Drones present an increasing threat to naval operations. Last July we reported on the incident in the Strait of Hormuz in which the USS Boxer downed an Iranian drone. Subsequent reports revealed that the Boxer downed the drone using electronic jamming. The Navy may soon have another alternative to electronics or conventional gunfire with which to deal with unwanted aerial intruders — and armed small boats.
U.S. Pacific Fleet has released video of a May 16 test in which the amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27) successfully disabled an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a Solid State Laser – Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) MK 2 MOD 0 on May 16.
LWSD is a high-energy laser weapon system demonstrator developed by the Office of Naval Research and installed on Portland for an at-sea demonstration. LWSD’s operational employment on a Pacific Fleet ship is the first system-level implementation of a high-energy class solid-state laser. The laser system was developed by Northrup Grumman, with full system and ship integration and testing led by NSWC Dahlgren and Port Hueneme.
“By conducting advanced at sea tests against UAVs and small craft, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of the solid state laser weapons system demonstrator against potential threats,” said Capt. Karrey Sanders, commanding officer of USS Portland.
The U.S. Navy has been developing directed-energy weapons (DEWs), to include lasers, since the 1960s. DEWs are defined as electromagnetic systems capable of converting chemical or electrical energy to radiated energy and focusing it on a target, resulting in physical damage that degrades, neutralizes, defeats, or destroys an adversarial capability.
The Navy says its development of DEWs like the LWSD, provide immediate warfighter benefits and provide the commander increased decision space and response options.