Warships Set to Make Waves With Powerful Lasers

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April 23, 2018 | Originally published by Date Line: April 23 on

The U.S. Navy is accelerating efforts to place the weapon systems on guided missile destroyers.

The U.S. Navy has identified laser weapons as an urgent capability need, and after many years of development, it is moving rapidly to deploy advanced laser capabilities in the near term to the fleet. The Navy is pursuing the highest-powered lasers, beginning with 60-kilowatt systems and aiming for 150-kilowatt-class systems, to be used on guided missile destroyers. Through its Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems, the Navy would be the first service to have a program of record for laser energy weapons.

“This effort aligns to congressional, Defense Department and Navy goals to rapidly develop and deploy game-changing technologies,” says a public affairs spokesperson for the Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). “The Navy is pursuing multiple efforts that form the foundation of an incremental strategy for increased laser weapon capability as technology matures.”

The Navy’s two main programs include the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR’s) Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) and the High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance (HELIOS).

Under the SSL-TM research program, which began in 2012, the ONR will be conducting an at-sea demonstration in the fiscal year 2019-20 time frame. The research is examining atmospheric propagation of high-energy lasers in a maritime environment; ruggedized high-energy, density-tolerant optical path components; and compact high-efficiency laser-generation technology. Meanwhile, once the first HELIOS contract is awarded, Increment 1 “will be fielded aboard a DDG 51 Flight IIA in the shortest time frame possible,” the NAVSEA spokesperson says.

These Navy programs are getting a priority boost from a Secretary of the Navy December 2016 policy, which was designed to accelerate the development, demonstration and deployment of “urgent” Navy and Marine Corps capabilities.