A US Navy warship, USS Portland, has successfully tested a new high-energy laser weapon system that could destroy an aircraft mid-air.

During a test on 16 May, the transport dock ship USS Portland was able to shoot down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) with a Solid State Laser – Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) MK 2 MOD.

Developed by the Office of Naval Research, LWSD was installed on Portland for an at-sea demonstration. The laser weapon’s operation on a Pacific Fleet ship is said to be the first system-level deployment of a high-energy solid-state laser.

Northrup Grumman created the laser system while NSWC Dahlgren and Port Hueneme led full system and ship integration and testing.

USS Portland commanding officer Karrey Sanders said: “By conducting advanced at sea tests against UAVs and small craft, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of the Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator against potential threats.”

Since 1960s, the US Navy has been working to develop directed-energy weapons (DEWs), including lasers. DEWs are electromagnetic systems that can convert chemical or electrical energy to radiated energy.

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The converted energy is focused on a target to cause physical damage that degrades, neutralises, defeats or destroys an adversarial capability, noted the US Navy.

DEWs such as LWSD are intended to help the Navy face various threats during their missions, including UAVs, armed small boats, adversary intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.

Sanders added: “The Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator is a unique capability the Portland gets to test and operate for the Navy, while paving the way for future weapons systems.

“With this new advanced capability, we are redefining war at sea for the Navy.”