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Laser Weapon Systems at Sea and on Land: A Bright Future?

Simon Chiverton
RUSI Defence Systems, 10 June 2016
Air Power and Technology, Military Sciences, Equipment and Acquisitions, Technology
Laser weapons have dominated futuristic weaponry in science fiction for decades, whilst the military has used lasers as range finders and to designate targets for guided weapons since the Vietnam War. Due to ongoing improvements in optics, power generation and control systems, the use of lasers to generate lethal effects is becoming a reality

In 2015, the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory announced the Laser Directed Energy Weapon (LDEW) project with system-level studies to be undertaken by industry worth approximately £12.7 million. The goal is to produce an LDEW concept demonstrator suitable for maritime platforms. This is evidence that the UK has an interest in developing sovereign laser weapon capabilities itself.

At present, Lockheed Martin appears to be leading the way on laser weaponry, having developed the first operationally deployed Laser Weapon System (LaWS). The AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System was initially installed onto the USS Ponce as a technology demonstrator, but was so successful in trials that it was deemed fit for service and has been authorised for use as a defensive weapon in the Persian Gulf since December 2014. Publicly available information on this system’s performance remains limited and whilst footage released during testing show a range of targets being successfully engaged, they are soft targets and at close ranges.

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