Enemy drones over the ocean could track and surveil U.S. Navy ships, designate targets for aircraft or maritime attacks, or even fire dangerous weapons themselves at surface ships.
This reality is one of many key reasons the Navy has now installed a new counter drone “dazzler” laser weapon aboard one of its destroyers for the first time, bringing new offensive and defensive warfare possibilities to the fleet.
The Navy’s Optical Dazzling Interdictor, or ODIN laser weapon, was installed on the USS Dewey guided missile destroyer recently, a report from Naval Sea Systems Command said.
The ODIN is, among other things, specifically configured to track and disable enemy drones, throwing them off course and jamming its sensors,according to a December, 2019, Congressional Research Service report called Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile:
“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 states, in reference to the Navy’s ODIN…. and a weapon now laying the foundation for a developing laser system called HELIOS, or High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-Dazzler and Surveillance system.
Laser weapons can not only incinerate enemy targets but also surveil, track and target attacking platforms as well. While ODIN and HELIOS are emerging laser weapons engineered with advanced technology for current and future applications, the Navy deployed its Laser Weapons System, or LAWs on the USS Ponce many years ago. Integration on the USS Dewey is the first time lasers have been brought into Navy destroyers.
The integration of laser weapons onto Navy destroyers is rapidly expanding across the service’s entire fleet of warships, to include the Navy’s emerging DDG 51 Flight III next-generation destroyers now in production. These ships, according to DDG 51-class Program Manager Capt. Seth Miller, are built with two additional consoles. These systems, along with other advanced technologies built into Flight III, are specifically intended to enable the integration of future weapons onto the ship.