The US Navy is going to deploy a high-power laser ship self-defense system to the Gulf of Arabia early next year. The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) prototype will be installed on the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce and, in addition to undergoing tests in theater, will provide an operational capability against any hostile fast-attack craft or unmanned aircraft.
Video and photos: ONR
The LaWS has been tested on land, in a desert environment at China Lake and in a maritime environment on San Nicholas Island off California. And last July-August the system was tested at sea for the first time, on the destroyer USS Dewey off San Diego. The system shot down three BQM-174A Dragon target drones in three live firings -- taking LaWS to "12 for 12" in tests against UAV targets, Klunder says.
For the Gulf deployment, expected to last six months, the LaWS will be installed as a self-defense weapon and integrated with the Ponce's combat system, including the sensors and operator station for the Phalanx close-in weapon system. Sailors will be trained to operate the system for the deployment, both for testing and to provide an operational capability to defend the ship in the busy Gulf.
Klunder says industry teams are already designing more production-representative systems for a follow-on second phase of the Innovative Naval Prototype program. This is expected to use more powerful military-grade solid-state lasers. ONR's goal is to develop a system that can be installed on existing ships, using power margin already available.