When do laser weapons finally become real? The low-hanging fruit for a near-term application looks like it’s shooting down enemy drones before they can target US forces. Both the Army and Marines are testing vehicle-mounted “counter-UAS” (Unmanned Aerial System) lasers, while the Navy already has a bulkier model aboard the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf.
The Marine Corps is moving towards a future in which small dispersed units can protect themselves from incoming enemy drones with laser weapons and from missiles and aircraft with Stinger missiles, with both weapons netted into a detection system and mounted atop Humvees, Joint Light Tactical Vehicles and other combat vehicles.
The Navy is “fully committed” to developing and fielding advanced directed energy weapons to deal with emerging threats and to reduce the cost per shot, the Navy’s number two officer said today.
“We need to push technology forward” and do it faster than historic advances in fielding new weapons capabilities, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Moran said at the Directed Energy Summit, cohosted by Booz Allen Hamilton and the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessment.
Moran noted that the Navy had “already authorized a defensive weapon” and deployed it, citing the laser system mounted on the USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15), which is on station in the U.S. Central Command theater.
The 30 kilowatt solid-state XN-1 laser on Ponce has been authorized for use as a defensive weapon, he said. The Navy “will field a 100-kilowatt system in the near future,” he added.