(The Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim) USS Ponce (ASB(I) 15) conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research (ONR)-sponsored Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.)

We're all familiar with laser weapons. I mean, come on, they've been a staple of sci-fi movies and TV shows for decades.

Well, this is the real thing.

The LaWS consists of a 30-kilowatt solid-state infrared laser, a Phalanx CIWS (close-in weapon system) radar detection and tracking system, and a special computer terminal that controls the LaWS. Somewhat amusingly, the main interface with LaWS is a controller that looks a lot like an Xbox gamepad — but more ruggedized and military-looking (pictured below). In the video, the LaWS disables a small Scan Eagle-class UAV, detonates a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG), and burns out the engine of a small inflatable boat (RHIB). Following these successful tests, the US Navy has given the commander of USS Ponce permission to use the laser weapon in combat.


Pretty impressive, and the Navy's thinking of going a bit bigger and more powerful down the line:

As far as the US Navy is concerned, they see laser weaponry as a good way of taking out small boats and planes that get uncomfortably close to its ships. Laser weapons can be fired very quickly, and the cost per shot is very low (something like $1, as opposed to thousands of dollars for a small missile). At 30 kilowatts (which is pretty weak for a laser), we’re not looking at a weapon that will change the rules of engagement — but worry not, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) is already looking at developing a 150-kilowatt laser system, for testing in 2016 or 2017. At that kind of power output, you are then talking about a laser that can punch holes in the hulls of other large ships, or explode someone’s head from a few miles away.


Take that, Captain Kirk.