Navy’s ONR program brings solid-state laser weapons development

Will using bullets to defeat aerial targets and small-boat threats become a thing of the past? Perhaps, if the Office of Naval Research’s (ONR’s) desire for solid-state laser weapons for U.S. Navy ships comes to fruition.

The sought-after prototype for a solid-state laser weapon complete with multimission abilities would represent one giant step forward for solid-state laser technology, though laser-weapon technology been subjected to limited demonstrations before.

Such tests to transform directed-energy technology concepts into mainstream Navy-vessel equipment have resulted in lasers that can be described as weaponry in the kilowatt-scale. A couple of these programs include the Maritime Laser Demonstration, which aided in proof-of-concept development when a decommissioned Navy ship was laden with the laser technology and small-boat target disabling resulted; the second was the Laser Weapon System program, the tests of which showcased comparable capabilities when four small unmanned test aircraft vessels were shot down.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy could lead all the armed forces in high-energy laser weapon deployment, thanks to the Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) program, which “builds upon ONR’s directed-energy developments and knowledge gained from other laser-research initiatives, including the MK 38 Tactical Laser Demonstration tested at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.,” according to the DoD website.

ONR’s staff consists of about 1,400 contract, civilian, and uniformed employees, along with those housed at the Washington, D.C.-based Naval Research Lab.