Northrop Grumman has completed a series of tests of the maritime laser demonstration (MLD) system to be deployed on US Navy ships.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) conducted shore-based tests that have proved the MLD system’s ability to track small boats at long ranges and in a marine environment.

Northrop Aerospace Systems vice-president Steve Hixson said the tracking tests were designed to demonstrate laser weapon system capability for fleet defence.

“Such lasers would complement other defensive systems to address certain threats more effectively and at lower cost than traditional weapons,” he said.

In 2009, the MLD system testing involved a high-energy laser being generated through the system to a target board.

Atmospheric and system models were used to prove the ability to transport, rapidly setup and operate the system.

Northrop Directed Energy Systems vice-president Dan Wildt said the MLD technology demonstration involved proper planning to test and verify the performance and safety of the system going onto a ship.

“MLD will give the navy the fundamental data that is needed to decide whether to go forward and deploy this capability in the near term,” he said.