The US Army is looking more and more at lasers on the battlefield and a new report suggests that the Navy is planning to equip an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer with a HELIOS laser defense system in 2021.
Naval Director of Surface History, Rear Admiral Ron Boxall, told Defense news that the service plans to install the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical dazzler with surveillance system on the USS Preble by 2021. It will be an existing defensive platform Rolling Mississerie of the aircraft (RAM) system, designed to intercept and destroy incoming missiles and other threats before they reach a ship.
The Navy began testing a precursor laser system, the AN / SEQ-3, in 2013 as a proof-of-concept that could be used against small drones or boats that were used later operation aboard the USS Ponce from 2014 until the ship was dismantled last year. The Marine has awarded a $ 150 million contract to Lockheed Martin to design, build and deliver a successor system by 2020 – two laser systems, one of which would be installed on board a ship, while the other would be used to test the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Lockheed Martin is expected to deliver the system sometime next year.
HELIOS is a close-in defense system designed to protect against a variety of threats, such as small boats, drones and rockets. The system is a 60-kilowatt laser that can ultimately go up to 150 kilowatts and can be attached directly to a ship's power source. Lockheed Martin says it is not necessary to take extra energy magazines or batteries to the ship. It fits within the power of the ship. "The system also connects to the existing Aegis Combat System, an automated system that uses a ship's built-in radar to direct weapons to their targets. With that in mind, Boxall noted that the system can be more than just a weapon : it can also send data back to Aegis. "Many people think that lasers are just something that makes recordings, but lasers are also a very good sensor. As you get closer to a radar, your radar gets worse. The closer you get to a laser, the better it gets, "he said.
Other branches of the army have also worked on the development of their own laser systems. The US Air Force recently conducted a successful test with a system called the self-protective High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD), which shot down various missiles during the flight. Laser systems are attractive for a few reasons: they can hit a target immediately and they will not be limited by a limited magazine. However, there are some drawbacks. Laser systems can only use one target at a time, and analysts say that even if ships are equipped with lasers, they are likely to continue to transport missile defense systems.