Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile: Background and Issues for Congress




Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched
Guided Projectile: Background and Issues for
Congress

Updated November 17, 2021
Congressional Research Service
https://crsreports.congress.gov
R44175




Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile

Summary
This report provides background information and issues for Congress on three potential new ship-
based self-defense weapons for the Navy—solid state lasers (SSLs), the electromagnetic railgun
(EMRG), and the gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP), also known as the hypervelocity
projectile (HVP).
The Navy’s proposed FY2022 budget requests research and development funding for continued
work on SSLs, but proposes suspending further work on the EMRG and GLGP programs and
requests no research and development funding for them.
The Navy installed its first prototype SSL capable of countering surface craft and unmanned
aerial vehicles (UAVs) on a Navy ship in 2014. The Navy since then has been developing and
installing additional SSL prototypes with improved capability for countering surface craft and
UAVs. Higher-power SSLs being developed by the Navy are to have a capability for countering
anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs). Current Navy efforts to develop SSLs include
 the Solid State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) effort;
 the Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN);
 the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System (SNLWS) Increment 1, also known as
the high-energy laser with integrated optical dazzler and surveillance (HELIOS);
and
 the High Energy Laser Counter-ASCM Program (HELCAP).
The first three SSL efforts listed above are included in what the Navy calls the Navy Laser
Family of Systems (NFLoS).
The Navy had been developing EMRG since 2005. It was originally conceived as a naval surface
fire support (NSFS) weapon for supporting Marines and other friendly forces ashore.
Subsequently, it was determined that EMRG could also be used for air and missile defense, which
for a time strengthened Navy interest in EMRG development.
As the Navy was developing EMRG, it realized that the guided projectile being developed for
EMRG could also be fired from powder guns, including 5-inch guns on Navy cruisers and
destroyers and 155 mm artillery guns operated by the Army and Marine Corps. The concept of
firing the projectile from powder guns is referred to as GLGP and HVP.

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Contents
Introduction ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Issue for Congress ..................................................................................................................... 1
Scope of Report ......................................................................................................................... 1

Background ..................................................................................................................................... 1
Strategic and Budgetary Context............................................................................................... 1
Concern about Survivability of Navy Surface Ships .......................................................... 1
Depth of Magazine and Cost Exchange Ratio .................................................................... 2
Solid State Lasers (SSLs) .......................................................................................................... 3
Overview ............................................................................................................................. 3
Earlier Developments.......................................................................................................... 4
Development Roadmap ....................................................................................................... 6
SSL-TM .............................................................................................................................. 7
ODIN ................................................................................................................................ 12
SNLWS Increment 1 (HELIOS) ....................................................................................... 16
HELCAP ........................................................................................................................... 21
Remaining Development Challenges ................................................................................ 22
Electromagnetic Railgun (EMRG) and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile (GLGP) ............... 22
FY2022 Budget Proposes Suspending Further Work on EMRG and GLGP .................... 22
EMRG ............................................................................................................................... 23
GLGP ................................................................................................................................ 26
Remaining Development Challenges ................................................................................ 33
Issues for Congress ........................................................................................................................ 33
Legislative Activity for FY2022 .................................................................................................... 34
Summary of Congressional Action on FY2022 Funding ........................................................ 34
FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4350/S.2792) ......................................... 35
House ................................................................................................................................ 35
Senate ................................................................................................................................ 35

FY2022 DOD Appropriations Act (H.R. 4432/S. XXXX)...................................................... 36
House ................................................................................................................................ 36
Senate ................................................................................................................................ 36


Figures
Figure 1. Laser Weapon System (LaWS) on USS Ponce ................................................................ 5
Figure 2. Laser Weapon System (LaWS) on USS Ponce ................................................................ 5
Figure 3. Navy Laser Weapon Development Approach .................................................................. 6
Figure 4. ONR Graphic of SSL-TM Laser System ......................................................................... 8
Figure 5. Navy Graphic of SSL-TM Laser System ......................................................................... 9
Figure 6. Reported SSL-TM Laser Being Transported ................................................................. 10
Figure 7. Reported SSL-TM Laser Being Transported ................................................................. 10
Figure 8. Reported SSL-TM Laser Being Transported .................................................................. 11
Figure 9. Reported ODIN System on USS Stockdale ................................................................... 12
Figure 10. Reported ODIN System at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren ...................................... 13
Figure 11. HELIOS System on DDG-51 Destroyer ...................................................................... 17
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Figure 12. HELIOS System on DDG-51 Destroyer ...................................................................... 18
Figure 13. Railgun and HVP Development Timeline and Costs ................................................... 24
Figure 14. Industry-Built EMRG Prototype Demonstrator ........................................................... 25
Figure 15. Industry-Built EMRG Prototype Demonstrator ........................................................... 25
Figure 16. Photograph Showing HVP ........................................................................................... 27
Figure 17. HVP .............................................................................................................................. 28
Figure 18. HVP Launch Packages ................................................................................................. 29
Figure 19. HVP Application to Various Launchers ....................................................................... 30
Figure 20. Navy Slide Depicting HVP Operations Against Various Target Types ........................ 31
Figure 21. HVP Demonstrations, FY2013-FY2021 ...................................................................... 32

Tables
Table 1. Summary of Congressional Action on FY2022 Funding ................................................. 34

Appendixes
Appendix. Potential Advantages, Limitations, Costs, and Cost-Effectiveness of Shipboard
Lasers ......................................................................................................................................... 37

Contacts
Author Information ........................................................................................................................ 40

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Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile

Introduction
Issue for Congress
This report provides background information and issues for Congress on three potential new ship-
based self-defense weapons for the Navy—solid state lasers (SSLs), the electromagnetic railgun
(EMRG),1 and the gun-launched guided projectile (GLGP), also known as the hypervelocity
projectile (HVP).
The Navy’s proposed FY2022 budget requests research and development funding for continued
work on SSLs, but proposes suspending further work on the EMRG and GLGP programs and
requests no research and development funding for them.
The issue for Congress is whether to approve, reject, or modify the Navy’s acquisition strategies
and funding requests for these three potential new weapons. Congress’s decisions on this issue
could affect future Navy capabilities and funding requirements and the defense industrial base.
This report supersedes an earlier CRS report that provided an introduction to potential Navy
shipboard lasers.2
Scope of Report
This report focuses on Navy efforts to develop SSLs, EMRG, and GLGP for potential use in
defending Navy surface ships against surface craft, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), and anti-
ship missiles. It should be noted, though, that Navy surface ships could use SSLs, EMRG, and
GLGP for performing other missions; that SSLs are being developed by multiple parts of the
Department of Defense (DOD), not just the Navy;3 and that SSLs, railguns, and GLGP have
potential application to military aircraft and ground forces equipment, not just surface ships.
Background
Strategic and Budgetary Context
Concern about Survivability of Navy Surface Ships
Although Navy surface ships have a number of means for defending themselves against surface
craft, UAVs, and anti-ship missiles,4 some observers are concerned about the survivability of

