Military

US Navy successfully deploys laser weapon

The deployment of the laser weapon is a first for the US Navy (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
The deployment of the laser weapon is a first for the US Navy (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
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The laser weapon is designed to counter a range of threats (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
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The laser weapon is designed to counter a range of threats (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
The Afloat Forward Staging Base deployed in the Arabian Gulf (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
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The Afloat Forward Staging Base deployed in the Arabian Gulf (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
The laser weapon uses a video game-like controller (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
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The laser weapon uses a video game-like controller (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
The Afloat Forward Staging Base on USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
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The Afloat Forward Staging Base on USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
The Afloat Forward Staging Base on USS Ponce (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
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The Afloat Forward Staging Base on USS Ponce (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
Laser weapons like this could be commonly deployed by 2020 (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
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Laser weapons like this could be commonly deployed by 2020 (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
The laser weapon is effective against small targets (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
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The laser weapon is effective against small targets (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
Control system for the laser weapon (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
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Control system for the laser weapon (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
Chief Fire Controlman Brett Richmond and Lt. j.g. Katie Woodard operate the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS)
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Chief Fire Controlman Brett Richmond and Lt. j.g. Katie Woodard operate the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS)
The deployment of the laser weapon is a first for the US Navy (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
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The deployment of the laser weapon is a first for the US Navy (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)

The laser goes from the weapon of tomorrow to the weapon of today as the US Navy announces the completion of its successful deployment of the Office of Naval Research's (ONR) Laser Weapon System (LaWS). The deployment is the first on a US Naval vessel and took place on the USS Ponce (LPD-15) in the Arabian Gulf from September to November of this year.

Developed as part of the ONR's Solid-State Laser-Technology Maturation program, LaWS is part of the US military's effort to develop a cost-effective, combat-ready laser prototype. While LaWS is not the first laser weapon ever to have been deployed, it is the first on a US Naval vessel and is a considerable advance on previous laser weapons.

According to the Navy, LaWS is capable of handling small attack boats, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), and other asymmetric targets, and has a wide range of settings, ranging from the ability to "dazzle" people and sensors without destroying them, to being able to disable or destroy targets. It also has the advantages of being able to engage targets at the speed of light, not requiring ammunition, being able to operate so long as power is available, and has a cost-per-round of a about a dollar per shot – which is a considerable saving in an area when munitions can cost thousands or even millions apiece.

Control system for the laser weapon (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
Control system for the laser weapon (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)

According to Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, chief of naval research, this helps to ensure that the US Navy and Marines are never in a "fair fight."

This year's deployment was a joint mission by ONR, Naval Sea Systems Command, Naval Research Laboratory, Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division and private industry. During its time at sea, the laser was used against a variety of targets, such as small boats and other moving targets at sea, and also managed to knock a flying Scan Eagle UAV out of the sky.

The Navy says that the LaWS exceeded expectations not only in reliability, but in maintainability as well, and it integrated seamlessly with the Ponce's existing defense systems. In addition, sailors aboard said that it performed flawlessly in all weathers, including high winds, heat and humidity.

The Afloat Forward Staging Base deployed in the Arabian Gulf (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)
The Afloat Forward Staging Base deployed in the Arabian Gulf (Photo: US Navy/John F. Williams)

The deployment is part of the system's development following demonstrations in 2011 and 2012. The results of this year's deployment will be used to assess the progress of the program and determine future development timeframes. The ONR sees the system as not only applicable for sea duty, but also as an effective defense against airborne and ground-based weapon systems.

"Laser weapons are powerful, affordable and will play a vital role in the future of naval combat operations," says Klunder. "We ran this particular weapon, a prototype, through some extremely tough paces, and it locked on and destroyed the targets we designated with near-instantaneous lethality."

The video below shows the US Navy weapon in action.

Source: US Navy

Laser Weapon System (LaWS) demonstration aboard USS Ponce

17 comments
Hovnimrsk Prdelac
I wonder if they tried attacking a boat equipped with some strategically placed mirrors
Jay Finke
Looks like this might work on Pirates, how would you like your Pirate cooked ? Medium Rare Please. And a mirror I dint think is going to help with this amount of power, it's going to find any imperfection in a material and poof it's toast ! Things you can do.. when you have a nuke power plant on your ship.
Derek Howe
Jay - this ship isn't nuclear powered.
Slowburn
Mirrors are highly overrated as laser defense.
Jim Lively
Tesla technology finally unveiled a hundred or so years later?
999 HOT
I wonder how it is at damaging distant commercial aircraft whilst practicing on local UAV's? Just a bit of collateral damage from the US Navy? I hope not.
owlbeyou
No mention of any stabilizing mechanism that keeps the laser beam steady as the ship bobs up and down. Still, technology for a maximum killing effect creeps me out. How much "defense" capability do the US forces need? This is obviously a tactical offensive weapon and totally unnecessary. They don't just continue to build better mouse traps, they're figuring out ways to obliterate anything that moves suspiciously, which greatly increases the chance for error. For every ""terrorist" killed by a drone, 28 innocents die, and thousands more despise you.
Amin.Askari
can anybody remember rq170? Amin.Askari from Iran
Slowburn
@ 999 HOT That is not a problem with laser weapons you can see everything the beam is going to cross.
Slowburn
@ Amin.Askari You mean that airliner that ignored the warnings that they would be shot at if they didn't change coarse.