On December 14th, the United States Navy conducted a live-fire test of their Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD), successfully destroying the floating target. This latest test, which took place in the Gulf of Aden, is an attempt to address the increasing threat of floating drones being employed in the waters in and around the Middle East.
BACKGROUND: DRONES CHANGING THE FACE OF WAR
In recent decades, use of drones by adversaries has become an increasingly significant threat. This situation has led the United States Department of Defense to explore a number of anti-drone strategies. The Debrief recently wrote aboutthe top seven anti-drone technologies under consideration, including systems that employ electromagnetic waves to interfere with drone navigation, net-wielding drone-catching drones, and yes,lasers.
Now, in an attempt to mitigatethe rise of floating drones being used by adversaries in the region, the U.S. has decided to flex its laser-powered muscles, proving that its laser cannon can destroy drones on water just as easily as drones in the sky.
ANALYSIS: LASER TEST FIRE SHOWS CAPABILITY AGAINST FLOATING DRONES
“(The) amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27) conducted a high-energy laser weapon system demonstration, Dec. 14, while sailing in the Gulf of Aden,” explains thenews release put out by the Navy’s Press Office. “During the demonstration, the Solid State Laser – Technology Maturation Laser Weapons System Demonstrator (LWSD) Mark 2 MOD 0 aboard Portland successfully engaged a static surface training target.”
The same release notes that the system underwent a previous successful test in May of 2020, when it downed an aerial drone rather than one floating on the ocean’s surface.
“The LWSD is considered a next-generation follow-on to the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) that afloat forward staging base USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) tested for three years while operating in the Middle East,” the release also adds, noting the system’s successful pedigree.
OUTLOOK: LASERS LIGHTING THE WAY TO THE FUTURE
Up until this year, the Navy was also trying to perfect a ship mounted railgun. Unfortunately, numerous issues kept the advanced weapons system from becoming affordable and reliable, causing the military branch to finallydump the effort altogether.
More recently, hypersonic missiles, meaning missiles with the ability to travel faster than Mach 5,have dominated the news. However, even these systems have their limitations, and have yet to be proven in actual combat situations.
Lasers, on the other hand, are proving more and more promising, making them the preferred and likely choice for the battlefield of the future. This is especially true since, unlike hypersonic weapons, laser cannons deliver their drone killing punch at the speed of light.