Military

US Navy shoots down drone using all-electric laser for the first time

US Navy shoots down drone usin...
Artist's concept of a ship-mounted laser weapon
Artist's concept of a ship-mounted laser weapon
View 3 Images
The drone target being struck with a laser beam
1/3
The drone target being struck with a laser beam
Artist's concept of a ship-mounted laser weapon
2/3
Artist's concept of a ship-mounted laser weapon
Target drone during high energy laser engagement
3/3
Target drone during high energy laser engagement
View gallery - 3 images

The US Navy has shot down its first drone representing a subsonic cruise missile using an all-electric high-energy laser. At the US Army’s High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, the Lockheed Martin Layered Laser Defense (LLD) weapon disabled the engine on a drone, which then parachuted to earth.

Sponsored by the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) and conducted in partnership with the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (Research and Engineering) and Lockheed Martin, the February 2022 test was intended not only to demonstrate the ability of laser weapons to track and take out large targets like the drone in question, but also a variety of threats, such as robotic fixed-wing aerial vehicles, quadcopters, and subsonic cruise missiles.

According to the Navy, laser weapons have a number of advantages. Using a high-resolution telescope, the system can track and help identify incoming targets and determine how much damage the laser inflicts on a target. In addition, laser weapons can be scaled back to disable sensors or dazzle hostile forces without permanently blinding them.

The drone target being struck with a laser beam
The drone target being struck with a laser beam

Unlike earlier laser weapons, which were powered by chemicals, the LLD is solid-state, composed of coils of glass optical fibers doped with various elements. These coils can be bundled and the lasers they generate can be combined into a single, powerful beam and projected through optics that aim it, focus it, and compensate for atmospheric distortion.

In addition, laser weapons require no explosives or propellants, which makes them inherently safer to keep aboard ships, and it has a theoretically unlimited supply of ammunition so long as power is available, allowing for costs of about a dollar per shot.

The Navy has previously deployed laser weapons in 2014 aboard the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf and the USS Portland in 2021 that disabled drones without shooting them down. Both were demonstrators and the Navy has no plans to field the LLD as a standard weapons system. But the latest test shows the increasing capabilities of the technology, including the use of artificial intelligence to track and target threats.

"The Navy performed similar tests during the 1980s but with chemical-based laser technologies that presented significant logistics barriers for fielding in an operational environment," said Dr. Frank Peterkin, ONR’s directed energy portfolio manager. "And, ultimately, those types of lasers did not transition to the fleet or any other service."

Source: US Navy

View gallery - 3 images
7 comments
7 comments
Iconic Vape Science
"disabled the engine, which then parachuted to earth." (pretty neat when they're miles out at sea don't cha think)
MarylandUSA
Israel last week demo'd a laser (all-electric?) that can knock out drones, mortars, and rockets: https://breakingdefense.com/2022/04/beyond-killing-drones-israeli-laser-knocks-mortars-out-of-the-sky-military/
RangerJones
We don't know that it works "miles out at sea", could have been a hundred yard shot (shows a ship but test was in New Mexico). Will work through heavy cloud cover? Will work on anything without composite components? Will work after ship takes damage (because this invites more attention to the ship)? Most countries now have block missiles systems that fire 48-96 within one minute. How far is it effective (because an electric laser diminishes with distance)?
fluke meter
sounds very cool , but not really buying a dollar a shot. a number that low must be ignoring the actaul cost of providing the power and ignoring wear and tear of the components/ laser and source of energy, but then what is it including...
If we looked at cost of power domestically at $.12/kwh $1 would be ~30MJ I wonder how much energy is need to shoot down variety of items they are talking about.

Nelson Hyde Chick
It is so reassuring to know we are working diligently on building better and better weapons to kill one another.
ljaques
What is the required TOT? (amount of time the laser has to stay on the target before it explodes, catches fire, or crashes)
MarylandUSA
Nelson Hyde Chick wrote:
"It is so reassuring to know we are working diligently on building better and better weapons to kill one another."
You couldn't be more wrong. These lasers render incoming projectiles harmless so people won't be killed.