At the 2017 Directed Energy Summit held in Washington D.C. on March 29 and 30, Admiral John Richardson talked about U.S. Navy efforts to accelerate the installation of a 150 KW laser weapon system aboard destroyers, cruisers, and maybe even aircraft carriers.
Laser technology has been gaining momentum with advancements in electrical power sources and higher-kilowatt systems. The U.S. Army last month made a technological leap with Lockheed Martin’s announcement that it will deliver its record-setting 60kW truck-mounted laser in coming months.
The Navy hopes its recently created Surface Navy Laser Weapon System program—its very first Rapid Prototyping, Experimentation and Demonstration (RPED) project—will help replicate the Army’s success. Kris Osborn of Scout Warrior talks about the U.S. Navy’s developmental acceleration of ship-fired laser weapons.
The US Navy is accelerating efforts to incinerate drones, cruise missiles, aircraft, ships and other enemy targets with laser weapons fired from destroyers, cruisers and maybe even aircraft carriers.
While ship fired laser weapons have been in development for a while now, the effort is gaining momentum and focus as it appears to be nearer term than was previously thought possible. Advances in integrated mobile electrical power sources and higher-kilowatt laser weapons have sped up the developmental progress, bringing the raster prospect of high-heat, precision laser weapons to surface combatants.
Speaking recently at the Directed Energy Summit, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson spoke passionately about the developmental acceleration of ship-fired weapons.
“I’ve had the opportunity to travel around the directed energy technology corridor, and from what I’ve seen, I’m very hopeful. It is clear to me that if we can do this right it will be transformational,” Richardson said. “So the Navy’s all in, we’re pushing this forward. We’re committed to moving forward as fast as we can.
“The company will design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system,” the Northrop statement added.
Office of Naval Research officials told Scout Warrior an aim of the developmental program is to engineer a prototype weapons for further analysis.
“This system employs multi-spectral target detection and track capabilities as well as an advanced off-axis beam director with improved fiber laser technologies to provide extended target engagement ranges. Improvements of high power fiber lasers used to form the laser beam enable the increased power levels and extended range capabilities. Lessons learned, operating procedures, updated hardware and software derived from previous systems will be incorporated in this demonstration,” a senior official with the Office of Naval Research, told Scout Warrior in a written statement a few months ago.
“The possibilities can become integrated prototypes — and the prototypes become reality when they become acquisition programs,” an ONR official said.
It is not yet clear when this weapon might be operational but the intention seems to be to arm surface ships such as destroyers, cruisers and possibly even carriers or an LCS with inexpensive offensive or defensive laser weapons technology.
Both Navy and Northrop Grumman officials often talk about the cost advantages of firing laser weapons to incinerate incoming enemy attacks or destroy enemy targets without having to expend an interceptor missile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Navy officials describe this as getting ahead of the cost curve.
“For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we’re offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet,” said Guy Renard, director and program manager, directed energy, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.
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