Weaponized laser systems have come a long way since the former U.S. president Ronald Reagan’s Star Wars initiative. Blasters and phasers are still in the sci-fi realm of course, though we have come quite a long way.
How long? Well, at least enough for the U.S. Navy to now develop laser weapons systems, directed beam weapons designed to shoot down those nifty little unmanned flying contraptions out of the sky.
Phasers Online, Target Weapon Systems
The Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, is a directed-energy weapon that is currently designed, developed and researched by the U.S. Navy. As plain as its name sounds, it’s objective profile is to use a ship-mounted laser system that can take down minimal aerial targets. These elimination objectives could either be via jamming sensors, targeting engines, and if possible, burning any material within the target that could be detonated. Thus, it is a multi-purpose defensive system set to be deployed whenever considerable, but small-scale, aerial threats are to be anticipated.
LaWS was already a proposal as early as 2010. In fact, the very first successful tests using a prototype was made only three years ago, last 2014. The weapon is currently mounted on the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport ship currently in service by the Navy. The update made this month was the reports that the weapon was now fully functional and online after its successful testing. This means that it can now be used officially on service missions, and fulfill mission objectives as per standard protocol on its design.
Indeed, the projected time period for its deployment was as early as around the year 2017, technically six years after initial development phase. During this time, the United States Navy had projected that the weapon could be operational to its basic design capabilities: the direction of a 50 kW energy beam onto minor mobile targets.
The 40 Million-Dollar High Tech Gun
The cost of 40 million dollars may be quite hefty for such a weapon of minimal usage, but however expensive its build costs may be, it is offset quite significantly with its usage cost. As it simply uses electric energy to blast concentrated beams of invisible photons, it won’t require solid ammunition, nor any of the sophisticated guidance electronics that are needed in today’s ship-launched cruise missiles.
How much does it cost per shot then? About one dollar per use. With its reported efficiency of burning down targeted points within only about two seconds, you have a potentially lethal intercept weapon that could be much more energy-friendly than the Navy’s other high-tech research thingy.
Similarly, the United States Missile Defense Agency’s also recently announced the development drone-mounted laser weapons. Laser turrets versus laser drones. Are we actually looking at a potential futuristic laser fight for tomorrow’s military weapon systems? We’ll find out very soon.