DVIDS – News – Laser Trailblazer: The Navy performs historical testing of new laser weapon system

By Warren Duffie Jr., Office of Naval Research

ARLINGTON, V. — The ground-based laser system of the red drone that flew by and fired a high-energy beam that was invisible to the naked eye. Suddenly a burning orange glow flared on the drone, smoke flowed out of its engine and a parachute opened as the vessel capsized downward, deactivated by the laser beam.

The February demonstration marked for the first time that the U.S. Navy used a fully electric, high-energy laser weapon to defeat a target representing a subsonic cruise missile in flight.

Known as Layered Laser Defense (LLD), the weapon was designed and built by Lockheed Martin to serve as a multi-domain, multi-platform demonstration system. It can counter unmanned aerial systems and high-speed attack boats with a high-power laser – and also use its high-resolution telescope to track incoming air threats, support combat identification and perform combat damage assessment of committed targets.

The drone launch of the LLD was part of a recent test sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) at the U.S. Army’s High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The demonstration was a partnership between ONR, the Office of the Deputy Minister of Defense (Research and Engineering) and Lockheed Martin.

“Innovative laser systems such as the LLD have the potential to redefine the future of naval combat operations,” said Navy Research Chief Bagadm. Lorin C. Selby. “They present transformational capabilities to the Navy, address various threats and provide precision engagements with a deep magazine to complement existing defensive systems and increase sustained mortality in high-intensity conflicts.”

The LLD test supports a broader effort by the Navy’s research and development community, working closely with the Navy, to mature technologies and set up a family of laser weapons that can address multiple threats using a range of escalating capabilities. These options range from non-lethal measures, such as optical “glare” and deactivation of sensors, to the destruction of a target.

Laser weapons provide new precision and speed of action for naval war soldiers. They also offer simplified logistics that are safer for ships and their crews, as lasers do not rely on the traditional propellants or gunpowder-based ammunition found on ships.

Instead, modern high-power lasers run on electricity, making them inherently safer and able to deliver weapon capacity as long as a ship has power. This also means that the cost per. Interventions for a laser weapon can be very low, as the only consumable used is fuel to power the system.

For years, the Department of Defense (DoD) and all services have recognized the promise of targeted energy weapons, such as lasers, and continue to prioritize research. Recently, the Deputy Minister of Defense for Research and Technology, hon. Heidi Shyu, reaffirmed that directed energy is one of DoD’s critical technology areas.

ONR plays an important role in the development of laser weapon technologies and has set up demonstration systems for operational experiments. It is noteworthy that in 2014, ONR saw the laser weapon system successfully tested aboard the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf. Recently, ONR deployed the Laser Weapon System Demonstrator aboard the USS Portland in 2021.

Although there is no plan to set up LLD, it provides an insight into the future of laser weapons. It is compact and powerful, yet more efficient than previous systems. It has specialized optics to observe a target and focus laser beams for maximum effect, while incorporating artificial intelligence to improve tracking and targeting.

“LLD is an example of what a highly advanced laser system can do to defeat significant naval threats,” said David Kiel, a former naval captain who is a program officer in ONR’s Aviation, Force Projection and Integrated Defense Department, who led testing. “And we have an ongoing effort, both at ONR and in other fleet programs, to continue to build on these results in the near future.”

During the recent test at White Sands, the LLD tracked down or shot down a number of targets – including unmanned fixed-wing aircraft, quadcopters and high-speed drones that are representative of subsonic cruise missiles.

“We are proud to say that the Layered Laser Defense system defeated a surrogate cruise missile threat in collaboration with teams from the Navy, White Sands Missile Range and Army High Energy Laser Systems Test Facility. key industry partner Rolls Royce, to support the entire threat engagement timeline from target detection to defeat, “said Rick Cordaro, Vice President, Lockheed Martin Advanced Product Solutions. warrior. “

Dr. Frank Peterkin, ONR’s responsible energy portfolio manager, said: “The fleet performed similar tests during the 1980s, but with chemical-based laser technologies that presented significant logistical barriers to fielding in an operational environment. And in the end, these types of lasers did not the Navy or any other service.

“Today, ONR coordinates closely with the Navy’s resource and procurement communities to ensure that we develop laser weapon technologies that make sense in relation to the Navy’s requirements to defend the Navy and for operations in the harsh maritime environment at sea,” Peterkin continued. “It’s a challenging problem, but the fleet’s management at all levels sees potential for laser weapons to really make a difference. The next few years will be very exciting as we work with the fleet and joint partners to make the capacity we just have seen demonstrated by the LLD, to a reality for the naval warrior. “

Warren Duffie Jr. is a contractor for ONR Corporate Strategic Communications.

Date taken:04.13.2022
Date of issue:04.13.2022 14:59
History ID:418430
Location:ARLINGTON, VA, USA

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