Sea Faring Laser To Be Tested For Small Boat Threats (Pirates, This Is Gonna Hurt)

by Daniel Russ on July 15, 2009

The Maritime Laser Demonstrator

The Maritime Laser Demonstrator

A U.S. Navy plan to test a high-power laser against the small-boat threat to its warships provides the first real opportunity to transition electric lasers from the laboratory to the field, says Northrop Grumman, which has won a $98-million contract for the Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD).

Within 12-18 months, a prototype laser weapon system is to be installed on a ship and tested against a remotely controlled small boat in a representative at-sea environment. The system will use technology from the Defense Dept.’s Joint High Power Solid-State Laser (JHPSSL) program, under which Northrop Grumman in March achieved an output of 105 kw. by optically combining the beams from a chain of laser modules.

“This is an opportunity to transition solid-state laser technology to the warfighter,” says Dan Wildt, vice president of directed-energy systems for Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems sector. “We’ve been trying to make the transition for a long time, and we see the Navy being very serious about understanding this capability.”

A high-energy laser is a promising solution, says Wildt, because it allows a graduated response to the threat. The weapon’s powerful optics can be used to identify a threatening craft, which can then be illuminated with a low-power green laser to send a visual warning to stay away from the warship. If the boat continues to show intent, he says, the high-power laser can be used to attack the motor or hull to disable the craft.

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Look Out Pirates

Look Out Pirates


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