An improved version of the HELIOS high energy laser weapon, seen here aboard the USS Ponce, was delivered by Lockheed Martin to the U.S. Navy. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy
Jan. 11 (UPI) -- A long-awaited seaborne defensive laser weapon system known as HELIOS was delivered to the U.S. Navy for testing, builder Lockheed Martin announced on Monday.
The Navy is scheduled to test the 60kw High Energy Laser with Integrated Optical-dazzler and Surveillance, or HELIOS later this year, and will go to sea aboard an unnamed guided missile destroyer assigned to the Pacific Fleet.
HELIOS, designed in a $150 million contract with Lockheed Martin, is designed to "burn the boats," or unmanned drones, with a high-energy laser beam.
It follows a 2019 demonstration of laser power, although with half the wattage of the device announced on Monday, aboard the amphibious transport dock USS Ponce.
The scalable laser design architecture combines multiple kilowatt fiber lasers to attain high beam quality at various power levels, according to Lockheed officials.
HELIOS was designed as a weapon capable of burning small speed boats, notably of the type the Iranian military deploys in armed groups, as well as unmanned aerial vehicles.
It can also merely "dazzle" a UAV's electro-optical sensors, damaging them and preventing them from performing their missions.
The system can be used as an alternative to firing missiles or other projectiles at enemy craft, and can theoretically fire an unlimited number of laser blasts at targets.
HELIOS is one of a number of laser weapons the Navy is currently working to develop.