Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Arlington, VA, United States (4E) – Lost in the plethora of breaking news about the Laser Weapons System (LaWS) mounted aboard the USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15), an Austin-class amphibious transport dock, is the more compelling story the U.S. Navy is accelerating the development of a 150 kW laser weapon powerful enough to blast jets and missiles out of the sky.
That power of a 150 kW solid state laser is immensely greater than the puny output of 15 kW to 50 kW generated by the LaWS aboard the Ponce. The Ponce is a testbed for the Navy’s first shipborne laser that’s only useful for shooting down aerial drones and engaging small enemy boats.
The Ponce has been testing a 30 kW LaWS since 2014 and has earned the distinction of being the first warship in any navy in the world to deploy a battle ready laser weapon. LaWS, which has been used operationally in the Persian Gulf, gives the Navy precision accuracy at a low cost.
Once accepted into service between 2017 and 2021, the 30kW LaWS will enable the Navy to effectively neutralize aerial drones, swarm boats and other threats by destroying or crippling them with an intense beam of invisible laser light that melts internal circuitry and machinery. LaWS has an effective range of 1.6 kilometers.
LaWS uses a solid-state infrared laser beam that can be tuned to high output to destroy a target, or to a low output to cripple the sensors on a target. Its power output is estimated between 15 kW to 50 kW for engaging small aircraft and high-speed boats.
The Navy, however, has decided to massively boost the power of its shipborne laser by five times and plans to see the first demonstration of this new weapon by 2018.
The Navy’s Office of Naval Research (ONR) will perform a shipboard test of a 150 kW solid-state laser weapons system. ONR coordinates, executes and promotes the science and technology programs of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.
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