The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) has successfully deployed and operated its new ship-based laser weapon system (LaWS) on the Austin-class amphibious transport dock vessel, USS Ponce, in the Persian Gulf.
During the tests, the weapon system successfully hit targets mounted on an approaching small boat and fired a Scan Eagle unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). It also destroyed other moving sea targets.
Capable of destroying targets on speeding boats or even aircraft with pin-point accuracy, the new system aims to enhance surface, air and ground capabilities.
ONR chief rear admiral Matthew Klunder said: "Laser weapons are powerful [and] affordable, and will play a vital role in the future of naval combat operations.
"We ran this particular weapon, a prototype, through some extremely tough paces and it locked on and destroyed the targets we designated with near instantaneous lethality."
Operated by a video game-like controller, the system has the potential to deal with multiple threats using a range of swelling options, from non-lethal measures to lethal destruction.
The gathered information regarding accuracy, lethality and other factors from the USS Ponce deployment will assist in building weapons under ONR's solid-state laser-technology maturation programme.
As part of the programme, selected industry teams will build combat-ready laser prototypes for installation on vessels, including guided-missile destroyers and the littoral combat ship, in the early 2020s.
Klunder added: "At less than a dollar per shot, there's no question about the value LaWS provides.
"With affordability a serious concern for our defence budgets, this will more effectively manage resources to ensure our sailors and marines are never in a fair fight."
Image: USS Ponce during the operational demonstration of the ONR's laser weapon system (LaWS). Photo: courtesy of the US Navy , photo by John F. Williams.