New Navy laser zaps drones from the sky

Raytheon and the US Navy say they have successfully used a combined-beam fiber laser to shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles in flight.

The anti-aircraft solid-state laser produces a 50KW beam, and can also be used against rockets and small ships.

The demonstration was carried out in May, against four unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). These were successfully destroyed using the Navy’s Laser Weapon System (LaWS), guided by Raytheon‘s Phalanx Close-in Weapon System CIWS) sensor suite.

LaWS is made up of six industrial-use lasers that simultaneously focus on the target.

“These engagements validate the operational viability of the Phalanx-LaWS combination at sea,” said Dr Taylor W Lawrence, president of Raytheon Missile Systems.

“The Raytheon-Navy team demonstrated the systems’ capability to detect, track, engage and defeat dynamic targets at tactically significant ranges in a maritime environment.”

The test was carried out in conjunction with the US Navy’s Phalanx anti-missile defence system.

The LaWS was mounted on a platform close to the Phalanx Block 1B mount. The Phalanx operator used the Block 1B’s surface mode to perform electro-optical tracking, while the system’s radio frequency sensors provided range data to the LaWS.

When the Phalanx acquired the UAV, the LaWS destroyed the target.”The Raytheon-Navy team is moving directed energy solutions toward utility in the battlespace to provide warfighters with speed-of-light protection,” said Lawrence.

“This shoot-down leverages the significant investment the Navy has made in the Phalanx Close-in Weapon System and extends its combat-proven leadership in close-in defense systems.”