After decades of promises that laser weapons were just around the corner, the Navy has finally delivered.
The first operation laser cannon is now deployed in Persian Gulf. Perched high above the bridge of America’s Afloat Forward Staging Base, the USS Ponce, the Office of Naval Research’s Laser Weapon System (LaWS) close-in weapon system has completed it’s testing protocols and is now fully integrated into the ship’s defenses.
“This is the first time in recorded history that a directed energy weapons system has ever deployed on anything,” Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, told reporters at the Pentagon. “A lot of people talk about it – we decided to go do it.”
According to Time,
“Light from a laser beam can reach a target almost instantly,” a July congressional report said. “After disabling one target, a laser can be redirected in several seconds to another target. Fast engagement times can be particularly important in situations, such as near-shore operations, where missiles, rockets, artillery shells, and mortars could be fired at Navy ships from relatively close distances.”
But lasers can be disabled by bad weather, and are limited to line-of-sight confrontations. Initially, they’ll complement a warship’s traditional longer-range guns and missiles. The lessons learned from the Ponce tests will be cranked into a new generation of laser weaponry, which the Navy hopes to begin installing on the fleet in the early 2020s.
Such weapons are safer than traditional shells and missiles, which are crammed with explosives and propellant. They’re considerably cheaper, too: the energy required to fire the Ponce’s laser costs 59 cents a shot, compared to a shell or missile, which can cost $1 million or more.
It’s great to see Chris & Mitch’s groundbreaking work with Professor Hathaway really paid off: