“Researchers say the revolutionary technology breakthroughs, demonstrated by LaWS (Laser Weapon System), will ultimately benefit not only US Navy surface ships, but also airborne and ground-based weapon systems,” the ONR said in a press release.
The system, operated by a video-game like controller, hit a range of moving targets, spanning from small boats to unmanned drones during demonstrations in September and November in the Persian Gulf, where it exhibited lethal precision and speed, the ONR said.
“Laser weapons are powerful, affordable and will play a vital role in the future of naval combat operations. We ran this particular weapon, a prototype, through some extremely tough paces, and it locked on and destroyed the targets we designated with near-instantaneous lethality,” Chief of Naval Research, Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, stated.
The laser weapon will be safer because it is not dependent on propellant and gunpowder-based ordnance, the ONR release explained. In addition, it will cost much less to build, install and fire than traditional multimillion-dollar missiles, which is critical in the face of looming Pentagon budget cuts.
“At less than a dollar per shot, there's no question about the value LaWS [Laser Weapon System] provides. With affordability a serious concern for our defense budgets, this will more effectively manage resources to ensure our Sailors and Marines are never in a fair fight,” Klunder added.
The Navy said it will determine next steps for LaWS after analyzing the data from current demonstrations.
In 2012 LaWS downed several unmanned aircraft during naval exercises and in 2011 the Navy demonstrated the laser's ability to defeat small boat threats from a destroyer.