The US Navy is actively deploying laser weapons in the Middle East to counter hostile drone activity

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The U.S. Navy is working on laser weapons in the Middle East to counter a significant increase in Iran’s deployment and use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in the region, senior officer Vice Admiral Bradley said. of the Navy from Central Command (CENTCOM) and Commander of the United States Fifth Fleet. said Cooper.

“There is a growth of the Iranian missile defense force and cruise missiles and drones and the proliferation of these drones throughout the region,” Cooper said during a lecture at the Center for Strategic and International Studies ( CSIS) Friday. “There has been a dramatic increase in UAD activity in the region: it’s very different.”

In response, the Fifth Fleet is deploying and expanding the use of laser or directed energy weapons on its warships in the region, Cooper said, adding that he would not reveal any details of the work.

The US Navy is developing “laser weapons on warships in the region. This is an area on which we are working quite dynamically. For understandable reasons, I’m not going to talk about it,” Cooper said.

As of September 2021, the Fifth Fleet had activated Task Force 59 as its unmanned vehicles and intelligence task force in the region operated from Bahrain and Jordan and the operation had already “exceeded all of our expectations. “with unmanned marine vehicles launched from the port of Akaba at the southwestern tip of Jordan capable of operating for up to 33 days at a time, Cooper added.

Previous reports

Earlier in December last year, the US Navy’s USS Portland tested a laser weapon by firing at a floating target in the Middle East, the US Navy announced on December 15.

The United States has claimed that the laser weapon system, considered the “most powerful” to be deployed on an operational vessel, can be used against armed drones operated by Yemen’s Houthi rebels in the Red Sea.

The weapon, officially called Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) Mk2 Mod 0, was received by the USS Portland in late 2019. It was first tested by the ship in May 2020 to shoot down a small drone in the Pacific Ocean.

On December 14, the USS Portland tested the LWSD on the Gulf of Aden target, which separates East Africa from the Arabian Peninsula.

According to the US Navy’s 5th based in the Middle Eastand floats, the laser weapon “engaged” the target during the demonstration. He did not specify the extent of damage to the target or whether it was destroyed as a result of the shot.

“The LWSD [Laser Weapon System Demonstrator] is believed to be a follow-on to the next generation Laser Weapon System (LaWS) floating on the Forward Staging Base USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) tested for three years while operating in the Middle East” , according to a statement from the Navy on the protest in the Gulf of Aden.

“The region’s geography, climate and strategic importance provide a unique environment for technological innovation,” the statement said.

The LWSD Mk 2 Mod 0 was developed by Northrop Grumman for the US Navy under the Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) program and is a 150 kilowatt class laser weapon.

The USS Portland conducts a test of a high energy laser weapon system in the Gulf of Aden, December 14, 2021. (US Navy photo)

“By performing advanced tests at sea against drones and small craft, we will gain valuable insight into the capabilities of the solid-state laser weapon system demonstrator against potential threats,” said Captain Karrey Sanders, l former commander quoted by Business. Initiated. “With this new advanced capability, we are redefining warfare at sea for the Navy.”

In 2018, officials in the United Arab Emirates shared video footage from a drone boat claiming Iranian hardware was used in the boat’s guidance system. A hat was also visible in the background of an image displaying the symbol of Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guards. However, Iran should reject the charges.

Laser Weapons – Game Changer?

Laser weapons are gaining prominence, especially after the rise of the “global drone threat” and can change the tide of battle, as seen during the war between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Lasers offer the huge advantage of speed, stealth, accuracy and also a “virtually infinite magazine”. They also prove to be more profitable due to their low “cost per shot”.

Although laser weapons lack the “kinetic repulsion” effect, even a weak laser beam could potentially disrupt hostile missiles with great accuracy. Powerful laser weapons can further decimate a missile’s flight control fins and can also thermally trigger their warheads.

Having laser weapons gives any army the convenience of not having to carry huge amounts of ammo. Since the ferocious energy of laser weapons comes directly from systems power sources such as generators or batteries, there is no need to carry ammunition to locations susceptible to attack.

It also reduces cargo, requiring less equipment and more stealthy troop movement.

Such energy weapons are also needed to provide a tighter layer of defense which is crucial for the penetration of stealth bombers such as the B-2 or the future B-21 into enemy airspaces.

Currently, the B-2 relies on its stealth to enter enemy defense areas, but lacks the required defense systems against missile interceptors that can shoot down the bomber once it is spotted on radar. .

If laser weapons are used in considerable numbers, the current situation where stealth fighters equipped with missiles beyond visual range are favored could change. This is because many missiles are used to kill whereas with laser weapons one can hardly dodge a laser beam due to its high speed and accuracy.

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