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 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.
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.
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.
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.
Press release, Image: US Navy