According to a statement from the US Navy, the agency will soon begin using high-energy laser weapons that can destroy aircraft and small boats.
The weapons are being built with $150 million in taxpayer money and according to a report from V3, the contract could eventually be worth up to $942.8 million and handled by Lockheed Martin.
The technology is called High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with Surveillance (HELIOS). Lockheed has said that they plan to have these weaponized lasers in use by 2020.
“Navy technicians will integrate the laser and its control systems with the ship’s power, cooling, and battle management systems. That’s an important step – an earlier Navy LAWS system was never integrated with shipboard systems on the USS Ponce for testing,” according to IEEE Spectrum.
The HELIOS is just the first stage of the US military’s Surface Navy Laser Weapon System program, which was made public in March last year.
Last year, at the Directed Energy Summit, Admiral Mike Manazir spoke of the new laser weapons, saying that:
“There are systems out there right now at various power levels that are just stand-alone. We know that. What we’d like to do is be able to integrate it so that when you have an effect on competition, in war, in a maritime environment, you know how to put those together with the kinetic systems we already have in the field. In this increasing world of digitization, and information’s the coin of the realm, moving data around the battlespace is going to be the way you beat the other guy.”
“You’re going to have to be able to use non-kinetic weapons, you’re going to have to be able to use the information space, to overwhelm the adversary. But you’re also going to have to use kinetic weapons. And so we do want to reduce the cost-curve, we do know that a deep energy magazine where you have constant shots of directed energy can take the place of multimillion-dollar missiles. … There’s a place for both [kinetic and energy weapons], and you’ve got to figure out how to put them together,” he added.
The navy has been experimenting with laser weapons for a number of years, below is a segment from CNN showing the first laser on the sea, the LAWS.
The new HELIOS laser emits between 60 and 150 kilowatts, which means it is between two and five times more powerful than the LAWS, which maxes out at 30-kW.