Navy shipboard laser weapon kills boats and UAVs during three-month at-sea tests in Persian Gulf

ARLINGTON, Va., 10 Dec. 2014. U.S. Navy researchers have completed three months of at-sea testing of a shipboard high-energy laser weapon that could bring deck-mounted machine gun-like defensive capability to U.S. and allied surface warships at a fraction of the cost.

Dec 10th, 2014
Navy's first laser weapon deployment this summer
Navy's first laser weapon deployment this summer
ARLINGTON, Va., 10 Dec. 2014. U.S. Navy researchers have completed three months of at-sea testing of a shipboard high-energy laser weapon that could bring deck-mounted machine gun-like defensive capability to U.S. and allied surface warships at a fraction of the cost.

Naval personnel deployed and operated the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce from September to November in the Persian Gulf, officials of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Va., announced today.

The LaWS operational demonstrations showed a laser weapon can work aboard a deployed U.S. Navy ship seamlessly with existing ship defense systems, ONR officials say.

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“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," says Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research. “Laser weapons are powerful, affordable and will play a vital role in the future of naval combat operations.”

During the tests, LaWS hit targets mounted aboard a speeding oncoming small boat, shot a Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) out of the sky, and destroyed other moving targets at sea. Sailors reported the weapon performed flawlessly in high winds, heat, and humidity.

The system is operated by a video-game like controller, and can address several different kinds of threats using options ranging from non-lethal measures like optical dazzling and disabling, to lethal destruction, Navy officials say.

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Fleet commanders particularly are interested in deck-mounted laser weapons like LaWS against enemy small attack boats, aerial drones, and other asymmetric threats.

The LaWS demonstrations are expected to lead to solid-state laser weapons for vessels such as guided-missile destroyers and the Littoral Combat Ship in the early 2020s, Navy officials say. LaWS-develop technologies also could be applied to airborne and ground-based laser weapons.

Shipboard laser weapons not only offer precision and speed, but are safer to operate than traditional deck-mounted weapons because lasers don't rely on dangerous propellants and gunpowder. Lasers run on electricity and can be fired as long as there is power.

Related: Think laser weapons are the stuff of fantasy? Next summer will see first Navy deployment

They also cost less to build, install, and fire than traditional kinetic weapons like expensive missiles, Navy officials say. “At less than a dollar per shot, there's no question about the value LaWS provides,” Klunder says.

For more information contact the Office of Naval Research online at www.onr.navy.mil.

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