The Navy announced this month that it successfully tested a new laser defense weapon by disabling an airborne drone, an historic first that could foreshadow a new generation of weaponry aboard U.S. ships.
The Office of Naval Research said that in February, it demonstrated a layered laser defense system (LLD) by defeating a drone that was simulating a subsonic cruise missile. The system, designed and built by Lockheed Martin, can counter drones and fast-attack boats, and can also be used to track in-bound threats.
“Innovative laser systems like the LLD have the potential to redefine the future of naval combat operations,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Lorin C. Selby. “They present transformational capabilities to the fleet, address diverse threats, and provide precision engagements with a deep magazine to complement existing defensive systems and enhance sustained lethality in high-intensity conflict.”
ONR said another benefit of an LLD system is that it is a weapon that is not nearly as dangerous to store onboard without being dependent on flammable propellants and ordnance.
The office said there is no plan yet to field LLD systems in the Navy, but said the test “offers a glimpse into the future of laser weapons.”
“We have ongoing efforts, both at ONR and in other Navy programs, to keep building on these results in the near future,” said David Kiel, a former Navy captain and program officer at ONR.
Rep. Ted Lieu (D-CA), an Air Force veteran who served at the Space and Missile Systems Center in California, praised the test results and said he would continue to support this technology as a lawmaker. “Throughout my time in Congress, I’ve been pushing for increased investment and research in directed energy defense technology, and am pleased to see the success of the LLD system that will make our nation stronger and more secure,” he said.
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