The US Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) in a joint exercise with the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Dahlgren division has successfully tested the surface navy laser weapon system (LaWS).

As part of the testing, threat-representative unmanned aerial vehicle (UAVs) were destroyed at the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, California.

The members of NAVSEA’s directed energy and electric weapon systems (DE&EWS) programme office and NSWC Dahlgren have tracked, engaged and destroyed a total of five targets by firing a laser through a beam director on a KINETO tracking mount.

The first threat-representative UAV was destroyed in flight on 7 June 2009 and then two on 9 June, with two more on 11 June.

The series of tests for destroying the UAVs in flight used the prototype version of the surface navy LaWS.

The programme manager David Kiel said that additional development and integration of more powerful lasers into surface navy LaWS will step-up the engagement range and target sets that can be successfully engaged and destroyed.

The implementation of recent advances in commercial welding made the deployment of laser-based defence system onboard naval vessels a realistic possibility.

The DE&EWS is developing laser weapon technology for operational use which provides speed-of-light engagements at tactically significant ranges minimising the use of defensive missiles and projectiles.