Navy leaders announced plans Apr. 8 at the Sea-Air-Space exposition to deploy for the first time a solid-state laser aboard a ship in fiscal year 2014 (October 1 2013 through September 30 2014). The laser will be added to the USS Ponce which is stationed in the Persian Gulf.
The announcement to deploy the laser onboard USS Ponce (AFSB[I] 15) comes as Navy researchers continue to make significant progress on directed energy weapons, allowing the service to deploy a laser weapon on a Navy ship two years ahead of schedule. The at-sea demonstration in FY 14 is part of a wider portfolio of near-term Navy directed energy programs that promise rapid fielding, demonstration and prototyping efforts for shipboard, airborne and ground systems.
“Our conservative data tells us a shot of directed energy costs under $1,” Klunder said. “Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability.”
The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) was temporarily installed aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) in 2012
Following the USS Ponce demonstration, the Navy and DoD will continue to research ways to integrate affordable laser weapons into the fleet.
USS Ponce Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB) will get the battlefield laser
Ponce is deployed as part of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, which is the naval force for CENTCOM. The ship provides a platform to support mine warfare ships, coastal patrol ships, and aircraft operations – such as mine-sweeping MH-53 Sea Dragon helicopters – with the capability to support multiple mission packages. Ponce is manned by a combined crew of Navy officers and sailors as well as Military Sealift Command (MSC) government civilian mariners.