Navy set to deploy laser aboard Ponce

The Navy will deploy a high-energy, solid-state directed energy, or “laser” weapon early next year on board the amphibious transport dock Ponce, Navy officials said Monday.

This will be the first such deployment of the Navy’s Laser Weapons System after it completed test shots last summer aboard the destroyer Dewey. The laser targeted fast boats and unmanned drones in the tests completed in the Pacific off the California coast.

Navy leaders have spent $40 million developing the solid-state laser weapons system over the past six years. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Greenert displayed a video of the laser weapons system at the Sea Air Space Expo on Monday at National Harbor, Md.

The laser weapon system began as a developmental effort by the U.S. Naval Sea Command and the Office of Naval Research.

“The CNO has tasked us to move this capability into the operational domain,” said Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, Chief of Naval Research.”This is a new innovative technology to give sailors and Marines the advantage they need for the current and future fight.”

The idea is deploy a low-cost, high-energy effective weapon against a range of potential threats, including enemy drones, fast-attack boats and what is referred to as small boat swarm attacks wherein large numbers of small watercraft attack simultaneously.

The laser weapon system uses heat energy from the laser to destroy targets, Klunder explained. Each round is remarkably cheap compared to other forms of ammunition.

“One round of directed energy is equivalent to one U.S. dollar. This is real data for real performance,” Klunder said.

In fact, the laser weapons system can easily integrate with the electronics on-board Navy ships, most of which produce more than enough electrical power to support the weapon, said Rear Adm. Thomas J. Eccles, chief engineer and deputy commander for Naval Systems Engineering.

Thus far, the laser weapons system is a perfect 12 for 12 in test shots, said Eccles. At the Expo, senior Navy officers showed a video of a successful test engagement involving a test-firing of the laser weapon system on board the Dewey. The weapon successfully incinerated a “dummy” or mock UAS target.

The directed energy power emitted from the laser can be adjusted to lethal and non-lethal modes — giving ship commanders a range of options when it comes to executing their missions, Eccles said.

In fact, the senior Navy leaders explained that laser or directed energy weapons are likely to increase in use in the future as a way to supplement kinetic weapons or solutions, Navy leaders explained.

“As we look at a future of more and more energetic weapons like this, you can see efficiencies gained in a number of ways,” Klunder said.

Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy

About the Author

Kris Osborn
Kris Osborn is the managing editor of Scout Warrior.
  • blight_

    Good. Looks like a spotting laser to the right of the main laser?

    I’m assuming that the covering stays open for the most part, and only closes up for the rain?

  • Davis

    Destroying drones and fast boats is nice but its real worth comes if it can destroy a DF-21 anti-carrier ballistic missile. That’ll be a real game changer!

  • Prodozul

    Don’t we already have a laser on some of these ships?

  • Jim Gomez

    what type of Laser? What power? Who make it? Will it operate when it is rainy?
    I assume is a 100 kW fiber laser
    We need one Mega Watt laser (there is an US Patent by MA Stuart from Oakland, Ca?.
    Is there any one building this MW Laser? Can it be used for peaceful works?
    Thank you

  • USSHelm

    Why on the Ponce? Last I heard it was being used by SOCOM as a seabase.

    • FormerDirtDart

      USS Ponce has be controlling counter-mine and patrol forces and operations in the Fifth Fleet AO since last summer. It is not a SOCOM staging base. The Ponce is a relatively good choice as a test platform as it has ample free deck space to stage the Laser unit, and it’s associated equipment which took up the entire flight deck of the USS Dewey. As can be seen in the attached link.

    • Art

      After Obama leaves, nobody dislikes him enough to bother…

  • Rob

    Hopefully they put these on the White house roof & defense points.

