The U.S. Navy has deployed is first anti-drone laser “dazzler” as it moves to embrace new technology to protect ships from enemy drones.
The first of the new Optical Dazzling Interdictors was installed on the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey, a news release from Naval Sea Systems Command said.
A Congressional Research Service report that discussed the Navy’s move to next-generation weapons said the ODIN is built to track and disable enemy drones, throwing them off course and jamming the sensors drones use to either track ships or lock on weapons systems.
“The weapon will also feed intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) data into the ship’s combat system and provide a counter-UAS (C-UAS) ISR dazzler capability. The dazzler uses a lower power setting to confuse or reduce ISR capabilities of a hostile UAS,” the report said, discussing both ODIN and the larger family of similar systems.
“This is a great example of our organic talent at the warfare centers all working together with ship’s company to deliver a system which will provide game-changing capability,” James F. Geurts, assistant secretary of the Navy for research development and acquisition, said after touring the Dewey, praising all involved for “delivering lethal capability to the warfighter.”
The Navy noted that the weapon went from concept to installation in just two and a half years.
“The Pacific Fleet Commander identified this urgent Counter-Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance need and the Chief of Naval Operations directed us to fill it as quickly as possible,” Cmdr. David Wolfe, a program executive with the project, said.
The Navy plans to use the experience of the ODIN on the Dewey to inform its plan to put similar systems on other ships.
The CRS report explained the rationale behind the Navy’s action.
“Although Navy surface ships have a number of means for defending themselves against missiles and UAVs, some observers are concerned about the survivability of Navy surface ships in potential combat situations against adversaries, such as China, that are armed with large numbers of missiles, including advanced models, and large numbers of UAVs,” the report said.
“Concern about this issue has led some observers to conclude that the Navy’s surface fleet in coming years might need to avoid operating in waters that are within range of these weapons, or that the Navy might need to move toward a different and more distributed fleet architecture that relies less on larger surface ships and more on smaller surface ships, unmanned vehicles, and submarines.
“Perspectives on whether it would be cost effective to spend money on the procurement and operation of larger surface ships might be influenced by views on whether such ships can adequately defend themselves against enemy missiles and UAVs.”
The report noted that the Navy is developing multiple forms of laser systems.
“Three new ship-based weapons being developed by the Navy — solid state lasers (SSLs), the electromagnetic railgun (EMRG), and the gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP), also known as the hypervelocity projectile (HVP) — could substantially improve the ability of Navy surface ships to defend themselves against surface craft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and eventually anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs),” the report said.
“The Navy has been developing SSLs for several years, and in 2014 installed on a Navy ship a prototype SSL called the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) that was capable of countering surface craft and UAVs. The Navy is now developing SSLs with improved capability for countering surface craft and UAVs, and eventually a capability for countering ASCMs.”
Ret. Lt. Gen. Trey Obering praised the speed and efficiency of the new technology.
“One of the greatest attributes of directed energy weapons is that they operate at the speed of light. So, for a hypersonic weapon that is travelling at 25 times the speed of sound, a high- energy laser can engage it at roughly 35,000 times its speed. This makes targeting and tracking easier as well,” Obering wrote in the National Defense University journal PRISM.