The Navy's first laser weapon is operational, and it looks very effective.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Military installed its high energy Laser Weapon System (LaWS) aboard the USS Ponce to conduct field testing in the Persian Gulf. In this just-released test footage, LaWS can be seen performing flawlessly, taking out two ships and a drone during tests conducted in November.
The weapon has reportedly performed impeccably, disabling UAVs, burning out the engines of boats, and detonating rocket propelled grenades across a range of adverse weather conditions.
"Laser weapons are powerful, affordable [Ed.: Estimates put LaWS's operational cost and less than a dollar per shot] and will play a vital role in the future of naval combat operations," Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, chief of naval research, said in a statement today. "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." (According to the Office of Naval Researcher, Klundre provided no information on the range of LaWS, but did note "that humans were not a target of the weapon, under stipulations of the Geneva Conventions which he did not detail.")
According to the Office of Naval Research, the 30-kilowatt weapon has been declared "an operational asset and U.S. Central Command has given permission for the commander of the ship to defend itself with the weapon." It is the first such laser to be deployed, and is a smaller version of 100 and 150-kilowatt weapons to be deployed aboard ships in 2016 or 2017.