The Navy Is Now Funding 4 Different Laser Weapons

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Peter D. Blair The U.S. Navy is seeking nearly $300 million for research into a family of laser weapons for the fleet.

First pointed out by Aviation Week & Space Technology reporter Lara Seligman on Twitter, the so-called Navy Laser Family of Systems is meant to get laser weapons to sea in the near term, giving the U.S. Navy the ability to deal with what might be called “pesky” threats: unmanned aerial vehicles, unmanned ships, and armed speed boats, also known as fast inshore attack craft (FIAC). Such threats cannot sink America’s large warships directly, but they can surveil, harass, and even damage a ship as large as a destroyer. The “family” also includes larger 150-kilowatt weapons that could be useful against missiles and aircraft. SNLWS

The first weapon, officially called Project 3402 in the Navy budget, is also known as the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System. SNLWS is an “advanced prototype laser weapon” in the 60-kilowatt-or-higher class. The Navy recently announced this laser would be installed on the guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke , but the budget provides funding to outfit not just one but three destroyers.

The SNLWS is a solid-state laser the Navy sees as useful in “Anti-Surface Warfare, Integrated Air and Missile Defense and Counter-Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C-ISR).” The laser can “dazzle and destroy” drones as well as “fast inshore attack craft” (FIAC). The 2019 budget allocates $190 million for the SNLWS. The Navy anticipates the first destroyers outfitted with the laser weapon in late of 2020. ODIN

The second weapon is the ODIN, or Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (which formerly carried the bland-sounding moniker Low Power Module). ODIN is a laser designed to blind and disrupt “Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) and other platforms that will address urgent operational needs of the Fleet.” That wording implies drones are currently being used to watch U.S. ships at sea.

Two ODIN units have apparently already been funded, and the 2019 budget provides for three more (installation costs will be covered in the 2020 budget). Each ODIN unit consists of a “Beam Director (Telescope, Optics, Fast Steering Mirrors); Lower Power Lasers (2); Sensors (Coarse Track, Fine Track, ISR Imaging); Computer Rack, Network Switches; and an Operator Laptop.” The U.S. Navy is spending $44 million in 2019 on the ODIN. Solid State Laser & RHEL

Next up is Solid State Laser – Technology Maturation. It’s a much larger 150-kilowatt laser to be mounted on a San Antonio -class ship in 2019. Finally, the Navy mentions the Ruggedized High Energy Laser, or RHEL, a 150-kilowatt laser that will apparently employ “different laser architectures” that will handle more powerful laser beams eventually.

But what about the U.S. Navy’s vaunted railgun, also known as Project 3370? The 2019 budget provides zero funding for the railgun. In its place, the Navy is funding the Gun Launched Guided Projectile, also known as the Hyper Velocity Projectile Block 0, which will “double the range of the current 5-inch […]