The US Navy announced on Monday it is going to sea for the first time with a laser attack weapon that has been shown in tests to disable patrol boats and blind or destroy surveillance drones.
The prototype Navy Laser Weapons System (LaWS) is being fitted to the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport and docking ship that is due to become operational this year and take up station off Iran during 2014.
The Navy released video and still images of the laser weapon burning through a drone during a test firing.
Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said the LaWS was able to take out targets at a tiny fraction of the cost of other weapons.
A nonpartisan study for Congress found that the new high-energy laser “could provide Navy surface ships with a more cost-effective means of countering certain surface, air and ballistic missile targets.”
But Navy officials acknowledge that the first prototype weapon to be deployed is not powerful enough to take on jet fighters or missiles on their approach.