Industry seeks power boost for navy lasers

IHS Jane's

January 17, 2017 - With US Navy (USN) officials continuing to seek more powerful lasers, industry is looking for ways to provide the power needed to operate such weapons.

During the Surface Navy Association symposium in mid-January, navy officials discussed fitting a 150 kw laser at sea in about a year's time, with the aim of developing an operational capability within about two years.

Such a weapon would require a larger power supply than the 30 kw AN/SEQ-3 (XN-1) Laser Weapon System (LaWS), which deployed in 2014 on the afloat forward staging base (AFSB) USS Ponce. The desire to deploy such capability is boosting the navy's search for more reliable, high-voltage, shipboard power. In briefs as far back as 2013, the US Office of Naval Research (ONR) had identified electrical power management as an area that must be developed further to support laser weapon technologies.

DRS Technologies is one company seeking to provide such power systems. It is developing a shipboard 'energy magazine' that supports laser weapons and provides stable back-up power, said Donald Klick, the company's business development director.

The modular magazine features lithium-ion batteries. Klick said that, while the magazine could provide the power basis for the ONR's 150 kw shipboard laser, it could also fit on the DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), or other existing and future vessels.

The magazines are designed to provide the kind of pulse power generation needed for laser operations - a need for high-burst energy that is greater than the weapons' kw output. "It doesn't take long to lase," Klick told IHS Jane's.

The equipment, he noted, still must go through naval certification.