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USNavy has a new toy

Navy declares laser weapons ready to protect ships in Persian Gulf
By Kris Osborn
Published December 11, 2014

The laser weapon system (LaWS) is tested aboard the USS Ponce amphibious transport dock Nov. 15, 2014. (REUTERS/John Williams/U.S. Navy/Handout via Reuters)
The Navy’s 30-kilowatt solid-state laser aboard the USS Ponce is now being fired in operational scenarios by sailors in the Persian Gulf, marking the first-ever deployment of a sea-based directed energy weapon.
“We’ve tested it in the lab we’ve tested it operationally at sea. Now, we are not testing it anymore. This is operational,” said Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, chief of naval research at the Office of Naval Research. “They are using it every day.”
If a small or large attack boat, missile or aircraft launched an attack upon the USS Ponce, sailors are equipped to destroy an approaching threat in seconds with the new laser weapon.
“If we had to defend that ship today, it will destroy any threat that comes in-bound. We have the ROE (rules of engagement) to support that,” he said.
The Navy’s Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, uses heat energy from lasers to disable or destroy targets fast, slow, stationary and moving targets. The system has successfully incinerated drones and other targets in tests shots, and is now operational aboard an amphibious transport dock, the USS Ponce.
The scalable weapon is designed to destroy threats for about 59-cents per shot, an amount that is exponentially lower that the hundreds of thousands or millions needed to fire an interceptor missile such as the Standard Missile-2, Klunder explained.
While at sea, sailors have been using the LaWS for targeting and training exercises every day.
“They’ve used it to disable and destroy some targets,” Klunder said. “The sailors on the ships are using the time with this weapons system to hit fast moving targets, slower targets, ones that are larger and ones that are smaller. They have gone through the paces regarding what they might see in terms of not only speed of the target, but also size of the target.”
Navy sailors and engineers have discovered some unanticipated intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance value from the laser weapons system by using its long-range telescope to scan for targets, Klunder added.
“LaWS is ISR capable. Not only are we using the directed energy to quickly and effectively disable and destroy threats, we’ve also using it on an everyday basis for targeting and identification of potential threats,” He said. “We’re picking up things at long ranges with a high degree of resolution. The large aperture telescope provides power and magnification.”
Navy leaders said the LaWS system is effectively integrated with the ship’s radar systems and weapons such as the Close-In-Weapons-System, or CIWS, a technology designed to fire small interceptors able to defend the ship against approaching enemy fire.
“So far it has exceeded expectations. Went to sea in September and the laser has been operational since. It has been integrated with the ship’s navigation systems, radar and Close-In-Weapons System. We put it in a demanding marine environment,” said Rear Adm. Bryant Fuller, deputy commander, ship design, Integration and naval engineering at Naval Sea Systems Command.
While laser weapons offer new levels of precision and speed for naval war fighters, Navy officials said 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.
Klunder said the system is durable and able to function in various weather conditions. He explained that the LaWS functioned extremely well following a dust storm in theater.
Along with analyzing data from the weapon’s operational use, Navy officials are also working on a much more powerful, next-generation 100 to 150 kilowatt laser weapon to be ready by 2016 or 2017, Klunder added.
Although future specifics are still being determined, the Navy is confident it will be putting laser weapons on a wide range of ship platforms to possibly include the destroyers, cruisers and the Littoral Combat Ship, among others.
“We’ve done analytical work and we know what ships we can put it on. Frankly it is a lot of them in the naval inventory. We’re talking through which ones we might want to do in the future, specifically those more suited to the higher power 100 to 150 kilowatt laser. That is the one we are really targeting for more extensive use,” he said.

8 responses to “USNavy has a new toy

  1. p.g.sharrow December 11, 2014 at 10:20 am

    Add the Rail Gun kinetic weapon and you have Electrical weapons instead of explosives. The end of the Gun Powder era! pg

  2. Simon Derricutt December 11, 2014 at 11:49 am

    pg – although they say 30kW I don’t know if that is the power it draws or the power in the beam. Since a lot of lasers use a short pulse at an extremely high power level this could be MW for a short pulse and the repetition rate gives you the 30kW stated. The cost per shot, and the almost-unlimited supply of “ammunition” makes this very useful. Not something I’d like to be on the wrong end of.

  3. p.g.sharrow December 11, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    @Simon; My guess, from the physical size and “cost” per shot is that, 30kw is the input rating. I was a Navy Electrician. Naval ship devices are rated for their load on the ship’s electrical system. 40 horse power is a fair amount of energy to apply to one spot. I would consider it to be as effective as a 50cal chain gun that is line of sight effective to several miles. just my WAG. pg

  4. Zeke January 17, 2015 at 9:17 pm

    Look at that, we have LCS too.

    “The Freedom and Independence variant of the Littoral Combat Ship is the U.S. Navy’s newest warship and is a fast, agile, focused-mission platform designed for operation in near-shore environments yet capable of open-ocean operation. It is designed to defeat asymmetric “anti-access” threats such as mines, quiet diesel submarines and fast surface craft.”

    These are nice ships, which can track up rivers even if necessary, and go after subs. There is a picture of one turning a 360 – in place!

  5. Pingback: The world of warfare just changed. Big ships or shiny ships to return? | Musings from the Chiefio

  6. R. de Haan February 9, 2015 at 3:06 pm

    Having a laser treatment suddenly has a whole different meaning…

  7. p.g.sharrow February 9, 2015 at 4:19 pm Haan; sure does! But the Navy has also determined that”cold” laser (red or infrared) treatment can speed tissue healing as much as 33% or 2/3rds of normal healing time. pg

  8. p.g.sharrow February 13, 2015 at 7:36 pm

    Be sure to read this article about the latest on the Navy Rail Gun:
    The comments by msfred are even better then the write up. Be sure to read them.
    As to the electrical load on the shipboard powerplants. The laser is not a big thing, even at 10 times present size. The Rail Gun may be a bridge too far for many reasons. The power demand of it is just one problem among many to be solved before this thing is ready for prime time. pg.

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