Dec 14, 2014
US Navy's prototype laser weapon in operational use in Gulf
The shipboard laser will remain operational for a year, with lessons feeding into the Office of Naval Research 100-150 kW laser development programme
A laser weapon prototype installed for the first time on board a deployed US Navy (USN) ship is in use in the Gulf and proving key operational concepts, including the employment of its high-resolution optics for discriminating potential targets, officials said on 10 December.
The 30 kW-class Laser Weapon System (LaWS) was integrated onto the interim Afloat Forward Staging Base vessel USS Ponce (AFSB(I)15) in August 2014. In September, LaWS went to sea for the first time as an operational shipboard weapon.
In a video taken in November 2014 of LaWS operating on board Ponce , the system struck with a laser a ScanEagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) target flying near the ship, knocking it out of the sky in under two seconds. Sailors also demonstrated how the laser could pinpoint and destroy a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) on board a manoeuvring fast-attack craft target, demonstrating its low collateral effect.
While Ponce has not had to engage a real threat since LaWS was installed, the system remains at the disposal of the ship's captain for employment.
Designed to defend against fast swarming boats and small UAVs, the LaWS prototype - designated AN/SEQ-3 (XN-1) - has been installed on board Ponce in a semi-permanent fixture that is part of the ship's structure. "It's integrated in with the ship, using the ship's normal navigational radar and close-in weapons system (CIWS) to hand off the target to the system, so it's fully integrated," said the USN's chief engineer, Rear Admiral Bryant Fuller, who is also Naval Sea Systems Command's (NAVSEA's) deputy commander for ship design, integration, and naval engineering.