The May 16, announced by the Pacific Fleet today, is the first public acknowledgement of the Laser Weapon System Demonstrator, or LWSD being put to use.
The LWSD is thought to pack about 150kw worth of power, a step up from the smaller, 50kw laser that was tested on the USS Ponce starting in 2014.
The Northrop Grumman-made LWSD is a high-energy laser weapon initially developed by the Office of Naval Research, and its operational employment marks “the first system-level implementation of a high-energy class solid-state laser,” according to a Pacific Fleet release.
The test comes as the US, in bits and pieces, ramps up operations in the Pacific as a counterweight to China — moves which include new, ambitious B-1 bomber flights close to Russian and Chinese territory.
Just this week, the USS Ronald Reagan and Theodore Roosevelt carriers went back to sea from bases in Japan and Guam, respectively, while the USS Nimitz is getting its air wing up to speed off the coast of Washington state.
Late last month, the destroyer USS Barry cruised near the Paracel Islands, claimed by China, followed a day later by the cruiser USS Bunker Hill sailing near the Spratlys conducting freedom-of-navigation operations.
On April 30, a day after Bunker Hill’s transit, two B-1 bombers flew over the South China Sea.
These transits came just days after the USS America amphibious ship packed with Marine Corps F-35s passed through the South China Sea while conducting flight operations.
“By conducting advanced at sea tests against UAVs and small crafts, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of the Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator against potential threats,” said Capt. Karrey Sanders, commanding officer of Portland.
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