This month the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) will start its Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) programme to develop a solid-state laser weapon prototype that will be demonstrated aboard a Naval ship.
The ONR will host an industry day on 16 May to brief the research and development community about the programme that aims to create a weapon to use against boat threats and aerial targets. ‘We believe it is time to move forward with solid-state lasers and shift the focus from limited demonstrations to weapon prototype development and related technology advancement,’ said Peter Morrison, SSL-TM programme officer.
The Navy has a history of advancing directed-energy technology and it has developed kilowatt-scale lasers capable of being employed as weapons. Its Maritime Laser Demonstration developed a proof-of-concept technology that was tested at sea aboard a decommissioned Navy ship. The demonstrator was able to disable a small boat target. Another programme, the Laser Weapon System, demonstrated a similar ability to shoot down four small unmanned test aircraft. The SSL-TM programme will build upon these developments and knowledge gained from other laser research initiatives, including the MK 38 Tactical Laser, which was demonstrated at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida.