Historic Leap: Navy Shipboard Laser
Operates in Arabian Gulf
By David Smalley, Office of Naval Research
Arlington, Virginia – (NNS)
– October 12, 2014 – Officials at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) announced
today the laser weapon system (LaWS) - a cutting-edge weapon that brings
significant new capabilities to America's Sailors and Marines - was for the
first time successfully deployed and operated aboard a naval vessel in the
Laser Weapon System (LaWS) deployed to
the Arabian Gulf
The operational demonstrations, which took place from September to November
aboard USS Ponce (AFSB[I]15), were historic not only because they showed a
laser weapon working aboard a deployed U.S. Navy ship, but also because LaWS
operated seamlessly with existing ship defense systems.
energy weapons can counter asymmetric threats, including unmanned, light
aircraft and small attack boats
"Laser weapons are powerful, affordable and will play a vital role in the
future of naval combat operations," said Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, chief of
naval research. "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."
Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I)15)
During the tests, LaWS - a collaborative effort between ONR, Naval Sea
Systems Command, Naval Research Laboratory, Naval Surface Warfare Center
Dahlgren Division and industry partners -- hit targets mounted aboard a speeding
oncoming small boat, shot a Scan Eagle
unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) out of the sky, and destroyed other moving targets
at sea. (Play video)
Sailors worked daily with LaWS over several months since it was installed,
and reported the weapon performed flawlessly, including in adverse weather
conditions of high winds, heat and humidity. They noted the system exceeded
expectations for both reliability and maintainability.
The system is operated by a video-game like controller, and can address
multiple threats using a range of escalating options, from non-lethal measures
such as optical "dazzling" and disabling, to lethal destruction if necessary. It
could prove to be a pivotal asset against what are termed "asymmetric threats,"
which include small attack boats and UAVs.
Data regarding accuracy, lethality and other factors from the Ponce
deployment will guide the development of weapons under ONR's Solid-State
Laser-Technology Maturation program. Under this program, industry teams have
been selected to develop cost-effective, combat-ready laser prototypes that
could be installed on vessels such as guided-missile destroyers and the Littoral
Combat Ship in the early 2020s.
Researchers say the revolutionary technology breakthroughs demonstrated by
LaWS will ultimately benefit not only U.S. Navy surface ships, but also airborne
and ground-based weapon systems.
While laser weapons offer new levels of precision and speed for naval
warfighters, they also bring increased safety for ships and crews, as lasers are
not dependent on the traditional propellant and gunpowder-based ordnance found
on ships. Lasers run on electricity and can be fired as long as there is power.
U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams
They also cost less to build, install and fire than traditional kinetic
weapons -- for example a multimillion-dollar missile.
"At less than a dollar per shot, there's no question about the value LaWS
provides," said Klunder. "With affordability a serious concern for our defense
budgets, this will more effectively manage resources to ensure our Sailors and
Marines are never in a fair fight."
The Navy already has demonstrated the effectiveness of lasers in a variety of
maritime settings. In a 2011 demonstration, a laser was used to defeat multiple
small boat threats from a destroyer. In 2012, LaWS downed several unmanned
aircraft in tests during naval exercises. Specific details on next steps and
timeframes are being determined as the data from the current demonstrations are
The announcement confirms continued significant progress on directed-energy
weapons, and meets the timeframe announced by Chief of Naval Operations Adm.
Jonathan Greenert at the 2013 Sea-Air-Space Expo. Greenert will be the opening
speaker at the upcoming Naval Future Force Science and Technology EXPO in
February 2015, where many of the innovative technologies coming to fruition for
the Navy and Marine Corps will be on display.
About the Office of Naval Research :
The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) provides the science
and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological
advantage. Through its affiliates, ONR is a leader in science and technology
with engagement in 50 states, 70 countries, 1,035 institutions of higher
learning and 914 industry partners. ONR employs approximately 1,400 people,
comprising uniformed, civilian and contract personnel, with additional employees
at the Naval Research Lab in Washington, D.C.
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