As far as longer-range ballistic-type threats, “that’s
a little farther off,” Karako added.
La WS was designed to be intuitive to Sailors. It features a “video-game like controller,” ONR says, and it
allows the operator to select from a range of responses,
from nonlethal measures like optical “dazzling” all the
way up to lethal measures. And it costs less to operate
than conventional weapons.
“At less than a dollar per shot, there’s no question
about the value La WS provides,” Klunder said in the
2014 statement. “With affordability a serious concern
for our defense budgets, this will more effectively
manage resources to ensure our Sailors and Marines
are never in a fair fight.”
But it is still not a day-to-day weapon for the Navy.
Why? There are a few constraints, including weather,
although the Navy has “come a long way in terms of
optics and the beam control,” Karako said.
In addition, the power-to-weight ratio is a real
challenge for the Navy, as are reliability and safety.
The lasers themselves have evolved, moving from coil
lasers to solid-state lasers and other kinds that are
smaller and cleaner, Karako added.
The trick is going to a 150-kilowatt laser weapon
from La WS, which has a fraction of that power.
“It’s the size and weight ratio, it’s the heat distribution — these things produce a lot of heat, and you
have to have a way to get rid of that,” Karako said.
But if the Navy can figure it out, the benefits could
“The advantages are in some ways pretty self-evident,” he said. “The speed with which these affect
their target, the large magazine capacity, and the cost
per shot and cost per kill.
“When you’re dealing with an increasingly complex
air and missile environment, you need a big magazine,”
he continued. “And you can see a high demand for ways
to get at the salvo problem. We’re not completely there
yet for longer-range missiles, but we’re getting there,
and I think we’ve seen a lot of promising efforts and
demonstrations for UAVs of various kinds, as well as the
in the rockets, artillery and mortar category.” n
The Laser Weapon System (La WS) is shown aboard the Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce. The 30-kilowatt system was installed
on the ship for field testing in 2014 and was able to hit targets mounted on an oncoming small boat as well as shoot down a ScanEagle unmanned
aerial vehicle. Service leaders are considering future advancements to laser weapons that could include a 150-kilowatt “super-laser.”
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