from defense-update.com: The US Navy has been operating a High Energy Laser (HEL)
weapon in the Persian Gulf and Arabian Sea since the summer of 2014.
The system, afloat on the forward staging base (interim) – USS Ponce
(AFSB(I) 15) is the first laser weapon system operationally deployed by
the US military. Currently at a prototype stage, the system has been
fielded to evaluate the capabilities of Solid State Laser-(SSL) in a Quick Reaction Capability (QRC) demonstration.
According to navy plans HEL
will equip U.S. ships with a high depth-of-fire delivered at the speed
of light, with seconds dwell time and a deep magazine for more powerful
means of self-defense.
The SSL prototype is a 30 kW-class solid-state laser weapon system
developed under the leadership of the Naval Sea Systems Command
(NAVSEA). The system integrates six commercial 5.4 kW fibre lasers with a
beam combiner developed for the Naval Research Laboratory. Final
integration and testing of the system were performed at the Naval
Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, with land-based testing
performed on the Potomac River Test Range.
The US Navy is exploring several directed energy and laser weapon programs for its current and future force. Future HEL
weapons delivering peak power of 100-150 kW are considered as cost
effective means for protection against anti-ship missiles, guided
weapons and swarms of fast attack boats. In particular, the service is
attracted by the low cost-per-shot offered by the laser, particularly on
electrically powered vessels such as the new DDG-1000 (USS Zumwalt),
for which powerful free electron lasers are being developed.
Different laser weapons would be compatible with existing vessels
such as the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS) and DDG-51 guided missile
destroyers. These lasers currently evaluated by the Office of Naval
Research are expected to be available for testing at sea by 2016.
A miniaturized version of the HEL Weapon System or HELWS is a high
energy fiber laser, evaluated by ONR to equip naval helicopters. The
Concept of Employment for a HELWS, is to operate the airborne laser from
a rotary wing platforms such as the MH-60 or MQ-8C unmanned helicopter,
enabling the platform to engage light targets such as fast swarms of
boats, unmanned surface vehicles or anti-aircraft missiles. The concept
of operation, as in operating lasers on surface vessels, will be to
employ the lasers against low-end asymmetric threats, thus free the
limited load-out of the vessel’s advanced kinetic weapons to strike
advanced high-end threats.
SOURCE: Defense Update