Navy Unveils Laser “Ray Gun”

Sunday, December 14, 2014
(photo: Office of Naval Research)

The U.S. Navy has caught up with Hollywood. It has deployed an operational ship-mounted laser that can take out other vessels, aircraft and even specific targets—not human ones, of course—aboard ships.


The Laser Weapons System (LaWS) is on the USS Ponce, which is deployed off the coast of Iran. Testing there has shown that the weapon works as expected and is fully operational. “If we have to defend that ship today, we will [use the laser] to destroy a threat that comes,” Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder said at a Pentagon press conference.


The laser can be run at low power, which would dazzle an enemy, or at full power, which would destroy whatever it’s aimed at.


The skills needed to operate this deadly weapon are familiar to many young sailors. The controller “looks a lot like a game controller, Xbox, PS4 or whatever.” Klunder added, “Any of you that can do Xbox or PS4, you’ll be good with this.”


One advantage of this system to the Navy is cost. Firing a missile costs about $2 million, while the laser can do some of the same jobs for about 59 cents—the cost of electricity.


Under the Geneva Conventions, lasers can’t be used on human targets and the Navy claims they’ll honor that restriction. “We will not point lasers at people,” Klunder said. “We are going to honor the conventions.”

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Historic Leap: Navy Shipboard Laser Operates in Persian Gulf (by David Smalley, Office of Naval Research)

U.S. Navy Shows Off Ship-Based Laser Weapon in Persian Gulf (by Nicky Woolf, The Guardian)

Air Force Claims its Laser Weapon Finally Hit a Missile (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


anonamouse 9 years ago
You gotta love it. Only 59 cents. Dealing death just keeps getting cheaper and cheaper. Oh, wait. Fifty-nine cents is only the cost of energy; doesn't take into account purchase price, maintenance and replacement costs amortized over the expected life of the weapon. So the comparison with a missile is a little bogus. Moreover, missile-making keeps people employed since the laser is a repeater whereas the missile is a single shot. And isn't creating more jobs (and recurring profits) what our defense posture is really all about?

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