1 Railgun is also spelled as rail gun; EMRG is also abbreviated as EM railgun.
2 CRS Report R41526, Navy Shipboard Lasers for Surface, Air, and Missile Defense: Background and Issues for
Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke. This earlier CRS report has been archived and remains available as a supplementary
reference source on potential Navy shipboard lasers.
3 For a discussion of Army laser development programs, see CRS Report R45098, U.S. Army Weapons-Related
Directed Energy (DE) Programs: Background and Potential Issues for Congress
, by Andrew Feickert.
4 These include the following: operating ships in ways that make it hard for others to detect and accurately track Navy
ships; jamming or destroying enemy targeting sensors; interfering with the transmission of targeting data from sensors
to weapon launchers; attacking missile launchers (which can be land-based launchers, ships, submarines, or aircraft);
and countering missiles and UAVs headed toward Navy ships. Navy measures for countering missiles and UAVs
headed toward Navy ships include the following: jamming a missile’s or UAV’s sensor or guidance system; using
decoys of various kinds to lure enemy missiles away from Navy ships; and shooting down enemy missiles and UAVs
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Navy surface ships in potential combat situations against adversaries, such as China, that are
armed with large numbers of UAVs and anti-ship missiles, including advanced models.5 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. Views on whether
Navy surface ships can adequately defend themselves against UAVs and anti-ship missiles might
influence perspectives on whether it would be cost effective to spend money on the procurement
and operation of such ships.
Depth of Magazine and Cost Exchange Ratio
Two key limitations that Navy surface ships currently have in defending themselves against
UAVs and anti-ship missiles are limited depth of magazine and unfavorable cost exchange ratios.
Limited depth of magazine refers to the fact that Navy surface ships can use surface-to-air
missiles (SAMs) and their Close-in Weapon System (CIWS) Gatling guns to shoot down only a
certain number of enemy UAVs and anti-ship missiles before running out of SAMs and CIWS
ammunition6—a situation (sometimes called “going Winchester”) that can require a ship to
withdraw from battle, spend time travelling to a safe reloading location (which can be hundreds
of miles away),7 and then spend more time traveling back to the battle area.
Unfavorable cost exchange ratios refer to the fact that a SAM used to shoot down a UAV or anti-
ship missile can cost the Navy more (perhaps much more) to procure than it cost the adversary to
build or acquire the UAV or anti-ship missile. Procurement costs for Navy air-defense missiles
range from several hundred thousand dollars to a few million dollars per missile, depending on
the type. In combat scenarios against an adversary with a limited number of UAVs or anti-ship
missiles, an unfavorable cost exchange ratio can be acceptable because it saves the lives of Navy
sailors and prevents very expensive damage to Navy ships. But in combat scenarios (or an
ongoing military capabilities competition) against a country such as China that has many UAVs
and anti-ship missiles and a capacity for building or acquiring many more, an unfavorable cost
exchange ratio can become a very expensive—and potentially unaffordable—approach to
defending Navy surface ships against UAVs and anti-ship missiles, particularly in a context of
constraints on U.S. defense spending and competing demands for finite U.S. defense funds.

with surface-to-air missiles and the Phalanx Close-In Weapon System (CIWS), which is essentially a radar-controlled
Gatling gun. Employing all these measures reflects a long-standing Navy approach of creating a multi-layered defense
against enemy missiles, and of attacking the enemy’s “kill chain” at multiple points so as to increase the chances of
breaking the chain. (The kill chain is the sequence of steps that an enemy must complete to conduct a successful missile
attack on a Navy ship. Interfering with any step in the sequence can break the kill chain and thereby prevent or defeat
the attack.)
5 For more on China’s anti-ship missiles and UAVs, see CRS Report RL33153, China Naval Modernization:
Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities—Background and Issues for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke. Enemy missiles
are not the only reasons that some observers are concerned about the future survivability of U.S. Navy surface ships in
combat situations; observers are also concerned about threats to U.S. Navy surface ships posed by small boats, mines,
and torpedoes.
6 Navy cruisers have 122 missile cells; Navy destroyers have 90 or 96 missile cells. Some of these cells are used for
storing and launching Tomahawk land attack cruise missiles or anti-submarine rockets. The remainder are available for
storing and launching SAMs. A Navy cruiser or destroyer might thus be armed with a few dozen or several dozen
SAMs for countering missiles and UAVs. Countering missiles and UAVs with SAMs might sometimes require
shooting two SAMs at each enemy missile.
7 The missile cells on a Navy cruiser or destroyers are clustered together in an installation called a Vertical Launch
System (VLS). VLS cells cannot be reloaded while the ship is underway; a ship needs to return to a port or a calm
anchorage to reload its VLS.
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SSLs, EMRG, and GLGP offer a potential for dramatically improving depth of magazine and the
cost exchange ratio
Depth of magazine. SSLs are electrically powered, drawing their power from
the ship’s overall electrical supply, and can be fired over and over, indefinitely, as
long as the laser continues to work and the ship has fuel to generate electricity.
EMRG projectiles and GLGPs can be stored by the hundreds in a Navy surface
ship’s weapon magazine.
Cost exchange ratio. Depending on its beam power, an SSL can be fired for an
estimated marginal cost of $1 to less than $10 per shot (much of which simply is
the cost of the fuel needed to generate the electricity used in the shot),8 while
GLGP reportedly had an estimated unit procurement cost in 2018 of about
$85,000.9
SSLs that have enough beam power to counter small boats and UAVs, but not enough to counter
anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs), could nevertheless indirectly improve a ship’s ability to
counter ASCMs by permitting the ship to use fewer of its SAMs for countering UAVs, and more
of them for countering ASCMs. Similarly, even though GLGPs fired from 5-inch powder guns
might not be able to counter anti-ship ballistic missiles (ASBMs), they could indirectly improve a
ship’s ability to counter ASBMs by permitting the ship to use fewer of its SAMs for countering
ASCMs and more of its SAMs for countering ASBMs.
Solid State Lasers (SSLs)
Overview
The Navy in recent years has leveraged both significant advancements in industrial SSLs and
decades of research and development work on military lasers done by other parts of DOD to
make substantial progress toward deploying high-energy lasers (HELs)10 on Navy surface ships.
Navy surface ships would use high-energy SSLs initially for jamming or confusing (i.e.,
“dazzling”) intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors, for countering small
boats and UAVs, and potentially in the future for countering enemy anti-ship missiles as well.
High-energy SSLs on Navy ships would generally be short-range defensive weapons—they
would generally counter targets at ranges of about one mile to perhaps eventually a few miles.
In addition to a low marginal cost per shot and deep magazine, potential advantages of shipboard
lasers include fast engagement times, an ability to counter radically maneuvering missiles, an
ability to conduct precision engagements, and an ability to use lasers for graduated responses
ranging from detecting and monitoring targets to causing disabling damage. Potential limitations
of shipboard lasers relate to line of sight; atmospheric absorption, scattering, and turbulence
(which prevent shipboard lasers from being all-weather weapons); an effect known as thermal

