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22 May, 2020 23:37

US Navy touts high-powered LASER WEAPON & shoots down drone in first at-sea demonstration (VIDEO)

US Navy touts high-powered LASER WEAPON & shoots down drone in first at-sea demonstration (VIDEO)

The US Navy has shown off a much-anticipated advanced laser weapon system, capable of blinding enemy sensors and downing aircraft. It was seen in action for the first time as it disabled a drone in mid-flight.

The first glimpse of the Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) was a brief video clip shared by the Navy on Friday, in which the solid-state laser takes down an unmanned aircraft in its first-ever test at sea. The laser is fixed atop the USS Portland, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, currently deployed near Pearl Harbor.

“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,” the Portland’s commanding officer, Captain Karrey Sanders, said in a statement.

Developed by the Office of Naval Research and Northrop Grumman as a successor to the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) – the military’s first fully approved laser platform – the LWSD was deployed to the Portland in 2019 soon after the ship was commissioned, where it’s undergone a series of tests. The initial contract to produce the weapon was granted to Northrop for $53 million, with a total budget of $91 million allocated for the project over 34 months of development.

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Running at 150 kilowatts, the weapon is the Navy’s strongest laser, some five times more powerful than the 30-kilowatt LaWS, which is also capable of downing small aircraft.

In addition to disabling drones and small boats, the LWSD can function as a “dazzler,” meaning it can blind enemy sensors, while integrated video cameras used for targeting can also act as a surveillance system, according to the Drive.

The Navy is also developing a medium-strength laser, the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance (HELIOS), which is expected to reach 60 kilowatts and could be installed on a wider variety of ships, including destroyers.

While the Portland is currently the only warship equipped with the LWSD, arms contractor Lockheed Martin is working on a similarly powerful 150-kilowatt laser, which the Navy said could be deployed for testing later this year on the littoral combat ship USS Little Rock, but gave no exact time frame for when that might happen.

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