150 kW Combat Lasers to Arm US Navy Warships

By | Jan 13, 2017 02:30 AM EST
 Bigger one coming

The Laser Weapon system or LaWS being tested aboard the USS Ponce. (Photo : US Navy)

The U.S. Navy plans to accelerate the deployment of high-energy laser weapons generating up to 150 kilowatts of power to arm many of its surface warships.

The move to a 150 kW solid state laser marks a huge leap from today's testing regime begun in 2014 where the Navy began sea trials of a 30 kW prototype Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, aboard the USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15).

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LaWS, which has been used operationally in the Persian Gulf, gives the U.S. Navy precision accuracy at low cost.

A preliminary plan for the introduction of the 150 kW weapon was presented Jan. 10 at the 29th National Symposium of the Surface Navy Association in Virginia.

"The Office of Naval Research, right now, with DARPA (the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) and with our organization, is looking at doing a lot more with lasers," said Rear Admiral Ronald Boxall, Director, Surface Warfare Division (N96).

He said the enhanced laser capabilities are among the innovations being explored by several organizations within the navy.

"You'll hear more about it over the next few months as we figure out where we're going, but by this time next year (2018), I'd like to report to you that we have already got a new laser."

He said the plan is to install a 150 kW system aboard the Paul F. Foster, a decommissioned Spruance-class destroyer now serving as the Self Defense Test Ship for the Naval Surface Warfare Center.

"Then shortly after that we want to get it operational on either a carrier of a destroyer or both," noted Admiral Boxall.

"That's kind of the way we want to go. We'll see if we can get there. I think we can."

The Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) will perform a shipboard test of a 150 kW solid-state laser weapons system, said Admiral Bill Moran, Vice Chief of Naval Operations, at a recent meeting in Washington, D.C.

ONR coordinates, executes and promotes the science and technology programs of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

Once accepted into service between 2017 and 2021, the 30kW LaWS will enable the Navy to effectively neutralize aerial drones, swarm boats and other threats by destroying or crippling them with an intense beam of laser heat that melts internal circuitry and machinery.

In operation, the 30 kW LaWS can be aimed accurately at targets by a U.S. Navy warship's Phalanx close-in-weapons-system (CIWS) radar. LaWS has an effective range of 1.6 kilometers.

LaWS is finding favor within the US armed forces because its laser light "ammunition" is cheaper than conventional explosive rounds. Its laser light beams can be fired for as little as one dollar per shot, while conventional rounds and missiles cost thousands of dollars each.

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