8 Source: Navy information paper on shipboard lasers dated October 20, 2021, provided to CRS by Navy Office of
Legislative Affairs on November 17, 2021.
9 Sources for cost figure for GLGP: Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “$86,000 + 5,600 MPH = Hyper Velocity Missile
Defense,” Breaking Defense, January 26, 2018; Jared Keller, “The U.S. Military Has a New ‘Bullet’ That Attacks At
Mach Six (with 100 Mile Range),” National Interest, February 3, 2018.
10 In discussions of potential Navy shipboard lasers, a high-energy laser is generally considered to be a laser with a
beam power of at least 10 kilowatts (kW). In addition to developing SSLs, the Navy has also performed research and
development work on a different kind of laser, called the free electron laser (FEL). For background information on the
FEL, see CRS Report R41526, Navy Shipboard Lasers for Surface, Air, and Missile Defense: Background and Issues
for Congress
, by Ronald O'Rourke.
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blooming that can reduce laser effectiveness; countering saturation attacks; possible adversary
use of hardened targets and countermeasures; and risk of collateral damage, including damage to
aircraft and satellites and permanent damage to human eyesight, including blinding. These
potential advantages and limitations are discussed in greater detail in the Appendix.
Earlier Developments
Earlier developments in the Navy’s efforts to develop high-energy SSLs include the following:
 Between 2009 and 2012, the Navy successfully tested a prototype SSL called the
Laser Weapon System (LaWS) against UAVs in a series of engagements that took
place initially on land and subsequently on a Navy ship at sea. LaWS had a
reported beam power of 30 kilowatts (kW).11
 Between 2010 and 2011, the Navy tested another prototype SSL called the
Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD) in a series of tests that culminated with an
MLD installed on a Navy ship successfully engaging a small boat.
 In August 2014, the Navy installed LaWS on the USS Ponce (pronounced pon-
SAY)—a converted amphibious ship that operated in the Persian Gulf as an
interim Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB[I])12—to conduct evaluation of
shipboard lasers in an operational setting against swarming boats and swarming
UAVs (Figure 1 and Figure 2).
 In December 2014, the Navy declared LaWS on the Ponce to be an “operational”
system.13 Ponce remained in the Persian Gulf until it was relieved in September
2017 by its replacement, the new-construction Expeditionary Sea Base ship
Lewis B. Puller (ESB-3). Ponce returned to the United States and was
decommissioned in October 2017, at which point LaWS was removed from
Ponce. LaWS is to be refurbished to serve as a land-based test asset for the
HELIOS effort discussed below.14

11 See, for example, Mike McCarthy, “Navy Authorized To Use Ship-Based Laser In Battle,” Defense Daily, December
11, 2014: 3.
12 As an interim AFSB, Ponce operated in the Persian Gulf as a “mother ship” for Navy helicopter and small boat
operations. Ships referred to as AFSBs are now referred to as Expeditionary Sea Base ships (ESBs).
13 Mike McCarthy, “Navy Authorized To Use Ship-Based Laser In Battle,” Defense Daily, December 11, 2014: 3; Sam
LaGrone, “U.S. Navy Allowed to Use Persian Gulf Laser for Defense,” USNI News, December 10, 2014; Philip Ewing,
“Navy Declares Laser Weapon ‘Operational,’” Politico Pro (Pro Defense Report), December 10, 2014; Statement of
Rear Admiral Mathias W. Winter, United States Navy, Chief of Naval Research, Before the Emerging Threats and
Capabilities Subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee on The Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Request,
February 24, 2016, p. 15.
14 Source: Navy briefing to CRS and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on SNLWS program, April 27, 2018. For
additional discussion of LaWS, see U.S. Navy, U.S. Navy Program Guide 2017, pp. 180-181, which refers to LaWS as
the SSL-QRC (solid state laser—quick reaction capability).
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Figure 1. Laser Weapon System (LaWS) on USS Ponce

Source: Navy photograph dated November 16, 2014, accompanying David Smalley, “Historic Leap: Navy
Shipboard Laser Operates in Arabian Gulf,” Navy News Service, December 10, 2014.
Figure 2. Laser Weapon System (LaWS) on USS Ponce

Source: Navy photograph dated November 17, 2014, accompanying David Smalley, “Historic Leap: Navy
Shipboard Laser Operates in Arabian Gulf,” Navy News Service, December 10, 2014.
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Development Roadmap
The Navy is developing SSLs with improved capability for countering surface craft and UAVs,
and eventually a capability for countering ASCMs. Navy efforts to develop these more-capable
lasers (Figure 3) include
 the Solid State Laser Technology Maturation (SSL-TM) effort;
 the Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN);
 the Surface Navy Laser Weapon System (SNLWS) Increment 1, also known as
the high-energy laser with integrated optical dazzler and surveillance (HELIOS);
and
 the High Energy Laser Counter-ASCM Program (HELCAP).
Figure 3. Navy Laser Weapon Development Approach

Source: Navy briefing slide provided by Navy Office of Legislative Affairs to CRS on September 10, 2021.
As shown in Figure 3, first three efforts above are included in what the Navy calls the Navy
Laser Family of Systems (NFLoS). (The fourth NFLoS effort shown in Figure 3, the Ruggedized
High Energy Laser (RHEL) effort, is now completed.) As also shown in Figure 3, under the
Navy’s laser development approach, NFLOS and HELCAP, along with technologies developed
by other parts of DOD, are to support the development of future, more-capable lasers referred to
as SNLWS Increment 2 and SNLWS Increment 3.
An October 29, 2019, press report states
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The Pentagon is pushing to double the power output of lasers, to over 300 kilowatts, so
they can defeat a threat found in arsenals from the Russian army to the Chinese navy to
Iran: cruise missiles.
“The current technology for laser sources is in that 100-150 kw class,” said Frank Peterkin,
a senior scientist at the Office of Naval Research. “It’s not enough. Even if you take all the
other elements of a laser weapon and have them be perfect” – the targeting, the cooling,
the beam control—“we still don’t have enough power. It’s a common enough problem, it
makes sense to [approach] it in a joint fashion,” Peterkin continued. “OSD’s Dr. Karr….
is leading a joint DoD-wide initiative to scale up power levels, because we all need more
power.”…
The Navy, which wants lasers on its ships, is probably the most enthusiastic of all. “The
ability to take on cruise missiles—I’d say that is the predominant goal of the Navy’s current
efforts …using lasers for ship defense against anti-ship cruise missiles,” Peterkin said….
“We talk ad nauseam about power…because it’s the easiest, simplest metric,” Peterkin
said. “It’s certainly necessary but not sufficient.
“We need to understand those targets better,” Peterkin continued, “because the advantage
of a laser weapon is precision, and the disadvantage of a laser weapon is precision.” While
a hit-to-kill missile like the modern Patriot will just crash into the target and smash it, a
laser beam focuses precisely on a specific spot on the target and burns through. If you pick
the wrong spot, you might not damage anything vital. If the spot you picked is tougher than
your intelligence reports or your computer models said it was, you might not do enough
damage in time.
That’s a particularly acute problem with supersonic cruise missiles, whose nose cones are
already reinforced to survive the heat of friction from their rapid progress through the air.
That makes these kinds of cruise missiles largely immune to a laser shooting them from
dead ahead. It’s much more effective for the laser to shoot the incoming cruise missile from
the side, which in turn means the laser shouldn’t be positioned right on top of the target,
but nearby – for example on an escorting warship.
That’s why the service envisions its Surface Navy Laser Weapon System evolving in three
stages, Peterkin said:
- Increment 1 is the 60 kW HELIOS laser being installed on ships to destroy
drones and cripple small attack craft;
- Increment 2 will ramp up the power enough to take side shots against cruise
missiles, so a ship with it installed can use it to defend other ships nearby, but not
itself; and
- Increment 3 will be still more powerful, able to burn through the nose-cone in a
head-on shot, allowing a ship with it installed to defend itself.15
SSL-TM
The Navy’s FY2022 budget submission states that the SSL Technology Maturation (SSL-TM)
program “is developing an integrated Laser Weapons System Demonstrator (LWSD). SSL-TM
will provide a new capability to the Fleet to address known capability gaps against asymmetric
threats (UAS [unmanned aerial systems], small boats, and ISR sensors) and will inform future

