A press release from the 5th Fleet reported the USS Portland test of a high-energy laser weapon system while in the Gulf of Aden:
“During the demonstration, the Solid-State Laser – Technology Maturation Laser Weapons System Demonstrator (LWSD) Mark 2 MOD 0 aboard Portland successfully engaged a static surface training target. Portland previously tested the LWSD in May 2020 when it successfully disabled a small unmanned aerial system while operating in the Pacific Ocean.
The Office of Naval Research selected Portland to host the laser weapon technology in 2018. The LWSD is considered a next-generation follow-on to the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) that afloat forward staging base USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) tested for three years while operating in the Middle East.
The region’s geography, climate, and strategic importance offer a unique environment for technology innovation. US 5th Fleet’s area of operations includes the world’s largest standing maritime partnership, Arabian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.”
High-Energy Lasers Vs. Hypersonic Missiles
The high-energy laser system, known as LWSD, started years ago and has seen gradual increases in power and range through many tests and refinements. Testing in the Gulf of Aden sent Iran and China a message about this emerging weapon system.
Both opposition nations have reported fielding hypersonic missiles to destroy US Navy aircraft carriers potentially. Hypersonic missiles depend on speeds as high as Mach 5 and long-range to reach their target before they get a chance to react with anti-missile defenses.
High-energy laser systems have the potential to be able to engage hypersonic missiles at long distances. This is due to the directed energy beam that travels at the speed of light, which is much faster than hypersonic missiles.
However, the lens on these lasers poses some complications when used at sea. A single drop of water can damage or even destroy the lens when the energy from the laser beam superheats it in an instant. Therefore, the lens needs special handling.
The Message Is Clear to China, Russia, And Iran
The message to China, Russia, Iran, and other opposition countries working on hypersonic missiles is unmistakable. The development of hypersonic missiles has compelled the US to develop high-energy laser systems that can knockout hypersonic missiles mid-flight.
The US can rapidly develop countermeasures to weapons that foes endeavor to create at high costs. In this case, they invested billions in these missiles only to see the US new class of laser weapons that threatens their missiles and their ships and planes.
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