The U.S. Navy announced Monday that it is preparing to deploy a new weapon in the Persian Gulf that can disable hostile boats and even destroy overhead surveillance drones — all without dispensing any expensive ammunition.
The new weapon is called Laser Weapon System (LaWS). This laser weapon can track a moving target and fire such a steady laser beam which is strong enough to burn a hole through steel. The laser can’t be seen in naked eyes as it is in the infrared spectrum.
The laser can be aimed to “dazzle” the viewing sensors aboard the craft. That light effect warns the pilot of a small water craft or at the controls of a UAV that they are being targeted by a laser and to turn away. If they don’t, the laser’s power can be boosted to destroy the approaching craft. This laser weapon will be mounted on a converted amphibious transport and docking ship named USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf early next year.
An assessment of the weapon by the Congressional research Service said, “Equipping Navy surface ships with lasers could lead to … a technological shift for the Navy, a ‘game changer’ comparable to the advent of shipboard missiles in the 1950s.”
Many of the details about how the laser works remain secret, such as how far its beam can travel, how powerful it is or how much power is used to generate it. But Navy officials have provided a few unclassified details like the laser is designed to be a “plug and play” system that integrates into a ship’s existing targeting technologies and power grids.
It is being said that, each pulse of energy from the laser “costs under a dollar” and it can be used against weapons systems that are significantly more expensive. On the other side, the US Navy says it has spent about $40 million over the past six years in developing the weapon.
The LaWS will initially be used to combat small boats that pose a threat to larger U.S. Navy vessels — much like the small Iranian fast boats that pester U.S. ships in the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.