15 Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “Lasers To Kill Cruise Missiles Sought By Navy, Air Force, Army,” Breaking Defense,
October 29, 2019.
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acquisition strategies, system designs, integration architectures, and fielding plans for laser
weapon systems.”16
The Navy announced in January 2018 that it intended to install LWSD on Portland.17 Under the
Navy’s FY2021 budget submission, the demonstration on Portland was to continue through
FY2022, and the system was to be de-installed in early FY2023.18
Industry teams led by BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon, among others, competed
to develop an LWSD with a beam power of up to 150 kW. On October 22, 2015, DOD announced
that it had selected Northrop Grumman as the winner of the SSL-TM competition.19
Figure 4 is an Office of Naval Research (ONR) graphic illustration of the SSL-TM system and its
components if it were installed installed on the Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship (the ex-USS Paul
F. Foster
[DD-964], an old Spruance [DD-963] class destroyer). Figure 5 is a Navy graphic
illustration of the SSL-TM system on Portland.
Figure 4. ONR Graphic of SSL-TM Laser System
Artist’s rendering of installation on Navy’s Self Defense Test Ship

Source: Slide from February 2016 ONR briefing to CRS on SSL-TM program, received from Navy Office of
Legislative Affairs February 26, 2016.

16 Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Budget Estimates, Navy Justification Book Volume 1 of 5, Research,
Development, Test & Evaluation, Navy
, May 2021, p. 442.
17 Megan Eckstein, “LPD Portland Will Host ONR Laser Weapon Demonstrator, Serve as RIMPAC 2018 Flagship,”
USNI News, January 10, 2018; Richard Abott, “Next Navy Amphib Will Feature Laser Weapon Demo, Chosen As
Flagship For RIMPAC 2018,” Defense Daily, January 11, 2018.
18 Department of Defense Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 Budget Estimates, Navy, Justification Book Volume 2 of 5, Research,
Development, Test & Evaluation, Navy
, February 2020, p. 191.
19 DOD contract award announcements for October 22, 2015. See also “US Navy Selects Northrop Grumman to Design
and Produce Shipboard Laser Weapon System Demonstrator,” December 22, 2015. See also Richard Scott, “Northrop
Grumman To Build on MLD for SSL Demonstrator,” IHS Jane’s International Defence Review, February 2016: 5;
Michael Fabey and Kris Osborn, “Navy to Fire 150Kw Ship Laser Weapon From Destroyers, Carriers,” Scout Warrior,
January 23, 2017.
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Figure 5. Navy Graphic of SSL-TM Laser System
Artist’s rendering of installation on USS Portland

Source: Navy briefing slide accompanying Tyler Rogoway, “Mysterious Object Northrop Is Barging From
Redondo Beach Is A High-Power Naval Laser,” The Drive, October 18, 2019. The blog post credits the slide to
the Navy and describes it as a “recent slide.”
An October 18, 2019, blog post included photographs (Figure 6, Figure 7, and Figure 8) of a
device the blog post identified as the SSL-TM laser being transported from Redondo Beach to
San Diego for installation on Portland.20

20 Tyler Rogoway, “Mysterious Object Northrop Is Barging From Redondo Beach Is A High-Power Naval Laser,” The
Drive
, October 18, 2019.
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Figure 6. Reported SSL-TM Laser Being Transported

Source: Photograph accompanying Tyler Rogoway, “Mysterious Object Northrop Is Barging From Redondo
Beach Is A High-Power Naval Laser,” The Drive, October 18, 2019. The photograph is a cropped version of a
photograph printed in ful elsewhere in the blog post. The uncropped version is credited to “Matt
Hartman/ShoreAloneFilms.com.”
Figure 7. Reported SSL-TM Laser Being Transported

Source: Photograph accompanying Tyler Rogoway, “Mysterious Object Northrop Is Barging From Redondo
Beach Is A High-Power Naval Laser,” The Drive, October 18, 2019. The photograph is credited to “KABC CH7
Screencap.”
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Figure 8. Reported SSL-TM Laser Being Transported

Source: Photograph accompanying Tyler Rogoway, “Mysterious Object Northrop Is Barging From Redondo
Beach Is A High-Power Naval Laser,” The Drive, October 18, 2019. The photograph is credited to “Matt
Hartman/ShoreAloneFilms.com.”
A March 1, 2020, press report stated
The amphibious transport dock USS Portland (LPD 27) was fitted in the fall of 2019 with
a new, 150-kilowatt weapon developed by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and
Northrop Grumman. The weapon, part of the Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation
(SSL-TM) effort, is significantly more powerful than the 33 kW Laser Weapon System
(LaWS) installed in 2014 aboard the now-decommissioned afloat forward staging base ship
Ponce (AFSB 15).
The laser aboard Portland is installed forward in the ship in a trunk structure originally
intended for a never-fitted vertical launch system. The LPD was selected because the ship
had the space and weight capacity along with already-installed electrical cables to ease the
laser installation.
The SSL-TM laser is in a trainable mounting with a clear field of fire forward and to about
65 degrees abaft each beam. No publicly available images of the weapon firing are yet
known, although the system underwent testing last year on the White Sands Missile Range
in New Mexico.
Portland has been underway since the weapon was installed and in mid-February took part
in Exercise Iron Fist at Camp Pendleton, California, but testing of the laser is expected to
begin later this year. According to the Naval Sea System’s (NAVSEA) Command LPD
program office in late 2018, intentions are for the Portland to deploy with the weapon later
in 2020 after tests are completed, but Navy officials declined to confirm to Defense and
Aerospace Report whether that plan is still in place.
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The 2020 test program for the SSL-TM system aboard Portland was discussed in the
Pentagon’s Fiscal 2021 defense budget request sent to Congress on Feb. 10.
“At-sea testing and experimentation will be conducted with full laser weapon system
demonstrator” during 2020, according to the budget documents. “During this period the
technical performance will be evaluated in various atmospheric and sea state conductions
while conducting operational missions and exercises. Lessons learned from operations and
maintenance will be documented to inform development of future laser weapons systems
development efforts.”
It is not yet clear if the laser will become a permanent feature aboard Portland.21
On May 22, 2020, the Navy announced that Portland had used its LWSD to successfully disable a
UAV in an at-sea test that was conducted on May 16, 2020.22
ODIN
Figure 9 and Figure 10 reportedly show the ODIN system.
Figure 9. Reported ODIN System on USS Stockdale

