Military

U.S. Navy to deploy Laser Weapon System on warship

U.S. Navy to deploy Laser Weap...
Laser Weapon System (LaWS) temporarily installed aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105)
Laser Weapon System (LaWS) temporarily installed aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105)
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Laser Weapon System (LaWS) temporarily installed aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105)
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Laser Weapon System (LaWS) temporarily installed aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105)
Animation showing LaWs in dazzle mode
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Animation showing LaWs in dazzle mode
Animation showing LaWs in destruction mode
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Animation showing LaWs in destruction mode
Drone being shot down by LaWS during onshore testing
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Drone being shot down by LaWS during onshore testing
A drone being shot down by LaWS
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A drone being shot down by LaWS
LaWs optics
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LaWs optics
LaWS undergoing shore testing
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LaWS undergoing shore testing
LaWs paired with Phalanx CIWS
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LaWs paired with Phalanx CIWS
Animation showing LaWs in targeting mode
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Animation showing LaWs in targeting mode
USS Ponce
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USS Ponce

The U.S. Navy took a step farther away from John Paul Jones and closer to James T. Kirk as it announced that a solid-state laser weapon will be deployed on a U.S. Navy ship in fiscal year 2014. The announcement that the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) will deployed on board USS Ponce (AFSB[I] 15) two years ahead of schedule was made on Monday at the Sea-Air-Space exposition, National Harbor, Maryland. The deployment is the latest in a line of recent recent high-energy laser demonstrations carried out by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Naval Sea Systems Command.

LaWS uses a fiber-optic,solid-state laser as part of a system developed at the Naval Research Laboratory in Washington DC. It’s not intended to replace any weapons on board the Ponce, but rather acts as an adjunct weapon. Ultimately, LaWS will be paired with a rapid-fire anti-missile system, such as the Mk 15 Phalanx CIWS and its radar system.

Obviously, the main attraction of the laser is its ability to destroy targets at long range at the speed of light, and LaWS has many advantages as both an offensive and defensive weapon. The Navy envisions it being used for precision and covert engagements, starting fires, and what it calls “graduated lethality.” It also sees it as a countermeasure against UAVs, missiles and swarms of small boats.

LaWS undergoing shore testing
LaWS undergoing shore testing

"We expect that in the future, a missile will not be able to simply outmaneuver a highly accurate, high-energy laser beam traveling at the speed of light," Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder said.

LaWS also has the advantage of having a “deep magazine,” meaning that it doesn't need propellants or explosives and can keep firing as long as a power source is available. Also, unlike conventional weapons, each “round” comes at a bargain price. "Our conservative data tells us a shot of directed energy costs under $1," Klunder said. "Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability."

However, since flat-out fighting is rare in naval operations, less lethal applications for the laser system are more likely to be used on a daily basis and therefore of equal value. The optics that LaWS uses for its beams make it ideal for targeting, and the laser can also heat targets, making them easier for infrared tracking to lock on. In addition, the laser can dazzle pilots and electronics of aircraft, surface vehicles, or submarines. Electro-optical sensors and infrared missile systems are particularly vulnerable. LaWS also works as a 21st century version of a shot across the bow, by shining an intense beam of light warning the target that a lethal blast could follow instantly.

For all its advantages, LaWS has its limitations. For example, the rate of fire is restricted by the time needed to illuminate a target and then moving on to the next one, so the system can be overwhelmed. Also, lasers aren't ideal in all situations or against all targets, so it needs to be teamed with another weapon that can put lots of iron into the air at the same time.

LaWs optics
LaWs optics

The deployment is partly a demonstration, but it’s also part of the testing and development program. Areas that need addressing are developing the gimbal mounting for the laser, hardening the hardware for a sea environment, dealing with optical turbulence, and evaluating how to use the laser in less-than lethal tasks.

Monday’s announcement was accompanied by the release of a video showing LaWS in action against a drone, which can be seen below.

Source: U.S. Navy

Laser Weapon System (LaWS)

15 comments
Nairda
This belongs on a ship. No weight restrictions. Access to large power source Flexibility and room for mounting.
RESISTANCE
So how the heck does this weapon work with sea spay, sea salt and seagull crap all over the optics ? And I guess they don't plan on using this weapon in the rain or light drizzle either. Why wouldn't the Army be getting a weapon like this considering we've been fighting land wars for the past ten years ? Sometime the govt is completely stupid ........
Slowburn
re; RESISTANCE While the weapon is not in use it will be kept under a sealed cover and when open clean air will be blown around it to keep dust an moisture off it. It is too bulky for it to be practical for mobile land warfare. ...Usually but not about this.
999 HOT
So, we'll be having reports of commercial airliners and satellites disappearing, just because they happened to be a few miles or hundred miles beyond the drone they were practicing with.
UncleToad
Well the first paragraph of this article has me baffled!! What has the bass player with Led Zeppelin go to do with the US Navy? Or is this some kind of witty reference to a Led Zep song?
Nicolaas
@UncleToad John Paul Jones was a sailor from Scotland, and fought in the American Revolution in the Navy.
CaptD
I bet deployment is being "pushed forward" because of the N. Korean missile threats...
The Grim Snark
The real question is: Can it stop Godzilla?
JAT
Well let's see. If I give the underside of my fighter aircraft a mirror polish will this thing still work? What about rain, hail, fog or just ducking into a cloud bank? Everything it can do can be easily countered, so what's the point? Here's another multi billion dollar waste of the taxpayer's money. Just so the boys at sea have a new toy...
Slowburn
re; JAT If the laser system cons the enemy into putting a mirror finish on their equipment the laser having never fired a war shot paid for itself handsomely.