US to Deploy Laser Canon in the Middle East Next Year
The US Navy has unveiled a new ship-mounted laser cannon it plans to deploy next year in the Middle East near Iran that runs off of electricity and is capable of incinerating a drone and disabling small boats at an estimated cost of less than $1 per blast.
“The future is here,” Peter Morrision, a laser technology program Officer at the US Office of Naval Research, said in a statement, adding that the laser is capable of “revolutionizing modern warfare” in the same way that “gunpowder did in the era of knives and swords.”
The US Navy recently performed demonstrations of these high-energy lasers from aboard a moving surface combat ship.
A video of the demonstrations released by the Navy last week showed a drone being engulfed in flames after being struck by the laser and then plunging into the ocean.
The laser cannon has a limitless supply of ammunition as long as any ship it is placed on can generate electricity.
The weapon is set to be deployed next year on the USS Ponce, which currently serves as a staging base for US military operations in the Middle East, the Navy said.
US officials say the prototype of the weapon will cost about $32 million to produce but that it will be a cost-saver in the long run.
“Our conservative data tells us a shot of directed energy costs under $1. Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability,” Navy Research Chief Matthew Klunder said.
The weapon will allow improved - and cheaper - protection against attacks from a swarm of small boats, drones and, eventually, missiles, the Navy said.
“We expect that in the future, a missile will not be able to simply outmaneuver a highly accurate, high-energy laser beam traveling at the speed of light,” Klunder said.
A new Congressional report, however, noted that lasers are not infallible weapons.
“Lasers might not work well, or at all, in rain or fog, preventing lasers from being an all-weather solution,” the March 14 report said, Reuters reported.