US Navy Just Tested Its Most Powerful Laser Yet

2020/05/1590582820.jpg
Read: 659     16:33     27 May 2020    

The U.S. Navy released a video of its newest, most powerful laser in action, destroying a target drone in mid-flight. The MK 2 MOD 0, also known as the Solid State Laser—Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD), is mounted on the amphibious ship USS Portland. The LWSD is likely the most powerful and destructive laser to go to sea.


The LWSD was developed by the Office of Naval Research and Northrop Grumman, and fitted to the amphibious transport dock USS Portland. LWSD has an output of 150 kilowatts, making it up to five times more powerful than other Navy lasers.

The Laser Weapon System (LaWS), deployed on the USS Ponce in 2014, had a reported output of 30 kilowatts, enough to shoot down small drones.

The Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN) laser, recently fitted to the guided missile destroyer USS Dewey, is designed to shoot down drones and disrupt electro-optical sensors, meaning it is probably about as powerful as LaWS.

The MK 2 MOD 0 has an output of 150 kilowatts, a huge leap in power output over previous laser weapons. A video released by the Navy shows the laser destroying an unmanned drone in midair.

Here’s the video, courtesy U.S. Naval Institute News:

A 150-kilowatt weapon, according to a report by the Lexington Institute, “would be capable of addressing the threat posed by UAVs, small boats, rockets, artillery, and mortars.”

There’s a lot we don’t know about LWSD, particularly how far it can engage targets. A similar system, the missile-based SeaRAM close-in weapon system, can engage a similar target set to a range of about six miles. However, unlike a missile, environmental factors such as rain, dust, smoke, or other airborne particles will adversely impact a laser, reducing its ability to burn holes in targets over distance.

An amphibious transport ship might seem like a strange choice to install an aircraft-killing laser, as the San Antonio-class ship typically carries several hundred U.S. Marines for amphibious assault missions. According to Defense & Aerospace Report, the Navy chose USS Portland because the San Antonio ships have empty space originally allocated for vertical launch missile silos, weapon systems that were never actually fitted to the ship, and that electrical cables already laid in the ship made fitting the laser easier.

LWSD is a technology demonstrator, but it's already catching up to missile-based systems currently in service with the U.S. Navy. A laser weapon system theoretically can fire an unlimited number of shots, while the similar SeaRAM system is limited to a magazine of eleven missiles. SeaRAM missiles individually cost thousands of dollars apiece, while lasers cost the amount of fuel necessary to power the laser weapon, often expressed as pennies per shot.

The Navy’s newest laser is not ready to replace weapons like SeaRAM. An operational weapon system will need to be ruggedized to withstand a lifetime at sea, enduring near-constant movement while the ship is underway. It will need protection from the bane of every seagoing warship—salt water and the corrosive effects of rust. LWSD is not powerful enough to destroy larger manned aircraft and, most importantly, incoming anti-ship missiles. Such larger, fast-moving targets require a more powerful laser to induce structural failure in a shorter time.

The Navy’s progress on laser weapon systems has been rapid, moving from just 30 kilowatts in 2014 to 150 kilowatts in 2020. It’s unusual for a weapon type to become five times more powerful in the span of just six years, but there’s also been about five decades’ worth of research and development behind this burst of progress. All of that effort is finally, at long last, paying off.

Popular Mechanics



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US Navy Just Tested Its Most Powerful Laser Yet

2020/05/1590582820.jpg
Read: 660     16:33     27 May 2020    

The U.S. Navy released a video of its newest, most powerful laser in action, destroying a target drone in mid-flight. The MK 2 MOD 0, also known as the Solid State Laser—Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD), is mounted on the amphibious ship USS Portland. The LWSD is likely the most powerful and destructive laser to go to sea.


The LWSD was developed by the Office of Naval Research and Northrop Grumman, and fitted to the amphibious transport dock USS Portland. LWSD has an output of 150 kilowatts, making it up to five times more powerful than other Navy lasers.

The Laser Weapon System (LaWS), deployed on the USS Ponce in 2014, had a reported output of 30 kilowatts, enough to shoot down small drones.

The Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN) laser, recently fitted to the guided missile destroyer USS Dewey, is designed to shoot down drones and disrupt electro-optical sensors, meaning it is probably about as powerful as LaWS.

The MK 2 MOD 0 has an output of 150 kilowatts, a huge leap in power output over previous laser weapons. A video released by the Navy shows the laser destroying an unmanned drone in midair.

Here’s the video, courtesy U.S. Naval Institute News:

A 150-kilowatt weapon, according to a report by the Lexington Institute, “would be capable of addressing the threat posed by UAVs, small boats, rockets, artillery, and mortars.”

There’s a lot we don’t know about LWSD, particularly how far it can engage targets. A similar system, the missile-based SeaRAM close-in weapon system, can engage a similar target set to a range of about six miles. However, unlike a missile, environmental factors such as rain, dust, smoke, or other airborne particles will adversely impact a laser, reducing its ability to burn holes in targets over distance.

An amphibious transport ship might seem like a strange choice to install an aircraft-killing laser, as the San Antonio-class ship typically carries several hundred U.S. Marines for amphibious assault missions. According to Defense & Aerospace Report, the Navy chose USS Portland because the San Antonio ships have empty space originally allocated for vertical launch missile silos, weapon systems that were never actually fitted to the ship, and that electrical cables already laid in the ship made fitting the laser easier.

LWSD is a technology demonstrator, but it's already catching up to missile-based systems currently in service with the U.S. Navy. A laser weapon system theoretically can fire an unlimited number of shots, while the similar SeaRAM system is limited to a magazine of eleven missiles. SeaRAM missiles individually cost thousands of dollars apiece, while lasers cost the amount of fuel necessary to power the laser weapon, often expressed as pennies per shot.

The Navy’s newest laser is not ready to replace weapons like SeaRAM. An operational weapon system will need to be ruggedized to withstand a lifetime at sea, enduring near-constant movement while the ship is underway. It will need protection from the bane of every seagoing warship—salt water and the corrosive effects of rust. LWSD is not powerful enough to destroy larger manned aircraft and, most importantly, incoming anti-ship missiles. Such larger, fast-moving targets require a more powerful laser to induce structural failure in a shorter time.

The Navy’s progress on laser weapon systems has been rapid, moving from just 30 kilowatts in 2014 to 150 kilowatts in 2020. It’s unusual for a weapon type to become five times more powerful in the span of just six years, but there’s also been about five decades’ worth of research and development behind this burst of progress. All of that effort is finally, at long last, paying off.

Popular Mechanics



Tags: