The US Navy's amphibious vessel, the USS Portland, is set to get its own laser weapon that it will show off at the 2018 Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) war games this year in Hawaii. Hosted by the US, the multinational military exercise will see the Portland serve as the US flagship.

The vessel will receive its own, most recent version of the Navy's Laser Weapon System (LaWS), according to a release by the US Naval Institute (USNI). The gun has been undergoing testing for over three years now in the Middle East on the forward staging base USS Ponce.

Speaking at the Surface Navy Association's annual symposium, Programme Manager Capt Brian Metcalf said the weapon will be installed as a bolt-on, much like the LaWS, to the Portland as early as autumn this year.

"It's going to fit into what was originally the [Vertical Launching System] reservation on the ship. So they've got what I will call power modules that control the laser that will just fit in those open and reserve weight spaces, and then the laser itself gets just bolted on to the deck," Metcalf said.

"Just like Ponce, it's kind of a bolt-on – it's not going to be integrated into the warfare system, it won't be providing tracking data or classification data. It's a technology demonstrator, is what it is."

The aim of the demonstration is to test the power of the laser and improvements made to it from LaWS only and will have nothing to do with the vessel or anything related to shipboard integration.
The Portland was chosen after assessment proved that landing platform/dock (LPD) class vessels were more suitable over the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers after factors such as power, cooling, weight margins, air-conditioning, space and other requirements were taken into consideration.

Once they decided on LPD class vessels, the Portland was chosen based on availability.

When asked how long the laser gun will stay with the Portland, Metcalf said: "My guess is if this works and we like it, it's going to be there for a while. The ship's going to go use the thing, and then we'll start talking about how you make this part of the ship's total ship systems. But for now it's a bolt-on, it's designed to be a temporary thing."

He added, though, "right now, I am not making a plan to take it off."

The Portland is being prepared for the RIMPAC and will go through its commissioning ceremony in Portland, Oregon, in April after which combat testing will happen at Pearl Harbor. Several weeks of testing before the RIMPAC will be done as well.