United States

U.S. Navy’s Littoral Combat Ships to feature high-powered lasers to bolster lethality

By Jonathan Davis

The U.S. Navy is poised to add a high-powered laser to one of its Littoral Combat Ships as part of the service’s plans to add lethality to its surface warfare fleet.

The USS Little Rock (LCS-9) is slated to receive a laser weapon during its upcoming deployment, Commander of Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Richard Brown told reporters.

The ship will likely deploy to U.S. 4th Fleet, where sister ship USS Detroit is currently operating, USNI News reported.

According to the news service, the Little Rock is to be fitted with a Lockheed Martin-made 150-kilowatt high energy laser, as part of a risk reduction effort between the company, the Office of Naval Research and the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems.

One source said the laser would serve as part of a larger layered defense concept the sea service is currently developing.

The purpose of the laser weapon is assist the warship in its surface mission to interdict and destroy incoming fast-attack craft as well as unmanned drones. The weapon will also aid in detecting incoming targets.

Some naval experts have said the LCS is not survivable enough and as such is in need of additional firepower as technology is changing the nature of warfare at sea.

“The big thing we’re looking at is, what is that opportunity to pull things in – so for instance with directed energy, between the HELIOS [laser weapon program of record], being able to get that onto a DDG, and then some scalable laser technology that we’ve been working on, what’s our opportunity to deploy a laser sooner on an LCS, and the opportunity to potentially use one of those weapons modules to do that as opposed to having to design it someway into the ship?” said Lockheed Martin Vice President and General Manager of Small Combatants and Ship Systems Joe DePietro.

“Use some of that power, space and weight of the mission package to be able to field another capability – which was inherently the thought process behind the design of LCS, to be able to integrate those new technologies faster because of the modularity of the ship,” he told USNI News.

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