  • Big-Dean

    For those worried about the Chinese DF-21, let me put it into perspective. Do you really think the Navy and the chain of command, would assume that a ballistic missile heading toward a CSG is anything but a nuclear tipped missile? No they wouldn’t. You have to assume all ballistic missiles have nuclear warheads thus you prepare retaliation accordingly and you simply tell the Chinese (through back channels) that all ballistic missile fired will be assumed to be nuclear tipped and we will respond by targeting your country with our nuclear warheads-but we won’t send just one, we’ll flatten their country with one of our SSBNs that is patrolling in the western pacific.

    • Ben

      Either way, I don’t see our carrier groups testing the waters.

    • joe

      Agreed. This is exactly what killed off the idea of ‘conventional tridents’ for prompt global strike – “don’t worry, it’s not a nuke, honest….”

    • oblatt1

      Yea and after the nuclear war China will still have won.

    • Don Reynerson

      Amen…….MAD……….still operable…….

  • William_C1

    Is it soon to be mounted on sharks? We cannot have a laser-shark capability gap.

  • joe

    “One round of directed energy is equivalent to one U.S. dollar. This is real data for real performance,” Klunder said.

    Excellent. What are the maintenance/component costs like?

  • Mark

    Mr. Wharf, arm the forward Phazers!

  • top dog

    The next thing you know, we’ll have Quantum Torpedoes. I can’t help but remember that Old saying, “Sooner or later, everybody will wan’t one”…..The way I figure, it’ll take about ten years before somebody else build one, and it won’t mater if they are friend or foe. Perhaps the Navy should not have talked so much about this…..

    “I am become Death, The Detroyer of Worlds”

  • Musson

    I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong – but I believe it is against the Geneva convention to use lasers to blind enemy combatants. So, if the Ponce is attacked by a swarm of Iranian motor boats – they must destroy/disable the boats without hitting the drivers.

    Seems pretty backassed to me.

    • blight_

      It also prohibits the use of WP: that doesn’t stop us from using it as part of illum and incendiaries.

      We’ll fire it to kill, and if you get blinded instead of dead consider it a war crime that you were allowed to live.

    • Aeedwards

      Like they used to say back in basic training…it’s against the Geneva Convention to use the M2 against enemy soldiers so aim at their pistol belts!!!

      • Infidel4LIFE

        All that goes out the window in reality. Wish we could still use nape those hadji would be roasted. Drench a mountain with it, and my bet is no survivors and no probs. All is fair in love and war..?

        • blight_

          If you wanted to commit genocide against the Iraqis after occupying the place, then it would’ve been ~200k Americans trying to escape a country of 25M angry people, Sunni and Shia.

          Sure, the casualty exchange rate would be incredible, but 200k Americans trying to extract out of that mess would suffer incredible casualties in days or weeks. You don’t wantonly kill civilians on land you expect to occupy: unless you are ready to trade casualties and exterminate the women and children as thoroughly as possible. And the whole “an American life isn’t worth a foreigners” crowd is often unwilling to “invest” American blood on genocidal ventures.

          • NativeSon

            Well put, blight_

        • jhm

          There’s a reason why the American “empire” is a little different from that of the ancient ones. I don’t think our troops in general will get a kick out of entering cities and laying waste to them raping, pillaging, plundering and etc after a successful campaign.

    • cg23sailor

      “I am sure someone will correct me if I am wrong – but I believe it is against the Geneva convention to use lasers to blind enemy combatants.”

      You’re wrong.
      The last convention was 1947. They didn’t have blinding lasers back then, now did they?

      Now the 1947 convention has been modified by three protocols since then.
      Protocol I (1977) relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts
      Protocol II (1977) relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflicts
      Protocol III (2005) relating to the Adoption of an Additional Distinctive Emblem.

      Nope… no mention of blinding by lasers.

    • Guest

      It’s not the Geneva Convention, it’s UN “Protocol on Blinding Laser Weapons”

      Seems that it’s OK to kill, but it’s an outrage if you blind ’em with a laser.

    • Pat in New Orleans

      I saw some videos on this system. They were targeting the outboard motors. The beam is electronically guided. It targets the same spot, even in choppy water. It is invisible too. So the bad guy doesn’t know that they have been targeted, until his motor catches fire.

