The U.S. Navy plans to develop and install a 60-kilowatt laser weapon system on an Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer (DDG-51) and begin deploying it in fiscal year 2020, according to a recent request for information (RFI) on industry capabilities.

The laser, called the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System (SNLWS), could be used to counter such threats as unmanned aerial vehicles and fast-attack boats, the March 7 RFI says. The SNLWS will be placed on a destroyer that has the existing Flight IIA configuration, not the upcoming Flight III version.

The LaWS successfully took out a boat and aerial drone in demonstration testing. Photo: Navy
The LaWS successfully took out a boat and aerial drone in demonstration testing. Photo: Navy

“The highest priority will be placed on technologically mature solutions, which minimize technical risk and enable an aggressive schedule for fielding capability to the fleet,” the RFI says.

The SNLWS will have double the power level of the existing 30-kilowatt Laser Weapon System (LaWS), which the Navy has fielded on the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce and tested against small boats and UAVs.

The Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems, part of Naval Sea Systems Command, is leading the SNLWS and held an industry day on the new program March 28 in Washington, D.C.

Rear Adm. Mike Manazir, deputy chief of naval operations for warfare systems, said March 29 at the Directed Energy Summit in Washington, D.C., that the program will help determine whether laser technology is ready for greater use or needs further maturation. The Navy eventually wants to be able to integrate directed energy systems with the ship-based Aegis weapon system, he added.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, who also spoke at the summit, declined to answer questions about the SNLWS program’s capabilities and schedule, saying he wants to avoid revealing too many details to potential adversaries.

“I’m going to be far more reluctant to talk about things like that because people are listening,” Richardson said.

The Directed Energy Summit is sponsored by Booz Allen Hamilton [BAH].