Source: Photograph accompanying Brett Tingley, “Here’s Our Best Look Yet At The Navy’s New Laser Dazzler
System,” The Drive, July 13, 2021. The photograph as printed in the blog post includes the enlarged inset and the
red arrow. The article credits the photograph (and a similar second photograph used for the inset) to the Navy.
The Navy’s FY2022 budget submission states that
Optical Dazzler Interdictor Navy (ODIN) development provides near-term, directed
energy, shipboard Counter-Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (C-ISR)

21 Christopher P. Cavas, “Lasers Sprout in San Diego,” Defense & Aerospace Report, March 1, 2020.
22 Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs, “USS Portland Conducts Laser Weapon System Demonstrator Test,”
Navy News Service, May 22, 2020. See also Megan Eckstein, “VIDEO: USS Portland Fires Laser Weapon, Downs
Drone in First At-Sea Test,” USNI News, May 22, 2020; Paul McLeary, “US Warship Fries Drone With Powerful New
Laser,” Breaking Defense, May 22, 2020; Geoff Ziezulewicz, “Watch This Ship-mounted Navy Laser Shoot Down a
Drone,” Navy Times, May 26, 2020.
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capabilities to dazzle Unmanned Aerial Systems (UASs) and other platforms that address
urgent operational needs of the Fleet. FY 2018 was the first year of funding which supports
the design, development, procurement and installation of ODIN standalone units over the
FYDP [Future Years Defense Plan], for deployment on DDG 51 Flt IIA surface
combatants. The program supports the nonrecurring engineering, development,
procurement of long lead material, assembly and checkout, system certification, platform
integration/installation and sustainment for these ODIN standalone units.
FY 2022 funds procurement, assembly, checkout, integration, T&E [test and evaluation]
and installation of Unit 6; continues procurement, assembly, checkout, integration and
T&E of Units 7 and 8; and provide Operation & Sustainment (O&S) of Units 1-6.23
Figure 10. Reported ODIN System at Naval Support Facility Dahlgren

Source: Photograph accompanying Brett Tingley, “Here’s Our Best Look Yet At The Navy’s New Laser Dazzler
System,” The Drive, July 13, 2021. The caption to the photo states that it shows “OSIN being tested at Naval
Support Facility Dahlgren [VA] in 2020.” The article credits the photograph to the Navy.
A February 21, 2020, press report stated
The newest weapon in the Navy’s arsenal is a laser dazzler that can stymie enemy drones
threatening surface ships. And now it’s installed aboard an active destroyer.
The system was installed aboard the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer Dewey in November,
but not announced until this week, officials with Naval Sea Systems Command told
Military.com.

23 Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Budget Estimates, Navy Justification Book Volume 2 of 5, Research,
Development, Test & Evaluation, Navy
, May 2021, p. 1021.
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Called Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy, or ODIN, the system is the technological
successor of the Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, a 30-kilowatt laser installed on the
amphibious transport dock Ponce in 2014.…
The capabilities and specifications of ODIN have been closely guarded; a NAVSEA
official declined to share additional information about how the system will be tested or
what it can do….
“Going from an approved idea to installation in two and a half years, ODIN’s install on
Dewey will be the first operational employment of the stand-alone system that functions
as a dazzler,” officials said in a news release. “The system allows the Navy to rapidly
deploy an important, new capability to the Navy’s surface force in combating Unmanned
Aircraft Systems (UAS) threats.”24
A March 1, 2020, press report stated
While the Navy publicized the [ODIN] laser installation aboard [the amphibious ship]
Portland, a similar laser weapon was fitted in more secrecy aboard the destroyer USS
Dewey (DDG 105), which appeared late last year with a different system installed during
a shipyard overhaul.
Little official information was available about the Dewey’s system until Feb. 20, when
NAVSEA issued a release describing the Dewey’s Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy
(ODIN) system as “a laser weapon system that allows a ship to counter unmanned aerial
systems.”
According to the release, the ODIN system was approved in early 2017 based on an urgent
need requirement from US Pacific Command. It was developed by Naval Surface Warfare
Dahlgren, Virginia and installed after two and half years. The system, NAVSEA said, “will
be the first operational employment of the stand-alone system that functions as a dazzler.
The system allows the Navy to rapidly deploy an important, new capability to the Navy’s
surface force in combating Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) threats.”
ODIN is the first operational deployment of a laser dazzler, a Navy official said, adding
that the stand-alone system is equipped with a laser that can temporarily degrade
intelligence-0gathering capabilities of unmanned aerial systems.
Capt. Danny Hernandez, spokesman for the Navy’s acquisition directorate, noted that the
laser can “temporarily degrade intelligence-gathering capabilities of unmanned aerial
systems,” but he did not provide more information about the ODIN system, including its
power, lethality and future plans….
The NAVSEA release notes that, “within the next couple of years, the ODIN program will
have all [ODIN] units operational within the fleet providing a safer and more technically
advanced capability to the US Navy. Lessons learned from ODIN’s installation on Dewey
will inform installation on future vessels and further development and implementation of
Surface Navy Laser Weapon Systems.”…
ODIN is not the first laser system fitted to the Dewey. A prototype LaWS system was
installed on the ship’s flight deck in 2012, but that system, also developed by ONR, was
never intended to be permanent and was removed after tests.25

24 Hope Hodge Seck, “The Navy Has Installed the First Drone-Stopping Laser on a Destroyer,” Military.com, February
21, 2020. See also Justin Katz, “Navy Installs Laser on Destroyer to Counter Unmanned Intelligence Drones,” Inside
Defense
, February 21, 2020.
25 Christopher P. Cavas, “Lasers Sprout in San Diego,” Defense & Aerospace Report, March 1, 2020. See also Kris
Osborn, “New Destroyer-Fired Laser Weapons Might Stop Hypersonic Missile Attacks,” Warrior Maven, March 1,
2020, which was republished as Kris Osborn, “Could Naval Lasers Be The Solution To China’s Hypersonic Missile
Threat?” National Interest, March 7, 2020.
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A May 26, 2020, press report stated
Earlier this year, the Navy installed the first Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN) on
the Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer USS Dewey….
ODIN took just two and a half years for the Navy to move the system from an approved
idea through design, construction and testing to actual installation aboard the Dewey—a
notable achievement in defense program development.
“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,” said Cmdr. David Wolfe, head of the directed energy program within the
Integrated Warfare Systems program executive office….
Bradley Martin, a senior policy researcher at the Rand Corp., said ODIN is not going to be
used like laser weapons you would see in science fiction movies, but rather as something
that would scramble a unmanned aerial vehicle’s optical sensor. UAVs right now aren’t a
threat to attack a ship, so destroying them quickly isn’t necessary.
“Typically, a UAV is not going to be used as a striking kind of weapon,” Martin said.
Instead, the laser would cause a drone to “lose its way” and eventually crash because it
loses the ability to target and navigate. Any adversary using the drone to conduct
surveillance of Navy activities would lose access to that asset.26
An April 7, 2021, press report states:
The Navy continues to learn more about a pair of directed energy weapons, as the service
installs the fourth and fifth dazzler system this year and begins land-based testing of a high-
energy laser weapon, the program executive officer for integrated warfare systems told
USNI News.
The Navy has been in parallel working on an Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN)
program, a nonlethal weapon that can confuse instead of shoot down drones, which will
become part of the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance
(HELIOS) program that Lockheed Martin has been developing since 2018.
“ODIN is unique because it’s a government-designed, -built, -tested, -installed system,
which I think allowed us to go fairly quickly and meet that urgent need that came from the
fleet,” Rear Adm. Seiko Okano told USNI News last week.
ODIN is already installed on three Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers and will
be installed on two more this year and three more in the coming years, for a total of eight
DDGs that will help test out the system during the course of their training and operations,
Okano said.
She said the ODIN capability is definitely something the Navy wants for the fleet—the
ability to counter intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance activities from an adversary
by using a nonlethal dazzler against pesky drones, rather than shooting them down—but
ODIN’s current form factor won’t be the final tool fielded broadly in the fleet.
Testing aboard the eight destroyers will help ensure the whole operational sequence
works—from the sailor detecting an unmanned aerial vehicle to targeting it with the dazzler
to successfully rendering the UAV useless. That capability, once fully tested, will then be
moved over to the HELIOS program to serve as the “optical-dazzler” in the program’s full
name.

