A laser weapon mounted on a US Navy warship (USS Portland) shot down a target drone during in the first at-sea test of the Navy’s high-energy laser weapon system.
The test termed successful, took place off Pearl Harbor on May 16, U.S. Pacific Fleet announced in a news release May 22.
“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 (LWSD) against potential threats,” Capt. Karrey Sanders, commanding officer of Portland, was quoted as saying in the news release. “With this new advanced capability, we are redefining war at sea for the Navy,” he added.
LWSD is a high-energy laser weapon system demonstrator developed by the Office of Naval Research and installed on Portland for an at-sea demonstration. LWSD's operational employment on a Pacific Fleet ship is the first system-level implementation of a high-energy class solid-state laser. The laser system was developed by Northrup Grumman, with full System and Ship Integration and Testing led by NSWC Dahlgren and Port Hueneme.
The USS Portland, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock, is the first ship to test the Solid State Laser – Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) MK 2 MOD 0 at sea. This second iteration of SSL-TM, is ultimately expected to become a 150-kilowatt laser weapon.
This follow-on SSL-TM has challenged scientists to made advances in areas like the beam director and spectral beam combining, which takes many lasers of different wave lengths and creates a more powerful beam.
The US Navy is also working on a less powerful laser weapon, the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance (HELIOS), which is planned to reach 60 kw and could be installed onto smaller ships that have less power margin to add in new systems.
The Navy is also pursuing an Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN) that would not be used to knock down incoming threats but would rather be a non-lethal option to warn away enemy craft approaching a U.S. warship.
This is similar to an optical dazzling laser fired at a US Navy Poseidon aircraft earlier this year while patrolling in the South China Sea. The laser was reportedly fired from a Chinese warship though Beijing denies the incident.
China's People's Liberation Army Navy (PLA- N) revealed a tactical laser system that bears remarkable similarity to the US Navy's Laser Weapon System mounted on the USS Ponse.
In October 2019, state-owned CCTV showed the laser weapon in a vehicle-mounted application. A report accompanying the images said the PLA Navy's Type 055 destroyers could be equipped with the weapon in future.