A prototype laser self-defense weapon is to be deployed on a U.S. Navy ship in the Gulf of Arabia early next year for an operational demonstration.
The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) will be integrated onto the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce, which is permanently stationed in the Gulf.
The deployment is expected to last six months, during which the Navy plans to conduct live-fire tests, but also have the weapon available for use operationally against hostile fast-attack craft and unmanned aircraft.
The LaWS has been developed by an industry team led by the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren division as a technology demonstrator. The system was installed on the Aegis destroyer USS Dewey for initial at-sea trials in July-August last year; the laser shot down three UAVs in three live-fire tests.
Based on industrial fiber laser technology, the LaWS was selected for the operational demonstration because is was the most mature high-energy laser available for integration on the Ponce, says Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research.
Under a second phase of the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR) innovative naval prototype program, industry teams are already studying other high-energy lasers that could be used in a follow-on, production-representative weapon system, he says.
The LaWS has been tested previously on land, initially in a desert environment at NAS China Lake, Calif., and subsequently in a maritime environment on San Nicholas Island off the California coast.
For the Dewey tests off San Diego, the containerized system was mounted on the destroyer’s helicopter flight deck and operated standalone. The three successful shots mean the LaWS has gone “12 for 12” in live-fire tests against UAVs, Klunder says.
For the Ponce deployment, the LaWS will be installed in a location suitable for a ship self-defense weapon and integrated with the vessel’s combat system, including the existing sensors and operator console for the ship’s close-in weapon system (CIWS).