Navy’s Star Wars-style laser weapon to be tested in Persian Gulf this summer

A "revolutionary capability" -- Chief of Naval Research
April 10, 2014
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All systems go: the Laser Weapon System (LaWS), temporarily installed aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105), can be directed onto targets from a radar track or other targeting source and easily defeat small boat threats and aerial targets, at about $1 per hit (credit: U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

The U.S. Navy plans to install a prototype of the first laser weapon on USS Ponce for at-sea testing in the Persian Gulf late this summer.

The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) is a “revolutionary capability,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder. “It’s absolutely critical that we get this out to sea with our Sailors for these trials, because this very affordable technology is going to change the way we fight and save lives.”

We will, we will zap you….

“Spending about $1 per shot of a directed-energy source that never runs out gives us an alternative to firing costly munitions at inexpensive threats,” Klunder added.

Navy leaders have made directed-energy weapons a top priority to counter what they call asymmetric threats, including unmanned and light aircraft and small attack boats that could be used to deny U.S. forces access to certain areas, the Navy said in a statement.

High-energy lasers offer an affordable and safe way to target these threats at the speed of light with extreme precision and an unlimited magazine, experts say.

The ultimate video game

The Navy has already demonstrated the effectiveness of lasers in a variety of maritime settings. In a 2011 demonstration, a laser was used to defeat multiple small boat threats from a destroyer. In 2012, LaWS downed several unmanned aircraft in tests.

LaWS is a weapon system with a single laser weapon control console, manned by a surface warfare weapons officer aboard USS Ponce who can operate all functions of the laser — including firing it. Using a video game-like controller, that sailor will be able to manage the laser’s power to accomplish a range of effects against a threat, from disabling to complete destruction.

Data regarding accuracy, lethality and other factors from the Ponce deployment will guide the development of even more capable weapons, the Navy says.