The US Navy has created and is developing a new laser weapon

Destroyer USS Dewey (DDG-105) with experimental complex ODIN

The US Navy is showing great interest in laser weapons, and another project of this kind has been brought to the test on a carrier ship. The ODIN project takes into account the experience of previous developments and is intended to solve other problems. Now we are talking about other principles of counteraction and defeat – with the provision of broad combat capabilities.

New development

The new Optical Dazzling Interceptor, Navy (ODIN) project was created by the Dahlgren Division of the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC). Work commenced in FY18, with early reports of the project coming later. At the same time, most of the information about the ODIN system has not been disclosed until recently.

It should be recalled that this is not the first time that the NSWC has dealt with shipborne lasers. In the early tenths, he developed and launched the AN / SEQ-3 LaWS shipborne combat laser for testing. This system did not suit the Navy, which is why it did not enter service. At the same time, a lot of experience was accumulated in the creation of combat lasers, which they decided to use in the next project.

In November last year, an interesting photo appeared on profile resources. It captured the destroyer USS Dewey (DDG-105) with a new unknown device in front of the superstructure. Later, new photos were published, incl. better quality. At the beginning, the Navy did not comment on these publications in any way and did not disclose information about the modernization of the ship.

At the end of February this year, an official press release revealed some of the information about the new project. It was claimed that the destroyer was equipped with an optical-electronic suppression complex (COEP) of the ODIN type – the first system of this class created for the US Navy. The performance characteristics were not specified, but the main tasks were indicated. With the help of the new KOEP, the ship will be protected from unmanned aerial vehicles and some other threats.

Combat module ODIN without part of the equipment

For FY2021 construction of several new experimental products and their subsequent tests are planned. Based on their results, conclusions will be drawn about the real characteristics and capabilities of the complex – and a decision has been made to launch production to equip other ships of the Navy.

Notable features

Not so long ago, representatives of the command of the Navy visited the Dahlgren Division of the NSWC, and several photographs were attached to the official announcement. On them the ODIN COEP is shown on the stand and without optics. In addition, a demonstration stand was caught in the lens, which indicated the product index – A / N SEQ-4 (this is probably an error, and the correct spelling is AN / SEQ-4). It also provided data on the combat module, but not on the laser.

The ODIN module is built on a compact platform mounted on a suitable deck or superstructure area. There is a set of cables for power supply and control – they must be connected to the general ship systems of the carrier and to the devices of the information and control system. A U-shaped slewing support is mounted on the platform, holding the unit with laser emitters. The design of the module provides laser guidance in two planes.

The block of emitters has a rectangular shape and rather large dimensions – the laser is placed inside it. There are several lenses of different sizes on the front wall. This shows that the laser is guided using the complex’s own optics. Perhaps this KOEP can also work on target designation of other shipborne vehicles.

Secret laser

The type of laser used and its characteristics are unknown. In this context, we should recall the features of the previous project. The complex from NSWC, AN / SEQ-3 LaWS, included a solid-state infrared laser with a radiation power of up to 30 kW. This was enough to inflict damage on light boats or UAVs.

US Navy Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday examines the design of the combat module

By changing the radiation power, it was possible to burn through structural elements or disable optoelectronic systems. The “shot” of the laser, regardless of the power, was distinguished by its extremely low cost, which favorably distinguished it from missiles and cannons. At the same time, tests showed that LaWS does not always cope with the most difficult combat missions – it lacked power, and atmospheric phenomena reduced the transfer of energy to the target.

It cannot be ruled out that the new draft A / N SEQ-4 provides for the application of some solutions and / or components from the previous AN / SEQ-3. Despite the problems with “burning through” targets, the LaWS complex coped well with their “blinding”. The new ODIN project provides only for optoelectronic suppression, which reduces the requirements for its emitting means. Thus, the process of creating a new COEC could do without developing a fundamentally new laser while obtaining the desired characteristics and capabilities.

Expected future

So far, the ODIN COEP exists in only a few copies, and only one of them is installed on the carrier ship. In the near future, it will undergo tests that will determine the further fate of the entire project. First of all, the units of the combat module will be tested. Then the testing of optics and laser will begin.

They plan to spend no more than two years on testing and fine-tuning the A / N SEQ-4. After that, the Navy wants to get new systems and install them on carriers. In the future, a full-scale series with mass equipment of surface ships is expected. This will strengthen the protection of the fleet against all current threats.

At the helm

Current tests show that it is in principle possible to install ODIN COEP on Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Apparently, integration on ships and vessels of the US Navy of all major types is possible. Given the successes achieved, the command highly appreciates the new development. The Navy hopes that during the tests it will show its best side, it will come to service and increase the defensive potential of the ships.

Goals and tasks

The launch of the ODIN project is directly related to the development of unmanned aircraft and high-precision weapons. Fighting such threats with firepower is proving to be quite difficult and expensive, which requires alternative solutions. Lasers have a high potential in this context.

Reconnaissance and strike UAVs, as well as some types of guided weapons, carry optics of different ranges. Suppressing the camera or homing head does not immediately destroy the missile or drone, but makes them safe for the ship or the warrant as a whole.

The proposed complex is not simple or cheap, but has other advantages. Basically, these are positive features inherent in all combat lasers, namely the cheapness of the “shot”, the absence of the need to store ammunition, the simplicity of calculating the data for the “firing”, etc.

The ODIN product should only disable the optics, which reduces the requirements for laser power and exposure time. In addition, the effective use of the complex is not excluded due to difficult weather conditions, although the range and power should be reduced.

For all its advantages, the A / N SEQ-4 laser COEP cannot be the only means of protecting a surface ship or boat. At the same time, the use of such a complex together with missiles and artillery will significantly strengthen the ship’s defense, ensuring the defeat of individual targets without the expense of expensive ammunition. At the same time, traditional fire weapons will remain the basis of the ship’s air defense.

Suppression instead of destruction

The previous ship-based combat laser, created to destroy surface or air targets, showed itself not in the best way and did not cope with all the assigned tasks. As a result, the US Navy closed the LaWS project and replaced it with the new ODIN. At the moment, the new development looks quite interesting and, most likely, has certain prospects.

However, while the COEP A / N SEQ-4 ODIN exists only in the form of a few prototypes, one of which is being tested on the carrier. They plan to spend about two years on further work, after which the KOEP will be able to enter service. Time will tell whether it will be possible to meet these deadlines and solve all the assigned tasks.

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