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Ponce became the testbed platform for the Laser Weapon System (LaWS), with installation of a prototype weapon system for field testing in August 2014. In December 2014 the United States Navy reported the LaWS system works perfectly, and that the commander of Ponce is authorized to use the system as a defensive weapon. On 9 December 2014, the U.S. Navy released video footage of the LaWS in operation. The exact level of power the LaWS will use is unknown but estimated between 15–50 kW for engaging drones, small aircraft and high-speed boats. Ponce was deployed to the Persian Gulf in late August 2014. The LaWS will remain in use on Ponce as long as it is at sea, potentially into 2017.
The Army and General Dynamics Land Systems are developing a Stryker-mounted laser weapon aimed at better arming the vehicle to incinerate enemy drones or threatening ground targets.
Concept vehicles are now being engineered and tested at the Army’s Ft. Sill artillery headquarters as a way to quickly develop the weapon for operational service. During a test this past April, the laser weapons successful shot down 21 out of 23 enemy drone targets.
The effort marks the first-ever integration of an Army laser weapon onto a combat vehicle.
Boeing’s High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) team has used a solid state laser to destroy mortars and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). A laser destroys targets with pinpoint precision within seconds of acquisition, then acquires the next target and keeps firing. In recent demonstrations, HEL MD used a 10-kilowatt, high energy laser installed on an Oshkosh tactical military vehicle. The demonstrator is the first mobile, high-energy laser, counter rocket, artillery and mortar (C-RAM) platform to be built and demonstrated by the U.S. Army.
The contract, which was awarded by the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) on 23 August, is for the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) Turret Research in Aero-Effects (STRAFE) programme.
It is intended that the SHiELD pod would better enable the USAF's fourth-generation fighter fleet, such as the Boeing F-15 Eagle and Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, to survive in contested airspace. The fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II would probably not carry the pod, as it would negate their stealth characteristics.
The combat laser for the AC-130J gunship is “rapidly moving” from the concept to the practice according to General Brad Webb, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command. Webb recently visited MIT Lincoln Labs to view its advancements, and saw Naval Sea Systems Command Dahlgren’s latest efforts to network all of the various components within the aircraft.
Over the next year, the command plans to make major strides in the development of the technology, Webb said.