The U.S. Navy’s Arleigh Burke class destroyer USS Preble is now armed with a High-Energy Laser with Integrated Optical Dazzler and Surveillance system, or HELIOS. Preble is the first of the service’s ships to be equipped with HELIOS, which is a 60-kilowatt class directed energy laser weapon, and is also the first to have any such weapon integrated with the Aegis combat system. The destroyer joins a small, but growing number of Navy vessels equipped with directed energy weapons of various types.
Lockheed Martin, the prime contractor behind HELIOS, issued a press release last week announcing the installation of the system onboard Preble, but pictures on the ship’s official Facebook page show it had been installed weeks before then. In March, the company said it had completed land-based testing of the system at a range at Wallops Island, Virginia, and that it was being shipped to Preble’s homeport of San Diego for integration onto the destroyer.
“Lockheed Martin and the U.S. Navy share a common vision and enthusiasm for developing and providing disruptive laser weapon systems,” Rick Cordaro, vice president of Lockheed Martin Advanced Product Solutions, said in a statement in the August 18 press release. “HELIOS enhances the overall combat system effectiveness of the ship to deter future threats and provide additional protection for Sailors, and we understand we must provide scalable solutions customized to the Navy’s priorities.”
Lockheed Martin received its first contract from the Navy for work on HELIOS in 2018, but the system builds on a much longer history of directed energy research and development at the company. You can read more about Lockheed Martin successes in turning the idea of operationally viable laser weapons like HELIOS, developments that had been largely in the realm of science fiction for decades, into a reality in this past War Zone feature.
Preble’s new laser is installed in front of the ship’s main superstructure on a modified platform that was originally designed to accommodate a 20mm Vulcan cannon-armed Mk 15 Phalanx Close-in Weapon System (CIWS). Flight IIA subvariants of the Arleigh Burke class like Preble never had a CIWS installed in this position, but these ships do still have another one toward the stern.