26 Daniel P. Taylor, “The ODIN Shipboard Laser: Science Fiction No More,” Seapower, May 26, 2020.
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Okano said much of the Navy’s ODIN team is already collaborating with Lockheed
Martin’s HELIOS team to help ensure a smooth transfer of technology.27
SNLWS Increment 1 (HELIOS)
SNLWS Increment 1 is called HELIOS, an acronym meaning high energy laser with integrated
optical dazzler and surveillance. The HELIOS effort is focused on rapid development and rapid
fielding of a 60 kW-class high-energy laser (with growth potential to 150 kW) and dazzler in an
integrated weapon system, for use in countering UAVs, small boats, and ISR sensors, and for
combat identification and battle damage assessment. The Navy’s FY2022 budget submission
states that
HELIOS provides a low cost-per-shot capability to address Anti-Surface Warfare and
Counter-Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C-ISR) gaps with the ability to
dazzle and destroy Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and defeat Fast Inshore Attack Craft
(FIAC) while integrated into the AEGIS Combat System on a Flt IIA Destroyer. SNLWS
provides industry-developed and government integrated capability to the Fleet in as short
a timeframe as possible, thereby addressing the National Defense Strategy direction to
foster a culture of innovation. SNLWS includes the development of a laser weapon system
in the 60 kW or higher class. Competition was utilized for system development and
production efforts. SNLWS leverages mature technology that will deliver a mature laser
weapon system capability to the Fleet. SNLWS development leverages the Laser Weapon
System (LaWS)/Solid State Laser Quick Reaction Capability (SSL QRC) and Solid State
Laser Technology Maturation (SSL TM)/Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD)
efforts.
The FY 2022 budget provides funding for the executing shipyard and the Alteration
Installation Team (AIT) for completion of Mk 5 Mod 0 HELIOS installation and checkout
in DDG 88 during AEGIS Modification (AMOD) availability; technical engineering
services support during HELIOS installation and checkout, procurement of Installation and
Checkout (INCO) spares required during Stages 1-7 testing during AMOD availability;
procurement/completion of technical manuals; conduct of operations and maintenance, and
operator training; provision of On-Board Repair Parts (OBRPs); shipping/storage of
HELIOS; system repairs during INCO; development of Maintenance Requirement
Cards/Maintenance Index Pages (MRCs/MIPs) and the Allowance Parts List (APL).28
Following a full and open competition based on a request for proposals (RFP) released on June
18, 2017, the Navy on January 26, 2018, awarded Lockheed Martin a $150 million contract for
the development, manufacture, and delivery of two HELIOS systems—one for installation on a
Navy Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class Aegis destroyer, the other for land-based testing—by

27 Megan Eckstein, “Navy Installing More Directed Energy Weapons on DDGs, Conducting Land-Based Laser Testing
This Year,” USNI News, April 7, 2021.
28 Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Budget Estimates, Navy Justification Book Volume 2 of 5, Research,
Development, Test & Evaluation
, Navy, May 2021, p. 1010.
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FY2020.29 The contract includes options for up to 14 additional HELIOS systems that if exercised
could increase the total value of the contract to $942.8 million.30
Figure 11 and Figure 12 show an artist’s renderings of HELIOS installed on a DDG-51.
Figure 11. HELIOS System on DDG-51 Destroyer
Artist’s rendering

Source: Lockheed Martin image taken from “Lockheed Martin Receives $150 Mil ion Contract to Deliver
Integrated High Energy Laser Weapon Systems to U.S. Navy,” Lockheed Martin, March 1, 2018.

29 See DOD contract awards for January 26, 2018 (Release No: CR-017-18, January 26, 2018); “Lockheed Gets $150m
Contract to Install High Energy Laser on a Flight IIA DDG-51 destroyer,” NavalToday.com, January 29, 2018;
Kimberly Underwood, “Navy Selects Lockheed Martin to Deliver Laser Energy Weapon,” Signal, January 30, 2018;
Richard Scott, “Lockheed Martin to Develop HELIOS Laser Weapon for DDG 51 Flight IIA Destroyer,” Jane’s Navy
International
, January 30, 2018; “Lockheed Martin Receives $150 Million Contract to Deliver Integrated High Energy
Laser Weapon Systems to U.S. Navy,” Lockheed Martin, March 1, 2018; Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “First Combat Laser
For Navy Warship: Lockheed HELIOS,” Breaking Defense, March 1, 2018; Jeff Hecht, “Lockheed Martin to Develop
Laser Weapons for U.S. Navy Destroyers,” IEEE Spectrum, March 2, 2018; Justin Bachman, “The Navy Wants a Laser
to Blow Drones Out of the Sky,” March 2, 2018.
30 Richard Abott, “HELIOS Laser To Be First Fully Integrated On U.S. Ship,” Defense Daily, March 5 2018: 10-12.
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Figure 12. HELIOS System on DDG-51 Destroyer
Detail from artist’s rendering

Source: Detail from Lockheed Martin image taken from “Lockheed Martin Receives $150 Mil ion Contract to
Deliver Integrated High Energy Laser Weapon Systems to U.S. Navy,” Lockheed Martin, March 1, 2018.
A March 21, 2019, press report states
The Navy is planning to install the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical-dazzler with
Surveillance (HELIOS) directed energy (DE) system on a DDG-51 Flight IIA destroyer by
FY 2021 as it learns how to integrate laser weapons on its ships, a top official said
Wednesday [March 20].
Rear Adm. Ron Boxall, director of Navy Surface Warfare, called characterized the Navy’s
plans to integrate directed energy weapons as “yes we are going to burn the boats if you
will, and move forward with this technology.”
Boxall said the Navy plans to install a HELIOS system on a West Coast DDG-51 in 2021.
“It’s already POM’ed in there to do that,31 hopefully a West Coast destroyer in ’21,
onboard. We’ll be testing it and then putting it aboard the ship.”
The Lockheed Martin [LMT] HELIOS will consist of a 60-150 kW single laser beam that
can target unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) and small boats. The HELIOS is expected to
be integrated on to a destroyer for its lifetime.
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.

