The Navy will deploy a high-energy, solid-state directed energy, or “laser” weapon early next year on board the amphibious transport dock Ponce, Navy officials said Monday.
This will be the first such deployment of the Navy’s Laser Weapons System after it completed test shots last summer aboard the destroyer Dewey. The laser targeted fast boats and unmanned drones in the tests completed in the Pacific off the California coast.
Navy leaders have spent $40 million developing the solid-state laser weapons system over the past six years. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Greenert displayed a video of the laser weapons system at the Sea Air Space Expo on Monday at National Harbor, Md.
The laser weapon system began as a developmental effort by the U.S. Naval Sea Command and the Office of Naval Research.
“The CNO has tasked us to move this capability into the operational domain,” said Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, Chief of Naval Research.“This is a new innovative technology to give sailors and Marines the advantage they need for the current and future fight.”
The idea is deploy a low-cost, high-energy effective weapon against a range of potential threats, including enemy drones, fast-attack boats and what is referred to as small boat swarm attacks wherein large numbers of small watercraft attack simultaneously.
The laser weapon system uses heat energy from the laser to destroy targets, Klunder explained. Each round is remarkably cheap compared to other forms of ammunition.
“One round of directed energy is equivalent to one U.S. dollar. This is real data for real performance,” Klunder said.
In fact, the laser weapons system can easily integrate with the electronics on-board Navy ships, most of which produce more than enough electrical power to support the weapon, said Rear Adm. Thomas J. Eccles, chief engineer and deputy commander for Naval Systems Engineering.
Thus far, the laser weapons system is a perfect 12 for 12 in test shots, said Eccles. At the Expo, senior Navy officers showed a video of a successful test engagement involving a test-firing of the laser weapon system on board the Dewey. The weapon successfully incinerated a “dummy” or mock UAS target.
The directed energy power emitted from the laser can be adjusted to lethal and non-lethal modes — giving ship commanders a range of options when it comes to executing their missions, Eccles said.
In fact, the senior Navy leaders explained that laser or directed energy weapons are likely to increase in use in the future as a way to supplement kinetic weapons or solutions, Navy leaders explained.
“As we look at a future of more and more energetic weapons like this, you can see efficiencies gained in a number of ways,” Klunder said.