The power of the weapon was not disclosed, but a 2018 report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies said it was expected to be a 150-kilowatt laser.
“By conducting advanced at sea tests against UAVs and small crafts, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of the Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator against potential threats,” Capt. Karrey Sanders, commanding officer of Portland, said in the statement.
“With this new advanced capability, we are redefining war at sea for the Navy.”
The Navy says lasers, which it calls directed energy weapons (DEW), can be effective defenses against drones or armed small boats.
“The Navy’s development of DEWs like the LWSD provide immediate warfighter benefits and provide the commander increased decision space and response options,” the statement said.
In 2017, CNN witnessed a live-fire exercise of a 30-kilowatt laser weapon aboard the amphibious transport ship USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf.
At the time, Lt. Cale Hughes, a laser weapons system officer, described how they work.
“It is throwing massive amounts of photons at an incoming object,” Hughes said. “We don’t worry about wind, we don’t worry about range, we don’t worry about anything else. We’re able to engage the targets at the speed of light.” The Ponce was retired from service later that year.