31 This means that the installation was already included in the Program Objective Memorandum (POM), an internal
DOD document that is used to guide the preparation of the next proposed budget that DOD will submit to Congress.
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Boxall said he is confident increased DE power outputs will come, but he is not yet
confident in integrating them into existing combat systems.
“Because if I’m going to burn the boats, I’m going to replace something that I have on
ships today doing that mission with these weapons. And if I do that, I’ve got to be confident
that it’s going to work and it’s going to cover those missions.”
He added that if a ship has a new DE laser weapon that will both sense and kill targets,
“then I have to make sure it integrates with the other things that I have on my ship that can
sense and kill—namely the Aegis weapon system. And so to me the most important aspect
of the integrated laser is its integration into my existing combat system, period.”
While Boxall is confident the Navy can continue to increase laser weapon power on ship,
one major limiting factor is power margin.
The first HELIOS going on a destroyer will go on a Flight IIA ship, but the Flight III as a
downside that it uses almost the same hull but focuses more power generation on the new
AN/SPY-6 Air and Missile Defense Radar (AMDR). The AMDR will better detect air and
missile threats, but “we are out of schlitz with regard to power. We used a lot of power for
that and we don’t have as much” extra for additional functions.
Boxall said to get a HELIOS on a DDG-51 Flight III, the Navy will have to either remove
something or look at “very aggressive power management.” This is part of the calculus in
the successor to the DDG-51, the Large Surface Combatant (LSC)….
Last year, the Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $150 million contract to develop two
HELIOS systems in early 2018, with one to integrate on a DDG-51 and one for land-based
testing….
However, the FY ’19 defense authorization bill restricted the Navy to only one HELIOS
per fiscal year without first receiving a detailed contracting and acquisition strategy report.
The HELIOS will not merely be bolted on the ship, but integrated into its Aegis combat
system to direct the DE weapon….
More recently, in January Lockheed Martin officials said they plan to put HELIOS through
a production design review in 2019….32
A January 13, 2020, press report stated
The Navy will put a laser weapon on a Littoral Combat Ship for the first time this year,
amid efforts to boost the LCS’s lethality and to develop and field a family of laser systems.
USS Little Rock (LCS-9) will receive a laser weapon during its upcoming deployment,
Commander of Naval Surface Forces Vice Adm. Richard Brown told reporters. The ship
will likely deploy to U.S. 4th Fleet, where sister ship USS Detroit is currently operating.
USNI News understands that Little Rock would be taking on a Lockheed Martin-made
150-kilowatt high energy laser, as part of a risk reduction effort between the company, the
Office of Naval Research and the Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare
Systems. The effort would contribute to a larger layered laser defense effort, a source told
USNI News.

32 Rich Abott, “Navy To ‘Burn The Boats’ With Laser For Destroyer In 2021, Needs Bugger LSC For Lasers,” Defense
Daily
, March 21, 2019. See also Sam LaGrone, “Navy Ready to ‘Burn the Boats’ with 2021 Laser Installation on a
Destroyer,” USNI News, March 20, 2019; Kyle Mizokami, “The Navy Plans to Put HELIOS Laser Weapon on
Destroyer by 2021,” Popular Mechanics, March 21, 2019; Justin Katz, “HELIOS Set for Critical Design Review in
2020, Delivery in May 2021,” Inside Defense, May 2, 2019; Marc Selinger, “US Navy Tweaks Destroyer-Based Laser
Effort,” Shephard Media, May 8, 2019.
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The laser weapon would aid the LCS in its surface warfare mission to counter fast-attack
craft and unmanned aerial systems and detect incoming targets….
A source told USNI News that, because Lockheed Martin makes the Freedom-variant LCS,
it was able to design its 150kw laser with the right interfaces and margins in mind to make
it compatible for this kind of at-sea LCS demonstration.33
A March 9, 2020, DOD contract award announcement stated
Lockheed Martin Corp., Baltimore, Maryland, is awarded a $22,436,852 letter contract for
the integration, demonstration, testing and operation of the Layered Laser Defense (LLD)
weapon system prototype onboard a Navy littoral combat ship while that vessel is
underway.… Key areas of work to be performed include development of a prototype
structure and enclosure to protect the LLD from ships motion and maritime environment
in a mission module format; system integration and test with government-furnished
equipment; platform integration and system operational verification and test; systems
engineering; test planning; data collection and analysis support; and operational
demonstration. Work is expected to be complete by July 2021.34
On January 11, 2021, it was reported that Lockheed had delivered its production HELIOS laser to
the Navy for installation on a DDG-51 Flight IIA destroyer later in 2021, and that Lockheed has
found that the system is capable of providing not only self-defense (i.e., defense of the ship on
which it is installed) but also some degree of area defense (i.e., defense of other ships in the
area).35 A January 15, 2021, press report stated:
The Navy this year will be firing a high-energy laser weapon that is fully integrated with
one of its destroyers, which proponents say is a major step toward fielding directed energy
technology.
Joe Ottaviano, Lockheed Martin business development director for advanced product
solutions, said he has heard the adage that battlefield lasers always seem to be “one year
away” from fielding, but asserted that this time is different.
The High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance, or HELIOS, this
year is slated to be permanently deployed aboard a Flight IIA DDG Arleigh Burke
destroyer and integrated with its Aegis combat system.
“We’re delivering a full-end system that actually brings defense capabilities to an area
where there currently isn’t any and exceeds the capability I think we all had in our mind
going forward,” Ottaviano said in a press briefing.
HELIOS is a 60-kilowatt solid-state laser capable of scalable effects, which can “dazzle”
and blind sensors, but at high power it can “put a hole” through unmanned aerial vehicles,
low flying aircraft, and in some cases, missiles, Ottaviano said.
Jason Wrigley, Lockheed’s business development director for naval combat and missile
defense systems, said: “People have been talking about the promise and the possibility of

33 Megan Eckstein, “Littoral Combat Ship Will Field Laser Weapon as Part of Lockheed Martin, Navy Test,” USNI
News
, January 13, 2020.
34 Department of Defense, “Contracts for March 9, 2020.” See also Rich Abott, “Lockheed Martin Nabs $22 Million
Contract For Layered Laser Defense Prototype On LCS,” Defense Daily, March 16, 2020.
35 See for example, Rich Abott, “Lockheed Martin Delivers HELIOS To Navy, Boasts Additional Capability,” Defense
Daily
, January 11, 2021; Jason Sherman, “Lockheed: HELIOS Laser Shows Early Potential for Area Defense;
Exceeding Ship Self-Defense Objective,” Inside Defense, January 11, 2021; Seapower Staff, “Lockheed Martin
Delivers HELIOS Laser Weapon System to Navy for Testing,” Seapower, January 11, 2021; Ed Adamczyk, “Lockheed
Martin Delivers HELIOS Laser Weapon to U.S. Navy,” United Press International, January 11, 2021.

