Around this time last year, the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) was targeted several times by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who fired Noor anti-ship missiles (essentially C-802 clones) at the U.S. Navy vessel. While the Mason thwarted those attacks, using RIM-66 Standard SM-2 and RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missiles in at least one of the three incidents, the next time, it may just zap the missiles.
Earlier this month, Lockheed Martin was promoting what they call the “DDG DE Laser Enhancement” at the Association of the United States Army expo in Washington, D.C. In essence, it would add at least two lasers to the five-inch gun, Mk 41 vertical-launch-systems (one with 32 cells, the other with 64 cells), a Mk 15 Phalanx close-in weapon system, and 324mm torpedo tubes. In addition to the Standard and Evolved Sea Sparrow missiles, the Mk 41 vertical-launch systems can also carry RUM-139 ASROC launchers and BGM-109 Tomahawk cruise missiles.
Lockheed has been testing laser weapon systems for a while. Last month, WATM reported on a test of the ATHENA laser, in which five MQM-170C Outlaw drones were shot down by the 30-kilowatt system. The test was conducted in conjunction with Army Space and Missile Defense Command. ATHENA was described as “ground mobile” in a Lockheed release about the tests.
Other tests involving lasers included an Army AH-64 Apache testing a Raytheon laser in June, and the employment of a laser on board USS Ponce (AFSB(I) 15) during its deployment in the Persian Gulf. The Ponce was decommissioned earlier this year, and Argentina is rumored to be interested in buying the 46-year-old vessel.
The deployment of lasers could improve capabilities against enemy unmanned aerial vehicles, missiles, and even aircraft. The need for counter-drone weapons became very acute when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria deployed UAVs against Coalition forces.