GEAR & TECH

The Navy's USS Portland will test a prototype laser

With the decommissioning of the interim afloat staging base USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15, ex-LPD 15), the Navy removed the prototype Laser Weapon System that had been on the ship which was built as an Austin-class amphibious transport. The Ponce's replacement, USS Lewis B. Puller (ESB 3), did not get the laser.


Now, according to a report by the Daily Star, we have found out the lucky vessel that did get the laser. That ship is the San Antonio-class amphibious transport USS Portland (LPD 27).

The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released)

The Portland was commissioned in the middle of December, and is slated to be home-ported in San Diego. The vessel will not only test the Laser Weapon System, it will also serve as flagship for the upcoming RIMPAC exercise.

The United States sent the Laser Weapon System to the Middle East, where after a series of demonstrations, the captain of USS Ponce was authorized to use it as a defensive weapon. The Ponce was decommissioned last summer, and had been the subject of a rumored purchase by Argentina.

USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored Laser Weapon System. Navy photo by John F. Williams.

The Portland displaces 25,000 tons, and has a top speed of 22 knots. According to the Sixteenth Edition of The Naval Institute Guide to Combat Fleets of the World, it can carry two LCAC (Landing Craft, Air Cushion), roughly 700 Marines, and up to four helicopters. It is armed with the Mk 31 launcher for the RIM-116 Rolling Airframe Missile and two 30mm Bushmaster II chain guns.

Other laser programs have been in the works as well. One concept involved installing a pallet with a High-Energy Fiber Laser on a H-60 airframe, turning a Blackhawk or Seahawk into a Laserhawk. The Army also tested a laser weapon on the AH-64 Apache. Both the Blackhawk and Apache had the ability to guide missiles like the AGM-114 Hellfire and AGM-123 Skipper with lasers. Another laser known as ATHENA was used to shoot down drones in another recent test.

GEAR & TECH

This Meteor kills enemy aircraft from beyond visual range

When you think of a meteor, your mind likely points to the object that wiped out the dinosaurs some 65 million years ago. Well, if we're being technical, that was actually a meteorite, but the details aren't important. The fact is, that giant, extinction-bringing boulder came from seemingly nowhere and took out the dinosaurs — who had no idea what hit them.

The British have developed a new, beyond-visual-range, radar-guided, air-to-air missile, appropriately named Meteor. It, too, is a bolt that comes from out of the blue to wipe something out of existence. It may be much smaller than the meteor that wiped out the dinosaurs, but for the aircraft it targets, well, it's just as final.

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Articles

How R. Lee Ermey's Hollywood break is an inspiration to us all

While there have been many outstanding actors and celebrities who have raised their right hand, there has never been a veteran who could finger point his way to the top of Hollywood stardom quite like the late great Gunnery Sergeant R. Lee Ermey.

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How the Chernobyl Disaster happened 32 years ago

Ukraine is marking the 32nd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster on April 26, 2018, with a memorial service and a series of events in remembrance of the world's worst-ever civilian nuclear accident.

In neighboring Belarus, an opposition-organized event will also be held to commemorate the disaster.

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5 hints that your deployment is about to get extended

When troops deploy, they're told in advance how long they'll be gone. This gives you the chance to prepare your family, get all your paperwork in order, and so on. But, for some reason, troops always find out at the last possible minute that their deployment is about to get extended.

It's like a terrible Band-Aid that some officer didn't want to pull off.

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Admiral Ronny Jackson withdraws his bid to be next VA Secretary

Ronny Jackson, the White House physician nominated by President Donald Trump to run the US Department of Veterans Affairs, withdrew his name from consideration for the role on April 26, 2018.

"Unfortunately, because of how Washington works, these false allegations have become a distraction for this president and the important issue we must be addressing — how we give the best care to our nation's heroes," Jackson said in a statement.

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GEAR & TECH

How to protect a ship's crew from a weapon of mass destruction

Ships at sea have long had to contend with efforts to sink them. Traditionally, this was done by busting holes in the hull to let water in. Another way of putting a ship on the bottom of the ocean floor is to set the ship on fire (which would often cause explosions, blowing holes in the hull).

The two act in combination at times — just look at the saga of USS Liscome Bay (CVE 56) for one such case.

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The F-35 in Japan is still losing dogfights to F-15s

The most expensive weapons system in history, the US's F-35 Lightning II, is still sometimes losing to the 1970s F-15 in dogfights during training scenarios in Japan.

US Air Force F-15 pilot Capt. Brock McGehee, when asked by Defense News if the F-35s at Kadena Air Force base in Japan still sometimes lost to the Cold War-era fighters, said "I mean, sometimes."

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Military Life

Why the Army cutting out BS training was inevitable

A recent decision by the Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper, has been met with universal praise: No more stupid, mandatory training programs!

In fairness to the now-defunct online classes, yes, Soldiers should be aware of the risks inherent in traveling, the dangers of misusing social media, and that human trafficking is still a concern in 2018. But did the process of taking a four-day pass really need to include a mandatory class about why seat belts are important? Probably not.

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