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laser weapon systems for decades. So it’s really exciting for us to finally have reached this
milestone, delivering an integrated laser weapons system into the hands of sailors and as
part of the Aegis weapon system.”
Lockheed Martin went under contract to deliver the integrated system in 2018. It spent
2020 carrying out a critical design review and factory qualification tests.36
An April 7, 2021, press report states that
[Rear Adm. Seiko Okano] said HELIOS began land-based testing a few weeks ago and
will be installed on destroyer USS Preble (DDG-88) in December.
Unlike ODIN, which is a bolt-on capability, HELIOS is fully integrated into the ship’s
combat system and will be more complicated to install but also more capable due to the
integration.
The land-based testing is meant to ensure the integration with the combat system is holding
up and to work out any kinks early on, as well as to make sure the laser itself is meeting its
requirements.
Once installed on Preble, there will be a lot of work to do to ensure the system is intuitive
for sailors to use and is ruggedized enough to handle a maritime operating environment….
Asked whether HELIOS will be the directed energy system of the future for the fleet or if
it’s too soon to tell, Okano said it will depend how lethal the laser beam proves to be during
upcoming testing….
Okano said the Navy had a lot of support from the research and development community
and from all the military services who are collectively trying to work through high-power
laser weapon challenges together. She said the Navy is on a natural path to get there,
increasing the capability of its directed energy systems with each new product it fields for
testing—but it’s unclear yet if HELIOS can go the distance and provide that cruise missile
defense capability for the fleet or if it will be an intermediate step on the way to that final
vision.37
HELCAP
The Navy’s FY2022 budget submission states that
Defeating Anti-Ship Cruise Missiles (ASCMs) with a laser weapon system presents several
technical challenges (e.g. high atmospheric turbulence, target acquisition and
identification, target tracking, aim point maintenance, automatic aim point placement, jitter
control). The High Energy Laser Counter ASCM Project (HELCAP) will assess, develop,
experiment, and demonstrate the various laser weapon system technologies and methods
of implementation (e.g. laser sources, mission analysis, lethality, advanced beam control
with atmospheric mitigation, target and tracking sensors, control systems) required to
defeat ASCMs in a crossing engagement.
FY2022 funding will provide for systems engineering, mission analysis, complete
integration of major components of a HELCAP prototype system, and perform beam
control tracker and adaptive optics experimentation and demonstrations. Planning and

36 Stew Magnuson, “Navy to Fully Integrate Laser into Aegis Combat System (Updated),” National Defense, February
15, 2021.
37 Megan Eckstein, “Navy Installing More Directed Energy Weapons on DDGs, Conducting Land-Based Laser Testing
This Year,” USNI News, April 7, 2021.
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preparations for FY2023 system experimentation and ASCM detect to defeat
demonstrations utilizing the prototype system will also continue.38
Remaining Development Challenges
In addition to achieving higher beam powers, developing high-energy SSLs for surface ship self-
defense poses a number of other technical challenges, including those noted in the passage about
HELCAP that is quoted above.
Skeptics sometimes note that proponents of high-energy military lasers over the years have made
numerous predictions about when lasers might enter service with DOD, and that these predictions
repeatedly have not come to pass. Viewing this record of unfulfilled predictions, skeptics have
sometimes stated, half-jokingly, that “lasers are X years in the future—and always will be.”
Laser proponents acknowledge the record of past unfulfilled predictions, but argue that the
situation has now changed because of rapid advancements in SSL technology and a shift from
earlier ambitious goals (such as developing megawatt-power lasers for countering targets at tens
or hundreds of miles) to more realistic goals (such as developing kilowatt-power lasers for
countering targets at no more than a few miles). Laser proponents might argue that laser skeptics
are vulnerable to what might be called cold plate syndrome (i.e., a cat that sits on a hot plate will
not sit on a hot plate again—but it will not sit on a cold plate, either).
Electromagnetic Railgun (EMRG) and Gun-Launched Guided
Projectile (GLGP)

FY2022 Budget Proposes Suspending Further Work on EMRG and GLGP
The Navy’s proposed FY2022 budget proposes suspending further work on the EMRG and
GLGP programs and requests no research and development funding for them. A June 4, 2021,
press report states:
The clock seems to be running out for the Navy’s much-hyped electromagnetic railgun
after the service closed down development on the hypervelocity round it was meant to fire
in order to make room for new programs. An overview of the White House’s fiscal 2022
budget request notes that the gun-launched guided projectile, previously called the
hypervelocity projectile, has been canceled, for a savings of $5.9 million.
“[The Department of the Navy] terminated the Gun-Launched Guided Projectile Research
and Development effort,” the document states. “Potential reinvestment in the program will
be reevaluated after an ongoing Strategic Capabilities Officer demonstration effort in
Terminal Defense Analysis is complete.”39
A July 2, 2021, press report states:
The Navy has announced that it is pulling funds from the much-hyped electromagnetic
railgun in order to shift those monetary resources to hypersonic missiles and other high-
tech weapons….
“Given fiscal constraints, combat system integration challenges and the prospective
technology maturation of other weapon concepts, the Navy decided to pause research and

38 Department of Defense, Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Budget Estimates, Navy Justification Book Volume 2 of 5, Research,
Development, Test & Evaluation, Navy
, May 2021, p. 995.
39 Hope Hodge Seck, “It May Be the End of the Line for the Navy’s Hypervelocity Projectile,” Military.com, June 4,
2021.
Congressional Research Service

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link to page 28 link to page 29 link to page 29 Navy Lasers, Railgun, and Gun-Launched Guided Projectile

development of the Electromagnetic Railgun [EMRG] at the end of 2021,” the statement
from the Navy said….
The end of the railgun program was foreshadowed last month when a White House fiscal
budget for 2022 revealed the Navy pulled funding for the Gun-Launched Guided
Projectile—a meter-long projectile first developed exclusively as a round for the
experimental railgun.
“The decision to pause the EMRG program is consistent with department-wide reform
initiatives to free up resources in support of other Navy priorities [and] to include
improving offensive and defensive capabilities such as directed energy, hypersonic
missiles and electronic warfare systems,” the Navy’s statement said.40
EMRG
As shown in Figure 13, the Navy began developing EMRG in 2005, following preliminary
studies dating back to 2001, and Navy expenditures for railgun development between 2005 and
2021 totaled $954.6 million. As also shown in the figure, Navy expenditures for HVP
development between 2012 and 2019 totaled an additional $141.9 million. These figures do not
include expenditures by other parts of DOD, such as the Strategic Capabilities Office (SCO)
within the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
EMRG is cannon that uses electricity rather than chemical propellants (i.e., gunpowder charges)
to fire a projectile.41 In EMRG, “magnetic fields created by high electrical currents accelerate a
sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at [speeds of] 4,500
mph to 5,600 mph,”42 or roughly Mach 5.9 to Mach 7.4 at sea level.43 Like SSLs, EMRG draws
its power from the ship’s overall electrical supply.44
The Navy originally began developing EMRG as a naval surface fire support (NSFS) weapon for
supporting U.S. Marines operating ashore, but subsequently determined that the weapon also had
potential for defending against missiles, which for a time strengthened Navy interest in EMRG
development.45
Following tests with early Navy-built EMRG prototypes, the Navy funded the development of
two industry-built EMRG prototype demonstrators, one by BAE Systems and the other by
General Atomics (see Figure 14 and Figure 15). The two industry-built prototypes were designed