US ONR demonstrates ship-based laser weapon system in Persian Gulf


Laser Weapon System

The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) has successfully deployed and operated its new ship-based laser weapon system (LaWS) on the Austin-class amphibious transport dock vessel, USS Ponce, in the Persian Gulf.

During the tests, the weapon system successfully hit targets mounted on an approaching small boat and fired a Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It also destroyed other moving sea targets.

Capable of destroying targets on speeding boats or even aircraft with pin-point accuracy, the new system aims to enhance surface, air and ground capabilities.

ONR chief rear admiral Matthew Klunder said: "Laser weapons are powerful [and] affordable, and will play a vital role in the future of naval combat operations.

"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."

Operated by a video game-like controller, the system has the potential to deal with multiple threats using a range of swelling options, from non-lethal measures to lethal destruction.

"Laser weapons are powerful [and] affordable, and will play a vital role in the future of naval combat operations."

The gathered information regarding accuracy, lethality and other factors from the USS Ponce deployment will assist in building weapons under ONR's solid-state laser-technology maturation programme.

As part of the programme, selected industry teams will build combat-ready laser prototypes for installation on vessels, including guided-missile destroyers and the littoral combat ship, in the early 2020s.

Klunder added: "At less than a dollar per shot, there's no question about the value LaWS provides.

"With affordability a serious concern for our defence budgets, this will more effectively manage resources to ensure our sailors and marines are never in a fair fight."


Image: USS Ponce during the operational demonstration of the ONR's laser weapon system (LaWS). Photo: courtesy of the US Navy , photo by John F. Williams.

Defence Technology