      This is just the beta version. It will be very interesting to see what this will mature into after say, ten years.

    • fyrftr

      You can kill them though, and with anything besides gas or germs!

    • blindside

      You cannot target personnel but you can target their equipment even if they decide to get in the way.

  • Grayskull
  • Infidel4LIFE

    What happened to the laser system that was mounted on a jumbo jet? Cancelled? It sits in a warehouse s/where with all the equipment needed but I guess its $$ that killed it. So wat gives? The Ponce? I also read SOCOM platform, but a change of mind perhaps?

    • blight_

      The ABL was an older chemical laser. I suppose if they mature the technology, it may find its way back onto an aircraft.

    • Big-Dean

      it didn’t work, so they cancelled it, secondly, it was very expensive

    • Guest

      It was basically a flying superfund (toxic chemical) site after shooting its chemical laser wad. Just another SDI pipedream.

      The Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) mounted on C-130’s looks way cooler.

    • Don

      that is designed to kill ICBMs it shoots a chemical laser I think it was tested and mothballed…

  • Shawn McFadden

    First they retire the Ponce, then they give it to MSC, now they’re gonna outfit it with a laser. What’s next?

  • TERR

    Why WAIT till next year ??? We need that NOW as North Korea is Threatening War
    WHY WAIT ??? It is already Operational so begin the LASER BEAM now.

    T L Van Akin

  • Kirk

    Beam me up, Scotty.

    Raytheon is notorious for overstating their product capabilities and doing so with enormous cost overruns. This would be more believable had the “drone” been a hydrogen filled dirigible.

  • earlbob

    Would they work on enemy communication satellites? Now that would be a defense weapon. Amp up!

  • Jerry Wilson

    Can I get one of these rigged-up to my 9mm Semi-automatic hand gun? I am putting in my order now; before the “o” Bans them…

    • Buck Farack


      It’s 0bama . . . with a zero!

  • JRW

    Can I get one of these to play with the cat??? She’d love it!

  • ohwilleke

    I wonder how much one costs to build and install. The story mentions a $40 million development cost (which seems stunningly low for a new weapons system) and I agree with others that the maintenance cost and durability should be good compared to kinetic systems with more moving parts, but the story does not mention a per unit cost to build and install one. Low “per round” costs only matter if the system used to fire the round isn’t too expensive (e.g. there is no cost efficiency in a rifle that costs $100,000 even if it fires 1 cent bullets).

    There have been efforts, rather successful to develop anti-ordinance lasers, but this doesn’t seem to be what is at work here.

  • oblatt1

    Another operationally worthless system simply deployed to secure contractor money.

  • DirtBike

    Nothing like aid & comfort to the enemy. This is some pretty cool gee-whiz stuff for the nintendo gen gizmo fans but stories and discussions like this are EXACTLY WHY several of the promising IED interdiction devices never made it to the field. So let’s tell the bad guys all about this new system and help them guess at how to defeat it. Bunch of questionable loyalty dipwads. Shut the F up about things like this. Whether it really does what underinformed people think, it is a stepping stone. A lot of the star trek stuff has and will become reality thanks to DARPA & brilliant contractors.

  • Ed C

    When I read that the captain can chose between setting it for lethal and non-lethal power, did anyone think of setting their phasers on “stun”? Welcome to the 21st century. This seems like one of the biggest bangs for the buck. I mean 40M to develop this? That’s one vacation trip for the president and his family.

    • D. Cheney

      No kidding. The Bush’s took more vacations than any President… bet that added up to at least a submarine or two…

      • blight_

        He went to Texas a lot. At which point they could’ve ditched the 747’s for a much smaller jet to take him to Crawford and back.

