The US Navy has long been developing a laser weapon system (or LaWS as they call it) to add to their arsenal. The next generation of futuristic weapons has arrived. The Navy announced that its high-tech laser weapon is ready to disable and destroy enemy drones and small boats, should the need arise.
The transport ship USS Ponce has been patrolling with prototype 30 kilowatt class Laser Weapon System since late August. The laser is mounted facing the bow, and can fire in several modes, from a dazzling warning flash to a destructive beam, setting a drone or small boat on fire. During its time at sea, the laser was used against a variety of targets and also managed to knock a flying Scan Eagle UAV out of the sky. LaWS exceeded expectations not only in reliability, but in maintainability as well. It integrated with the Ponce’s existing defense systems.
The Ponce “provides a unique platform in an operationally relevant region” said Vice Admiral John Miller. While sailors have not yet used the new laser to destroy any real enemy targets, the Navy is prepared to do just that, if necessary, according to Rear. Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research. He also says “laser weapons are powerful, affordable and will play a vital role in the future of naval combat operations,” “We ran this particular weapon, a prototype, through some extremely tough paces, and it locked on and destroyed the targets we designated with near instantaneous lethality.”
The Navy says the laser weapon is safer than conventional arms that use propellants and explosive warheads, and more cost-effective. LaWS is not the first laser weapon ever to have been deployed, but it is the first on a US Naval vessel and is a considerably more advanced than previous weapons. The laser also takes fewer crew members to operate. It can be fired by one sailor using a video game like controller. The weapon performed without failure in conditions of high wind, humidity, and temperature. The Navy hopes to deploy variations of the laser weapon system in the fleet by 2020.