“The U.S. Navy announced Wednesday it tested a laser weapon and destroyed a floating target in the Mideast, a system that could be used to counter bomb-laden drone boats deployed by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the Red Sea.
The test Tuesday saw the USS Portland test-fire its Laser Weapon System Demonstrator at the target in the Gulf of Aden, the body of water separating East Africa from the Arabian Peninsula.
The Navy’s Mideast-based 5th Fleet described the laser as having “successfully engaged” the target in a statement. Previously, the Portland used the laser to bring down a flying drone in May 2020.
The Gulf of Aden sits along the southern coast of war-torn Yemen, which has been at war since Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized its capital, Sanaa, in 2014. A Saudi-led coalition entered the conflict in March 2015 but the stalemate conflict has dragged on for years, becoming the world’s worst humanitarian disaster and killing an estimated 110,000 people.
The war also has bled into the surrounding waterways, like the Red Sea and the Bab el-Mandeb, which connects the sea to the Gulf of Aden. These waterways lead to the Suez Canal and onto the Mediterranean Sea, making them crucial for international shipping and global energy supplies.
The Houthis have deployed drone boats into these waters, which can be piloted remotely and sent up to a target before detonating. These boats are suspected of being built with Iran’s help.”
“LWSD) MK 2 MOD 0 with a power level of 150 kw” per wiki
I’m sure the greenies will ask “Is that generated with renewable energy?” As for me, just what is the surge off the electrical system to get that output? What’s the recharge rate for firing and what effective range does it have and in what sea conditions?
Range? This early version was supposed to be for low end threats such as IRGC speed boats, small UAVs, rockets, and perhaps helicopters. Somewhere I read two to four times the Phalanx CIWS range. So figure maybe three plus NM or about six KM maybe. But the low power dazzle feature to disorient humans and/or EO systems would extend that range. And supposedly it could be used to enhance the capability of RIM-116 infrared SAMs against incoming cruise missiles by heating one up to increase its IR signature – RIM-116 effective range is 6.2 NM or ten KM.
Sea Conditions? The early version was mounted on a Phalanx gun mount. So it could operate in the same sea states that the Phalanx can. And the Phalanx is mounted on not only Arleigh Burke’s but also on 15-foot draft Coast Guard Cutters. This new version would have the same or better mount.
Recharge Rate – No idea. But it is a test bed, so they will work it out or scrap it.
As ISL points out below you can sink slow moving craft with a deck gun. Yes a phalanx isn’t effected by rolling seas, how about rain and fog? Dazzle effect? Great, except radar controlled weapons rather negate that.
I suspect it is the Navy’s intent to use lasers to enhance deck guns and NOT to replace them completely. Swarm attacks are the problem that a deck gun may not be able to compete against. And deck guns and the RIM-116 cannot take out incoming rockets which many of the IRGC’s Sepâh flotillas are armed with. At least one source, https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2020/01/08/iran-retaliates-for-the-killing-of-qassem-suleimani, claims they have a few thousand of those armed speedboats.
In the meantime this serves as a good test bed for the higher power version the Navy wants to put on the Arleigh Burke DDGs.
Rain and fog will be an issue. An even bigger problem is smoke. The IRGC speed boats have trained with attacking out of smoke screens.
Radar controlled weapons can be jammed and or spoofed.
For antimisslies (and dazzling optical sensors) there is a logic,
for a slow moving drone boat – just shoot the bloody thing with a deck gun.
maybe one of these guided ones:
For the interested, Congressional Research Service summarizes DOD programs on directed energy weapons (notes will be dismounted from the USS Portland in 2022)