In the next two years, the US Navy wants to deploy a 60-kilowatt Helios combat laser aboard a guided-missile destroyer. In 2021, they will install a High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance weapon system aboard a West Coast Arleigh Burke-class Flight IIA destroyer. Above – the 20-kilowatt laser that installed 5 years ago on the USS Ponce The laser will be able to set small attack boats like those used by Iran on fire and destroy small unmanned aerial vehicles (aka drones). Lockheed Martin has a $150 million contract to develop two of the systems – one for testing on land and a second to be installed on a destroyer.

The HELIOS effort is focused on rapid development and rapid fielding of a 60 kW-class high-energy laser (with growth potential to 150 kW) and dazzler in an integrated weapon system, for use in countering UAVs, small boats, and ISR sensors, and for combat identification and battle damage assessment. The contract includes options for up to 14 additional HELIOS systems that if exercised could increase the total value of the contract to $942.8 million. There is a congressional report the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System (SNLWS). The US military is looking to replace expensive missiles with Navy Laser Weapon System (SNLWS), the electromagnetic railgun (EMRG), and the gun launched guided projectile (GLGP) (aka hypervelocity projectile -HVP). Navy missiles range is cost from $800,000 per missile to a few million dollars per missile, depending on the type. Solid-state lasers (SSLs) such as SNLWS are electrically powered, drawing their power from the ship’s overall electrical supply, and can be fired over and over, indefinitely, as long as the laser continues to work and the ship has fuel to generate electricity. EMRG’s projectiles and GLGP can be stored by the hundreds in a Navy surface ship’s weapon magazine. A solid-state laser can be fired for a marginal cost of less than one dollar per shot (which is the cost of the fuel needed to generate the electricity.) Following SNLWS Increment 1, the Navy’s high-energy SSL effort envisages a successor system, called SNLWS Increment 2, with increased beam power. SNLWS Increment 3 would follow with even more powerful lasers.

SOURCES- USNI, Congressional Services Report -Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile Written By Brian Wang.