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U.S. Navy demonstrates solid state laser weapon at sea


April 10, 2011

ONR successfully disables a small target vessel using a solid-state, high-energy laser (US Navy Photo)

ONR successfully disables a small target vessel using a solid-state, high-energy laser (US Navy Photo)

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Solid-state laser weapons are a step closer to operational capability with the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) reporting that it has successfully disabled a small target boat during testing off the Californian coast. Stemming from the Defense Department's Joint High Power Solid State Laser (JHPSSL) program, the Northrop Grumman developed Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD) was installed on the deck of the Navy's test ship the USS Paul Foster for the demonstration, making it the first time such a system has been integrated with a ship's radar and navigation system and the first time a high-energy laser has been fired at sea from a moving platform.

Testing on the open sea began in October 2010 with the MLD system and included the tracking and firing on land based targets as well as the recent exercises in which the weapons' capabilities were demonstrated against remotely controlled unmanned boats.

"During the latest demonstrations, MLD spent a total of three days at sea, during which we operated the laser at high power more than 35 times," according to Dan Wildt, vice president, directed energy systems at Northrop Grumman. "The laser withstood the stresses of wave heights up to seven-and-a-half feet."

The Navy intends to implement the laser weapons on up to eight classes of ships and the tests will underpin engineering and manufacturing development during this next phase.

"The results show that all critical technologies for an operational laser weapon system are mature enough to begin a formal weapon system development program," said Steve Hixson, vice president, space and directed energy systems at Northrop Grumman's Aerospace Systems sector. "Solid-state laser weapons are ready to transition to the fleet."

Solid-state laser technology is seen as complimentary, rather than a replacement for conventional weapons. With systems also being developed for airborne platforms, this technology has now well and truly made the leap from sci-fi to reality.

Via Northrop Grumman, ONR.

About the Author
Noel McKeegan After a misspent youth at law school, Noel began to dabble in tech research, writing and things with wheels that go fast. This bus dropped him at the door of a freshly sprouted Gizmag.com in 2002. He has been Gizmag's Editor-in-Chief since 2007. All articles by Noel McKeegan

Ahora si la guerra de las galaxias empieza...

Freddy Bossa

I think further testing should be conducted in Somali waters until all small craft traffic disappears.


Meanwhile,the Somalis continue to make fools of them...

I appreciate the hard work and risks of the soldiers&sailors but the administrators,bureaucracrats and policymakers are criminally negligent and wasteful.

They should just put a fake sailboat on top of the conning tower of a nuke sub,set up a trap and when the Somalis rush the boat, raise the sub with a very large inverted circular mesh containment so when they bail overboard,the outer perimeter restricts upward and inward.

Presto! A bagful of pirates! Of course,you could then submerge again... No more pirates!

Seriously, they are already outgunned beyond belief and while the U.S. generates even more high-tech gadgetry they just go on TERRORIZING the sea lanes and fighting \"The war against TERRORISM\" against their own citizens.

Same for the war on drugs.

What good is all this gadgetry while our borders are a joke and illiterate savages make fools of our armed forces?


This looks like just the right system to use on Somali pirates. Disable their craft one by one until they realise piracy is no longer a viable \'job option\'.


This Laser will be great in the war against Pirates off Somalia, hit them before they get to close.


Griffin,YOU, Sir are a GENIUS! Alien, the key to your plan : After Peter Griffin kills Yogi Bear with a shot gun, He coolly looks at BooBoo and says\" Now, go back and tell the others.\"


Did they really destroy a \"small target boat\" powered by what appears to be $50,000.00 worth of outboards? Wouldn\'t a small Somalian pirate suffice for testing purposes? It appears all they destroyed was the outboards!


The battle against Somali pirates, is as an earlier poster noted, not a lack of weaponry, but the Navy has its hands tied by \"rules of engagement\"... Suspected pirates just toss their weapons overboard when approached by Navy vessels, and then they just become \"innocent fishermen\"... and head back to Somali to re-arm, and head out to kill and pillage with fresh weapons.

Matt Rings

Does no one think that this is a pointless weapons system? Wouldn\'t a sniper with a .50 cal be more effective and a heck of a lot cheaper. Afterall this laser won\'t work in the rain or the fog.

Facebook User

Anyone got a light?

Denis Klanac

All the Pirates have to do is get a few rolls of aluminum baking foil and coat the dark areas of their boat and wear light coloured clothes.

Or if the navy use red laser light, then paint their boat green and vice-versa.

Oh and wear sunglasses!

Stuart Halliday

Nah Zappy, the outboards are about $25K ($26K with powerlift option), but a Somali Pirate BBQ? Priceless. Admittedly, there are cheaper but less sexy ways to get the job done. For example, a simple ring of floating claymores surrounding the pirate skiff. A sort of speed bump on the seas. But, you have to admit, the sight of a Death Ray equiped Darth Vader in bellbottoms standing in the bow of a Navy ship surrounded by Tron style lighting with loudspeakers cranked to ear shattering-suicide inducing techno pop would surely give any pirate cause for concern and a strong desire to beg for his mommy.


Somali Pirates used to be Fishermen. However, the Christmas Tsunami pushed all the junk at the bottom of the sea to the shore.

What junk?

Well, the medical waste that Western ships dumped just off the 12 mile limit. So, the medical waste and all that caused the death of their fishing livelihood.

So, what can they do to earn a living? The local thugs provided an outlet. And hello, Somali Pirates.

So in a sense, the Western countries are the ones responsible for birthing the Somali Pirates.

Hello, Birthers


Aloysius - do you have any fact to back the medical junks destroying Somali coast claim? Frankly, the Navy can use current weapon system (machine guns, cannon, drones, helicopter, Navy Seal, etc.) to destroy the pirate if they want too. This demo just to help the Navy in buying or building new weapon system while the money could be used elsewhere (schools, roads or reduce the national debt).

Facebook User

Who cares about somalian pirates? Eventually, we could attach lasers to fricking sharks. Think of the big picture people!


Lasers aside, wouldn't it just be cheaper to put a few snipers on every cargo ship? It's certainly cheaper than ransom or insurance losses.

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