Amphibious Ship Obliterates Drone with Laser Weapon in 1st-of-its-Kind Sea Test

A Navy ship recently turned its laser weapon system to the skies to take out a drone flying nearby as the service looks to counter aerial threats at sea.

The amphibious transport dock ship Portland “successfully disabled an unmanned aerial vehicle” while it was in flight during a May 16 test at sea, the Navy announced in a news release. Video footage of the test appears to show the drone on fire before it suddenly disappears.

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The Portland was equipped with the Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator for the at-sea test. The weapon system, which is expected to reach 150 kilowatts, was developed by Northrop Grumman.

Capt. Karrey Sanders, the Portland’s commanding officer, said in a statement about the test that the laser’s capabilities are “redefining war at sea for the Navy.”

“By conducting advanced at-sea tests against UAVs and small craft, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of the Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator against potential threats,” Sanders said.

Thomas Rivers, program manager for the amphibious warfare program office, said in September — when the Portland was being equipped with the new laser — that other ships are likely to get similar weapons systems.

The laser on the Portland, Rivers added, can be used not only to target drones but also small boats. The Iranians have used both to target U.S. ships.

Last month, small boats swarmed and harassed U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels operating in the Middle East. And last summer, Marines on the amphibious assault ship Boxer jammed and destroyed at least one Iranian drone that flew within 1,000 yards of the Navy warship in the Strait of Hormuz.

The new laser system the Portland is testing is expected to be five times more powerful than the 30-kilowatt Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, the Navy tested on the amphibious transport dock ship Ponce several years ago.

Navy ships are facing an increasing number of threats at sea, the service said in the news release, including drones; armed small boats; and sophisticated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance systems.

— Gina Harkins can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

Related: Lasers That Take Out Drones and Small Boats Could Be Mounted on More Navy Ships

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