U.S. Navy Adds Futuristic Laser Beam to Its Arsenal

By Carl Engelking | February 18, 2014 4:44 pm
The Navy's solid-state Laser Weapon System prototype. Credit: U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released

The Navy’s solid-state Laser Weapon System prototype. Credit: U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams/Released

Laser beam weaponry was once confined to the fantasies of sci-fi villains. But this summer, the U.S. Navy will turn fiction into reality when it deploys its first laser weapon aboard one of its ships.

The new weapon, dubbed the solid-state Laser Weapons System, promises to be able to incinerate aerial drones and speedboats quickly and on the cheap. That presents a big improvement over today’s weaponry, which typically relies on a finite supply of interceptor missiles that cost roughly $1.4 million a shot. The laser, on the other hand, can be fired continuously and costs just a few bucks per shot. A prototype will be deployed this summer on board the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf.

“It fundamentally changes the way we fight,” Capt. Mike Ziv of the Naval Sea Systems Command told the Associated Press.

Laser Defense

The Navy’s newest weapon doesn’t have the orange glow of a laser-torpedo in Battlestar Galactica — it’s actually invisible to the human eye. The laser’s targeting system identifies and locks onto hostile invaders, and the laser directs a beam of energy that can burn through a boat or plane and fry sensitive electronics. It takes just 30 kilowatts of electricity to power the shot, and a single sailor can operate the weapon.

Test footage of the laser in action shows a drone suddenly bursting into flames mid-flight and crashing to the desert floor.

However, the laser isn’t without its weaknesses. Lasers tend to lose their effectiveness when it’s raining or dusty. Cloud cover could also limit the weapon’s range. Loren Thompson, defense analyst at the Lexington Institute, told the Associated Press, “The Navy says it’s found ways to deal with use of lasers in bad weather, but there’s little doubt that the range of the weapon would be reduced by clouds, dust or precipitation.”

If the laser prototype lives up to expectations in the Persian Gulf, the technology could soon find a place on other Navy warships. So Star Wars fans, you can check one item off a list of futuristic weaponry becoming reality… Unfortunately, there’s no timetable on developing a working lightsaber.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Technology, top posts
MORE ABOUT: weapons & security
  • kandy830

    my Aunty Sienna recently got a stunning red Nissan Maxima by
    working part time online… find out here now F­i­s­c­a­l­M­a­z­e­.­ℂ­o­m

  • Guest

    reserved for use the Chinese and Russian navies!

    • W Schlamilch

      I am shocked. Moral thinking is not a topic nowadays.
      Applause for this new cruel weapon. That is the modern mind.

      • Name

        Cruel Weapon? Its almost purely defensive.

      • scottalias

        Cruelty to drones?

  • Fernando Encluna

    do the Chinese and the Russian navies have similar weapons?

    • outpost

      The way things are today with people like snowden they probably do now.

      • Jack Handy

        youre an idiot. Snowden is a good man. He is not a spy.

        • Daryl Niewald

          He is not a spy he is a traitor to our country! The fact that they have only talked about the NSA listening to people is but a small percentage of what he actually stole! He took thousands of pages of military information that will do great harm to our country and probably get some of our troops killed. Yes the NSA should not have been spying on our citizens and they will have to make changes. But that does not absolve him from the treachery he committed

      • Jexiah8bit

        All they have to do is put money into a similar project. The physics for this sort of thing have been around for some time.

  • Blake Bainum

    Is it just me or could someone just coat their drone with a mirror and bounce the beam back?

    • Thomas

      you could coat them with Mylar or some other coating but I would think,unless it was a very high quality it would degrade quickly.Also the cost factor,mortar rounds are cheap,now your going to apply a expensive coating,that may only work once in a blue moon.I’m sure there are plenty of other factors that have to be considered too.

    • Joe Adair

      Mirrors only reflect visible light; this guy excites particles to heat them up…

  • Luis Palma

    Pronto las balas y los misiles seran cosas del psdsdo!

  • Daryl Niewald

    As they start mounting more powerful lasers on board ships they will need to increase the electrical output of the ships also. But I think this is a first step towards some serious weapon systems that will change a good deal of modern warfare!


Discover's Newsletter

Sign up to get the latest science news delivered weekly right to your inbox!


Briefing you on the must-know news and trending topics in science and technology today.

See More

Collapse bottom bar