      • Tiger
  • grim3per

    this probably explains the rash of commercial aircraft crashes out of JFK in ’98….suspicious electrical fires my ass

  • Tribulationtime

    How cost (Right now that all we know about this laser) put a “Blue” laser detector, and switch off the FLIR?. Tiny manouvers keep the laser out of focus so it can´t bring enough power on the target. Chinese engineers had make a lot of research about to “blind” IIR guided bombs and seems there is many details to fix. Second, I ´m very suspicious about open sources defense news; i think it became a pawn in a wider chess board.

    • blight_

      I imagine the rangefinder uses a CCD, and I suppose it could be photobleached with another laser. Of course, if the ship is using radar to acquire and track it might not be a big deal.

  • paul

    i gotta say it, drones? lets see who couldn’t hit one. but like the man said, why tell somebody you got a bigger gun. let’em find out the hard way. but if you let the cat out of the bag, ya better hit something a little faster than a drone.
    i also like what someone said about raytheon. so true.

  • John

    Will this thing work in heavy weather or sea spray ? Heavy rain or snow will degrade a concentrated light beam over a short distance. How will you over come that ? Where seconds count; will it knock down a fast moving target, especially one that is skimming the sea surface ?

  • Ray


  • Andy K

    What about multiple high speed targets? No talk of a demo…only the “capability”.

  • tm1charlie

    I hope there are plans to adapt these lasers to be mounted on sharks for sneak attacks.

  • Stan Zirkelbach

    Imagine that on the USS Ponce! I was stationed on the USS Ponce LPD 15 many years ago, in the eighties. Love that ship.

  • Jim Wheeler

    Sounds good, but:
    Range? Weather limitations? Dwell time required for destruction? Tracking adequate for a violently maneuvering target? Can it be countered with mirrors or mirrored surfaces or paint? Does it blind personnel on the target? Maintenance reliability?

  • Rev

    Why doesn’t it go Pew Pew? My childhood dreams are ruined!

  • Dave

    I think you can buy a better and cheaper version at Walmart. Made in China

  • ron salatrik

    This is the greatest since Grandma’s apple pie.

    Ron S.

  • Dennis

    Next it will be the Battlestar Galactica with a fleet of Colonial Vipers.

  • USS Challenger

    Why is the emphesis placed on lasers rather than rail-type guns? I heard that the weekness of lasers is that the targeted object could be coated with a reflective material to counter the laser, while on the other hand, a small projectile from a rail gun is nearly impossible to counter (until someone does that’s the way things go anyway). I tried to look for some pratical explanation fot this but nada. anyone has any insight

  • Allan Oines

    Nothing like beating the war drums

  • yoni

    and there ends the 20th century dominance of small craft and aircraft carriers.

    put 30 of these on a 70,000 ton nuclear battleship with 16/50 2600 lbs shells and watch the money burn as planes try to sink it with rockets while it approaches the fleet. (and add a couple of iron domes for good measure, plus a couple of antiaircraft weapons)

    without such weapons and some serious flaws the yamato absorbed perhaps 40 thousand pounds of explosives before being disabled and remained afloat for over a day (IIRC) Old WW1 battleships couldn’t be sunk using aerial burst 25 kt nuclear bombs. The only reason that they were defeated was the ability of a carrier to overwhelm them and the expense of loosing them.

  • B Bose

    Everybody is talking of the total cost of 40 mil ,has anyone calculated what a burst of say 10000 fluenc will cost and the damage it can cause to the enemy target. This calculation will be good enough to keep the diplomats quite to justify the cost .

  • mike anderson

    Lets see, just to expand the thoughts a bit. The platform flying that has the room and the shape to carry a Hi Watt Laser close to target and available to upgrade, Ta-Dah the A10 Warthog, log large diameter tunnel from nose the tail and large space towards rear where ammo and motors were for power pack and cooling and the tunnel for the laser it self. Oh yea the coup-de-grass add a limited traverse turret to fine tune the aim for hard targets. Say one of the BrightHogs to two Warthogs for Oh missiles, light vehicles and thin skinned water bearing targets.