The US Navy has successfully tested a futuristic laser weapon to down drones. The “Solid State Laster” is a high-energy laser that was tested on May 16 and the secret test was revealed on May 22 by the Commander of the US Pacific Fleet.
The Navy, writing from Pearl Harbor where Japanese aircraft once surprised American ships in 1941, is showing how US technology is preparing for the latest threats. This time it isn’t Japanese Zeroes and Nakajima torpedo bombers, but rather drones that ships have to defend against.
The Amphibious dock ship USS Portland tested the Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator. The US likes to use complex names and acronyms for new weapons, so this thing is called the LWSD MK 2 MOD. It is a 150 kilowatt laser and was on board the ship when the ship left port in December. The high energy weapon was developed by the Office of Naval Research and was first installed on the Portland for the at-sea demonstration. This system was designed by Northrup Grumman. “By conducting advanced sea tests against UAVs and small crafts, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of the Solid State Laster Weapons System Demonstrator,” said Capt. Karrey Sanders.
The weapon has implications. Israel has been experimenting with laser technology to defeat drones and other threats in recent years. Israel’s Ministry of Defense announced a breakthrough in January regarding laser-based systems that can down rockets, mortars and drones, as well as anti-tank missiles. Israel’s Rafael Advanced Defense Systems also demonstrated a laser defense against multiple drones.
The US navy has been working with lasers and directed-energy weapons since the 1960s when Star Trek first made them popular. But recent years have moved beyond just playing with gadgets and developing them into real weapons that could be operational. This is because of the nature of the expanding threat of UAVs. Drones come in all sizes and new drone swarming technology, which adversaries such as China or Iran may develop, can threaten ships and other installations. Lasers may be the best defense. The US says they can provide increased precision and response options. The navy says this could redefine war at sea. The photos released by the navy show a s ship firing a massive laser and a drone being downed. If Saudi Arabia had laser at its Abqaiq facility it might have been able to down the Iranian drones that attacks it last September. Many defense companies are now developing lasers. Lockheed Martin has tested a system called ATHENA. The first country to put lasers on the battlefield in a meaningful way could show their potential.