JED - January 2016 - (Page 23)

Light Saber - By Richard Scott N ow enjoying a second life as an interim afloat forward staging base in the Persian Gulf, USS Ponce (AFSB[I]-15) will in July 2016 celebrate the 45th anniversary of its commissioning. Based with the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, the former amphibious transport dock vessel is today primarily tasked to provide support to mine countermeasures and special operations missions in theater. Yet, while it is one of the oldest ships in the US Navy, Ponce is also host to a novel weapon that is, most likely, writing the first lines of a new chapter in naval warfare. Mounted in a deckhouse atop the bridge, the AN/SEQ-3 (XN-1) Laser Weapon System (LaWS) prototype is a Solid State Laser - Quick Reaction Capability (SSL-QRC) system being used to provide early operational insights intended to pave the way for follow-on development and, potentially, a future program of record. 23 HEL JOURNEY Of course, it should be remembered that high-energy laser (HEL) weapons have been a long time in the making. The science and technology efforts that have delivered LaWS onto the front-line in the Persian Gulf can trace their early origins back to the late 1960s - right about the same time that the Ponce's steel hull was taking shape in Seattle. That journey, which has latterly culminated in the SSL-QRC deployment, has not always been easy. Numerous technical hurdles have presented themselves, technology has not always matured as anticipated, and some initially promising solutions have turned out to be impractical or unworkable. As a result, transitioning HEL weapon system concepts from the lab to the front line has not occurred in anything like the timescales that many had predicted. Early HEL research focused on CO2 gas dynamic laser technology. However, attention soon shifted to continuous wave deuterium fluoride chemical lasers (operating in the mid-infra- The Journal of Electronic Defense | January 2016 LaWS Prototype Brings Directed Energy onto the Front-Line The LaWS system seen on board USS Ponce in November 2015. The SSLQRC deployment has been extended into 2016. (Richard Scott/NAVYPIX) red wavelength) because they propagate far better in the sea level maritime atmosphere than the radiation produced by CO2 lasers (which suffered significantly from thermal blooming). The first attempt at an experimental demonstrator was the TRW-built Navy Advanced Chemical Laser (NACL) prototype, this being paired with the Hughes Navy Pointer/Tracker (NPT) as a beam control device. In March 1978, the NACL/NPT combination succeeded in shooting down TOW missiles in flight (at low altitude, high speed and on crossing trajectories). In the late 1970s, the Navy funded a megawatt-class deuterium fluoride HEL demonstrator known as the Mid-Infrared Advanced Chemical Laser (MIRACL). TRW took principal responsibility for system development, while Hughes was the lead for the SeaLite Beam Director.

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of JED - January 2016

The View From Here
Conferences Calendar
Courses Calendar
From the President
The Monitor
World Report
On the Brink: Laser Wars Not Just a Movie Fantasy
Light Saber – LaWS Prototype Brings Directed Energy Onto the Front-Line
Technology Survey: RF Signal Generators
Threat Monitor
EW 101
AOC News: Views from the AOC Symposium and Convention
AOC News
Index of Advertisers
JED Quick Look

JED - January 2016