Navy Ship Downs Drone with High-Energy Laser in Weapons Test

Remigio Civitarese
Mag 23, 2020

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The first glimpse of the Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) was a brief video clip shared by the Navy on Friday, in which the solid-state laser takes down an unmanned aircraft in its first-ever test at sea.

The Navy has used other lower-energy laser weapon systems on its ships in the past, including its 30-kilowatt class Laser Weapon System (LaWS).

The US Navy has successfully tested a weapon that can fire targeted beams of high-energy laser to shoot small planes and drones out of the sky.

After the high-powered laser is fired, videos show a drone suddenly burning up mid-flight before completely vanishing.

The weapon was not revealed either, but it is believed to be a 150-kilowatt laser, according to a report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Advanced laser systems not just increase the response options of a warship but also offer the advantage of speed.

'With this new advanced capability, we are redefining war at sea for the Navy'.

The Navy says lasers, which it calls directed energy weapons (DEW), can be effective defences against drones or armed small boats.

The Navy hopes laser cannons can defend the fleet from drones and even the long-range missiles being fielded by rivals like China, which can outrange a USA carrier strike group's jets and missiles. China's land-based missiles could overwhelm a carrier group's ability to intercept with a finite supply of missiles, which is where the laser comes in.

The test launch of the weapon took place while operating off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on May 16.

The weapon onboard the Portland is officially known as a Solid State Laser - Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) MK 2 MOD 0.

'The Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator is a unique capability the Portland gets to test and operate for the Navy, while paving the way for future weapons system.

The US Navy is also developing a medium-strength laser, High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance (HELIOS), that is prepared to reach 60 kilowatts and could be placed on a larger variety of ships, like destroyers.

While the Portland is now the only warship equipped with the LWSD, arms contractor Lockheed Martin is working on a similarly powerful 150-kilowatt laser, which the Navy said could be deployed for testing later this year on the littoral combat ship USS Little Rock, but gave no exact time frame for when that might happen.

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