It’s not exactly a blaster rifle, but the US Navy has a laser weapon that can provide valuable defensive cover for boats in the fleet.
The Navy posted this image of the Virginia-class submarine USS Minnesota on July 26, but the photo dates to December 2019. The story is about an award given to the crew of the nuclear-powered attack sub, but it’s the man in the photo kneeling on top of the boat’s sail who happened to have the laser dazzler for the shot.
According to The Drive, the weapon is a Glare LA-9P, built by BE Meyers & Co, a weapon with a range of 2.5 miles. The device can be used to get the attention of a craft approaching the US Navy boat or it can be used to “dazzle” the optical systems of a drone or the eyes of a person attempting to take aim at the sub or ship. It even includes a special device to prevent it from hitting someone’s eyes with an intensity that could cause permanent damage.
According to the company, the Glare LA-9P packs a 250-milliwatt beam. A handout on dazzlers from the Department of Defense shows what it might be like to be hit by one of the devices, and the document includes a photo of a laser dazzler on top of a humvee, showing some of the diverse ways in which the Pentagon might seek to use one.
A laser dazzler is far from the first nonlethal weapon US Navy ships have sought to use to deter unwelcome approachers. The long-range acoustic device (LRAD) sound cannon now most commonly used by US police against protesters was initially designed by the US Navy as a defensive weapon for its warships after a suicide bomber on a small water craft blew a hole in the side of the destroyer USS Cole when it was moored in Yemen’s Aden harbor in 2000, killing 15 sailors and injuring 39.
US Navy ships will soon pack their own larger, more powerful optical dazzlers, too. Frank Peterkin, the senior technologist for directed energy at the Office of Naval Research, said earlier this month the Navy wants to have eight warships equipped with the Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN) laser defense system by 2023.
ODIN has already been mounted on one US warship, the destroyer USS Dewey. Like the smaller dazzler the rifle, it will be used to jam the optical sensors on drones, but the Navy hopes it can throw off the targeting systems on cruise missiles, too. However, Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) has been very tight-lipped about ODIN’s capabilities, Sputnik noted.
The Navy is also working on a host of more powerful laser systems that might one day be able to shoot down drones and missiles, with the goal of introducing a 150-kilowatt weapon in the form of the High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance (HELIOS) or the Laser Weapons System Demonstrator (LWSD).