Navy moves closer to deploying high-power laser weapon to defend against swarms of fast attack boats

By John Keller

PORT HUENEME, Calif.–U.S. Navy and industry laser weapons experts are moving high-power lasers a step closer to deployment aboard Navy surface warships after completing tests demonstrating the ability of a prototype shipboard laser weapon to track small boats at long ranges under maritime conditions.

These tests were part of the Navy's Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD) system, which high-power laser experts at the Directed Energy Systems segment of the Northrop Grumman Corp. Aerospace Division in Redondo Beach, Calif., are developing under supervision of the Office of Naval Research in Arlington, Va.

A future with shipboard laser weapons, such as those depicted above, may be closer to reality after a series of laser weapons tests on the California coast.

Shore-based tests of the MLD laser at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Port Hueneme, Calif., proved the MLD system's ability to track small boats at long ranges and in a marine environment, Northrop Grumman officials say.

Northrop Grumman Directed Energy won a $98 million contract for the MLD program last year to mature and demonstrate laser weapons technologies for shipboard applications. Northrop Grumman is developing laser weapon technologies suitable for use on Navy cruisers, destroyers, frigates, and amphibious assault ships to help defend against swarms of small, fast attack boats, such as those that Iran operates in the Persian Gulf.

"For MLD, lessons learned were taken from the success of the Northrop Grumman-developed Joint High Power Solid State Laser, a compact, high-brightness laser," says Dan Wildt, vice president of Northrop Grumman Directed Energy. "We also applied precision tracking experience gained from the Tactical High Energy Laser test bed at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., which has destroyed 46 rockets, artillery, and mortar rounds in flight."

Last fall, Northrop Grumman tested the MLD system at the company's San Juan Capistrano, Calif., test site, in which experts generated a high-energy laser through the system to a target board. They used atmospheric and system models to demonstrate the ability to transport, rapidly set up, and operate the system.

For more information, visit Northrop Grumman Directed Energy Systems online at www.as.northropgrumman.com.

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Mil & Aero Magazine

August 2015
Volume 26, Issue 8
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