USS Portland’s High-Powered Laser Disables Drone in Weapon’s First At-Sea Test

Cheryl Sanders
May 24, 2020

The USS Portland on May 16 tested the Laser Weapon System Demonstrator, or LWSD, developed by Northrop Grumman. The weapon onboard the Portland is officially known as a Solid State Laser - Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) MK 2 MOD 0.

Developed by Naval Research and Northrop Grumman, the Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) on the USS Portland demonstrated the "first system-level implementation of a high-energy class solid-state laser", the US Pacific Fleet statement added.

The video shows a ship firing the laser on May 16 off Pearl Harbor in Hawaii, per USNI, then cuts to an apparent drone on fire. Short video clips show what appears to be the drone burning. The service had announced that the San Antonio class ship would be the first to carry this laser weapon back in 2018 and had originally planned to conduct the first at-sea tests by the end of September 2019.

'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 system. The laser is fixed atop the USS Portland, a San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, now deployed near Pearl Harbor.

While the USA has been developing directed-energy weapons (DEWs), to include lasers, since the 1960s, the LWSD which will replace the American military's first fully approved laser platform Laser Weapon System (LaWS) was deployed to the USS Portland only in 2019.

The US Army is developing its own laser weapon, the Indirect Fires Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL), which is expected to range up 300 kilowatts and intercept rockets, artillery, and mortars.

"With this new advanced capability, we are redefining war at sea for the Navy Capt. Karrey Sanders, commanding officer of the USS Portland, said in the statement".

On March 19, a state-run newspaper in China said Beijing should consider using non-lethal lasers on U.S. Navy warships to discourage their transits through the South China Sea.

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.

The Navy says lasers, which it calls directed energy weapons (DEW), can be effective defences against drones or armed small boats.

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