WHY THIS MATTERS IN BRIEF
New weapons of war are emerging, from autonomous robotic weapons systems to hypersonic weapons systems, so the military needs a new way to defeat them all.
Laser weapons like the ones in the movies used to be science fiction, until China created a laser rifle and the US and Russia both demonstrated their own laser weapons systems by, well, destroying stuff. Now in another test of these new fangled laser systems the US Navy has just shared footage of a destroyer using a laser weapon to take out flying drones in the Pacific Ocean.
The navy revealed the USS Portland (LPD-27) used its Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) against an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) last week, and the trial was the first time a high-energy class solid-state laser has been demonstrated outside of the lab.
— U.S. Pacific Fleet (@USPacificFleet) May 22, 2020
“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,” US Navy Capt. Karrey Sanders, the ship’s commanding officer, said in a statement.
The Navy also unsurprisingly revealed that its ships have been facing an increasing number of threats “including UAVs, armed small boats, and new adversary intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.” While they’ve been developing laser weapons since the 1960’s it’s only recently that those systems have become viable as the battery and energy systems needed to power these energy guzzling weapons have improved in performance and energy density.
DEWs include lasers and are defined as “electromagnetic systems capable of converting chemical or electrical energy to radiated energy in order to degrade, neutralize, defeat, or destroy an adversarial target.”
“The Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator is a unique capability the Portland gets to test and operate for the Navy while paving the way for future weapons systems, “ said Sanders. “With this new advanced capability, we are redefining war at sea for the Navy” – something that is sorely needed as US adversaries continue to accelerate the development and deployment of a range of next generation weapons systems including hypersonic weapons that are incredibly difficult to neutralise.
Recently the US Navy had to deal with drones and even long-range missiles being fielded by rivals like China in the South China Sea so the navy’s development of these new kinds of systems is becoming more urgent than ever before and they’re accelerating their efforts.