Compiled by Photonics Spectra staff
ARLINGTON, Va. – A solid-state high-energy
laser (HEL) successfully disabled a small target vessel from a surface ship, an
achievement that could offer advanced self-defense to surface ships and personnel.
The Office of Naval Research and Northrop Grumman collaborated
to complete at-sea testing of the Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD) in April. The
latest test occurred near San Nicholas Island, off the coast of central California
in the Pacific Ocean test range. The laser was mounted onto the deck of the US Navy’s
self-defense test ship, the former USS Paul Foster.
“This is the first time an HEL, at these power levels, has
been put on a Navy ship, powered from that ship and used to defeat a target at range
in a maritime environment,” said Peter Morrison, program officer for the Office
of Naval Research’s MLD.
In a little more than two and a half years, the MLD has gone from
contract award to demonstrating a Navy ship defensive capability, he said.
The Navy has also accomplished several other benchmarks, including
integrating the MLD with a ship’s radar and navigation system and firing an
electric laser weapon from a moving platform at sea in a humid environment. Other
tests of solid-state lasers for the Navy have been conducted from land-based positions.
Having access to an HEL weapon will one day provide a warfighter with options when
encountering a small-boat threat, Morrison said.
Although the MLD test in April proved the ability to use a scalable
laser to thwart small vessels at range, the technology will not replace traditional
weapons systems, said Rear Admiral Nevin Carr, chief of Naval research.
“From a science and technology point of view, the marriage
of directed energy and kinetic energy weapon systems opens up a new level of deterrence
into scalable options for the commander,” Carr said. “This test provides
an important data point as we move toward putting directed energy on warships.”