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US Navy warship fires laser weapon, downs drone off Pearl Harbor

26 May 2020

USS Portland proves solid state laser DEW weapon system demonstrator in successful first at-sea test.

The US Navy has announced that its amphibious transport dock ship the USS Portland (LPD 27) successfully disabled and brought down an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV / “drone”). The feat was performed using a solid state laser weapon system known as the Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator MK2 MOD0 (LWSD for short) in a sea test in the Pacific on May 16th.

The LWSD is a high-energy laser weapon system demonstrator developed by the US Navy’s Office of Naval Research and installed on USS Portland for the at-sea demonstration.

The LWSD's operational employment on a Pacific Fleet ship is the first system-level implementation of a high-energy class solid-state laser. The laser system was developed by aerospace and armaments company Northrop Grumman, with full System and Ship Integration and Testing led by NSWC Dahlgren and Port Hueneme.

Directed energy weapons

“By conducting advanced at sea tests against UAVs and small crafts, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of the Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator against potential threats,” commented Capt. Karrey Sanders, commanding officer of USS Portland.

The U.S. Navy has been developing directed-energy weapons (DEWs), including lasers, since the 1960s. DEWs are defined as electromagnetic systems capable of converting chemical or electrical energy to radiated energy and focusing it on a target, resulting in physical damage that degrades, neutralizes, defeats, or destroys an adversarial capability.

Navy ships face an increasing number of threats in conducting their missions, including UAVs, armed small boats, and adversary intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems. The US Navy says its development of DEWs like the LWSD, “provide immediate warfighter benefits and provide the commander increased decision space and response options.”

Sanders added, “The Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator is a unique capability the USS Portland gets to test and operate for the Navy, while paving the way for future weapons systems. With this new advanced capability, we are redefining war at sea for the Navy.”

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