A Navy amphibious transport dock ship conducted a high-energy laser weapon system demonstration test in the Gulf of Aden on Dec. 14.

The Solid State Laser – Technology Maturation Laser Weapons System Demonstrator (LWSD) Mark 2 MOD 0 aboard the USS Portland (LPD-27) was successfully tested against a status surface training target, the Navy said.

This was the newest test of the Portland’s laser system since a May 2020 exercise when it successfully disabled and shot down a small unmanned aerial system (UAS) while in the Pacific Ocean, off Pearl Harbor, Hawaii (Defense Daily, May 26, 2020).

The Office of Naval Research initially chose Portland to host the LWSD in 2018. It is fitted into a space originally reserved for the Vertical Launch System (Defense Daily, Jan. 10, 2018).

The LWSD is a next-generation follow-on to the earlier 30-kilowatt Laser Weapon System (LaWS) that was tested on the USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) Austin-class amphibious transport dock ship for three years while it served in the Middle East region as well. Ponce tested its system against both UASs and small boats (Defense Daily, March 29, 2017).

After this test, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said on Twitter that “directed energy is the future of our U.S. Navy.”

The Navy is using these programs to refine and develop the technology as it looks to gradually move the Solid State Laser Technology Maturation work to higher power levels. The Portland’s weapon is a 150-kilowatt class system.

The LWSD was developed by Northrop Grumman [NOC]. 

LPD-27 is currently part of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2), dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) and embarked Marines from the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit. The ARG units left San Diego in August and started operating in the U.S. 5th Fleet region in September.

“The region’s geography, climate, and strategic importance offer a unique environment for technology innovation,” the Navy said in a statement.

The 5th Fleet area of operations covers the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Aden, Gulf of Oman and parts of the Indian Ocean.