The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) has plans to develop a solid-state laser weapon, which will help sailors defeat small threats without the use of bullets.
Solid-state laser technology maturation (SSL-TM) programme officer Peter Morrison said: "We believe it's time to move forward with solid-state lasers and shift the focus from limited demonstrations to weapon prototype development and related technology advancement."
Based on ONR's earlier directed-energy developments and knowledge gained from other laser research initiatives, the SSL-TM programme will aim to develop a weapon prototype that will demonstrate multi-mission capabilities aboard a Navy ship.
If the project is successful, it may help the US Navy to become the first of the armed forces to deploy high-energy laser weapons.
ONR has recently tested its new development, the MK 38 tactical laser demonstration, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, US.
An industry day would be hosted by ONR next week to reveal information about the programme to the research and development community, while a broad agency announcement is expected to be issued soon to invite proposals and bids.
Other advancing directed-energy technology programmes by ONR include the Northrop Grumman developed maritime laser demonstrator (MLD), which was successful in disabling a small target boat during testing while the laser weapon system shot down four small unmanned test aircraft.
Boeing and Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems were awarded two contracts in 2009 to design a free-electron laser (FEL) ship self-defence weapon system, which the research agency expects to test in a maritime environment as early as 2018.