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Analysis: Top naval laser weapons systems - take 1


The concept of using high-energy and directed lasers for naval military applications is gathering pace among the world’s superpowers. If successfully developed and deployed, laser weapon systems might be regarded as a “game-changer” for defending Navy surface ships against enemy missiles and UAVs.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Helios Laser Weapon System. (Picture source: Lockheed Martin)


Lockheed Martin’s HELIOS:

Lockheed Martin reported it is pushing ahead with its efforts to deliver two High-Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-Dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS) systems to the US Navy in 2020. HELIOS will provide an additional layer of protection for the fleet—deep magazine, low cost per kill, speed of light delivery, and precision response. Additional HELIOS systems will accelerate the warfighter learning curve, provide risk reduction for future laser weapon system increments and provide a stronger demand signal to the supply base.


Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 5P-42 Filin. (Picture source: Ruselectronics)


Ruselectronics's 5P-42 Filin:

The capability claims of the 5P-42 Filin are both remarkable and terrifying. The system is designed to disrupt the enemy's combatant's eyesight at night and preventing them from targeting a protected platform. Besides that, it is also capable to suppress night vision devices, laser rangefinders, anti-tank missile and other electro-optical sight systems. It was first unveiled in December 2018, and its naval version is currently being deployed at the Admiral Gorshkov-class frigates.


Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 The U.S. Navy Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. (Picture source: U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)


Kratos’s AN/SEQ-3 LaWS:

The AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System built by Kratos and developed by the US Naval Research Lab is a directed-energy weapon. The weapon was installed on USS Ponce for field testing in 2014. Initial testing of the LaWS, which cost around $40m to develop, saw the system successfully destroy two small metal targets on floating platforms, as well as a target drone.
The infrared beam from a solid-state laser array can be tuned from high output to low output. At high output (around 30kW), the laser can destroy targets, fry sensors, burn out motors and detonate explosive material. At low output, the LaWS system can dazzle enemy combatants and cause them to turn away from threatening positions. Furthermore, the LaWS can shoot down small UAVs in two seconds and can destroy motors on small boats, thus disabling them and mitigating the threat. A significant advantage of the laser over projectiles is the low cost per shot.


Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 Dragon Fire at DSEI. (Picture source: MBDA)


MBDA’s Dragonfire:

MBDA’s Dragonfire is a UK-built laser directed energy weapon currently being developed by the Defence, Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) on behalf of the Ministry of Defence (MOD), under a £30m contract award. UK Dragonfire is a grouping of the best of British industry brought together to develop this advanced and complex new programme for the UK Armed Forces. Benefits of the Dragonfire laser weapon include affordability, precision and adaptability to existing technology, such as Leonardo’s beam director. This technology brings together QinetiQ’s powerful laser emitter, as well as world-class electro-optics for target identification and tracking. MBDA is bringing prime weapon system delivery experience and advanced weapon system command and control and image processing capability to UK Dragonfire, in addition to coordinating the overall effort.