By Kyle Mizokami | Popular Mechanics
- USS Little Rock will receive a laser weapon during an upcoming deployment.
- The new laser is five times more powerful than the first laser, deployed five years ago.
- The laser is probably strong enough to seriously damage small vehicles but is dependent on atmospheric conditions.
One of the U.S. Navy’s newest and smallest warships is the latest to receive a laser weapon system. The USS Little Rock, which made the news last year after being trapped in Canada by ice, will get a laser during an upcoming deployment sometime this year. The laser is one of the most powerful military lasers yet and should give it the ability to damage or destroy small boats, drones, and aircraft.
According to U.S. Naval Institute News, defense contractor General Dynamics will install a 150 kilowatt laser weapon system aboard the littoral combat ship USS Little Rock. The ship is based in Mayport, Florida and will likely join the Navy’s 4th Fleet, responsible for Central and South America.
Integrating the laser was apparently not difficult because the laser and the Little Rock are both made by defense contractor Lockheed Martin. The weapon likely has enough power to fry, depending on local atmospheric conditions, drones and small aircraft. It could probably do enough damage to sink small boats, such as the heavily armed speedboats Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Corps uses, either by burning holes through the hull or detonating onboard fuel or ammunition. The laser’s performance would be heavily impacted by dust, smoke, water, or ice particles in the air, all of which degrade a laser beam’s power.
Little Rock is the fourth U.S. Navy warship to go to sea with a laser weapon. The first ship was the USS Ponce, an amphibious ship converted to a floating sea base anchored in the Persian Gulf. Ponce carried a Kratos Defense 30 kilowatt AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System (LaWS) installed in 2014 and taken to sea as the first operational laser weapon. At 30 kilowatts, LaWS was a low-power, first-generation weapon useful against drones and perhaps damage small aircraft and boats.
Since then the guided missile destroyer USS Dewey was spotted with a laser weapon. Dewey’s weapon is probably the 60 kilowatt ODIN, or Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy, designed to blind the sensors on boats, aircraft, and even incoming missiles. The amphibious ship USS Portland was also sighted with a 150-kilowatt laser weapon, part of the Solid-State Laser–Technology Maturation system (SSL-TM) program to install laser guns on amphibious platform dock ships.
Source: Seapower Magazine