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U.S. Navy To Deploy Laser Weapon That Can Destroy Drones And Ships
April 9, 2013
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This sounds like something right out of 'Star Wars' - except this isn't a movie or a video game.

The U.S. Navy has announced plans to put a laser weapon on one of its ships. And apparently, it can shoot down drones and disable other vessels.

So far, it's been incredibly effective: in tests, the laser hit all 12 of its intended targets.

The official name of the laser is the "directed energy pulse weapon", which might sound like (dystopian) science fiction but it's very real.

The Navy has been working on the weapon for several years. And a recent report from the Congressional Research Service called it a potential "game changer".

It could certainly be a much cheaper weapon than missiles or guns: the prototype laser weapon in the video cost between $31 million and $32 million to build, but each time the laser is fired, it only costs about one dollar.

"Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability," Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder said in a statement.

And unlike traditional weapons, the laser won't run out of ammo - it can keep firing as long as there is power available.


One Navy official said this advancement in technology is like when we went from swords to guns back in the day.

As for how the laser will be used, the Navy says it is capable of burning through an attacking boat or shooting a drone out of the sky, as well as other, less lethal approaches like "dazzling" an enemy's sensors, leaving them useless.

It is expected to be deployed in the field at some point next year, on board the USS Ponce which is an active warship being used as a base in the Middle East.

If you think about it, this is an OMG moment - the idea that laser warfare might actually become a reality.

It also reminds us, in some ways, of the First Gulf War - which became known as "The Video Game War" with all the footage of missiles and flashes in the night sky over Baghdad.

Watching it all on TV, from half a world away, the real horrors of war on the ground never really came across. And on some level, it might have desensitized us; it was a war that in a strange way seemed sanitized.

We can't help but wonder: will this new laser weapon have the same type of effect?

The New York Times points out the Navy tested the laser in the Persian gulf, where American warships have been harassed by Iranian fast-attack boats.

The Times suggests it could be "a warning to Iran not to step up activity in the gulf in the next few months."

The Congressional report did point out some potential drawbacks of the laser, including the possibility it could accidentally hit satellites or aircraft. The report also states the weapon might not work in rain or fog.

The New York Times also notes that the Pentagon has a "long history of grossly inflating" claims for new weapons.

At the moment, the laser isn't powerful enough to take on jet fighters or missiles. But researchers say they are working on strengthening the laser to the point where that might be possible.


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