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Marking a milestone for the Navy, the Office of Naval Research and its industry partner on April 6 successfully tested a solid-state, High-Energy Laser (HEL) from a surface ship, which disabled a small target vessel.

The Navy and Northrop Grumman completed at-sea testing of the Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD), which validated the potential to provide advanced self-defense for surface ships and personnel by keeping small boat threats at a safe distance.

“The success of this high-energy laser test is a credit to the collaboration, cooperation and teaming of naval labs at Dahlgren, China Lake, Port Hueneme and Point Mugu, Calif.,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Nevin Carr. “ONR coordinated each of their unique capabilities into one cohesive effort.”

To help Sailors defeat small boat threats and aerial targets without using bullets, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) wants to develop a solid-state laser weapon prototype that will demonstrate multi-mission capabilities aboard a Navy ship, officials announced May 8.

“We believe it’s 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, program officer of the Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) program.

ONR will host an industry day May 16 to provide the research and development community with information about the program. A Broad Agency Announcement is expected to be released thereafter to solicit proposals and bids.

The Navy’s long history of advancing directed-energy technology has yielded kilowatt-scale lasers capable of being employed as weapons. Among the programs, the 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. (Click here to watch a video.) Another program, the Laser Weapon System, demonstrated a similar ability to shoot down four small unmanned test aircraft.

The SSL-TM program builds upon ONR’s directed-energy developments and knowledge gained from other laser research initiatives, including the MK 38 Tactical Laser Demonstration tested at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. All of these efforts could help the Department of the Navy become the first of the armed forces to deploy high-energy laser weapons.

Source: Geoff S. Fein and Grace Jean for the Office of Naval Research

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