30-kilowatt LaWS, which is also capable of downing small aircraft.
In addition to disabling drones and small boats, the LWSD can function as a “dazzler,” meaning it can blind enemy sensors, while integrated video cameras used for targeting can also act as a surveillance system, according to the Drive.
RT with additional input by GVS News Desk