Watch the new laser weapon system (LaWS) successfully deployed and operated aboard a naval vessel for the first time.
The AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System or XN-1 LaWS is a directed-energy weapon developed by the United States Navy. The weapon was installed on USS Ponce for field testing in 2014. In December 2014, the United States Navy reported that the LaWS system worked perfectly, and that the commander of the Ponce is authorised to use the system as a defensive weapon.
The LaWS was declared an operational asset, so the ship commander has permission to use it for self-defence. Humans are not a target of the weapon under stipulations of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, but targets do include UAVs, helicopters, and fast patrol craft.
Rules of engagement have been developed for its use, but details have not been released. The US Navy has released video of the LaWS on deployment disabling a ScanEagle UAV, detonating a rocket propelled grenade and burning out the engine of a rigid hull inflatable boat.
It has been reported recently that the announcement of a contract award to MBDA for a British naval laser weapon demonstrator has been held up by one of the losing bidders.
DefenseNews say here:
“Thales UK filed the protest after missile-maker MBDA was selected in mid-July.”
In July we reported that MBDA had been selected to demonstrate British laser weapons for use on Royal Navy warships.
It had been speculated that the MoD was due to select a contractor to build a technology demonstrator to validate a laser weapon system.
It is understood that the laser would be ‘co-mounted’ with the Phalanx’s cannon, rather than replacing it altogether.
Raytheon, a rival bidder, had showed a possible configuration with a laser and the 20mm Phalanx fitted alongside a radar and optronics. This image is shown above.
The Royal Navy already widely uses the Phalanx across its fleet.
According to multiple reports, the Royal Navy would add to its stock of Phalanx by purchasing additional weapons at some point. Close-in weapon systems remain a shipboard necessity for detecting and engaging missiles and aircraft at short range.
This news will see Britain join the laser arms race after America has already deployed a laser to the Gulf on one of its own warships.
Former First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir George Zambellas, made an announcement foreshadowing this last year. He claimed that Britain will test a prototype laser cannon on its warships by the end of the decade.
The “directed energy weapon” will be able to fire high energy beams to damage and burn up targets at the cost of only pence per shot.