Washington: The US Navy is planning to place a laser weapon aboard a ship in the Persian Gulf to help fend off approaching unmanned aerial vehicles or speedboats, early next year.
The weapon, called Laser Weapon System (LAWS), which looks like a small telescope, is actually a weapon that can track a moving target and fire a steady laser beam strong enough to burn a hole through steel, reports ABC News.
A Navy video of testing conducted last summer off the coast of California shows how a laser beam fired from a Navy destroyer was able to set aflame an approaching UAV or drone, sending it crashing into the ocean.
The laser ray is not visible to the naked eye because it is in the infrared spectrum.
Many of the details about how the laser works remain secret, such as how far its beam can travel, how powerful it is or how much power is used to generate it. But Navy officials have provided a few unclassified details.
The Navy said it has spent about 40 million dollars over the past six years in developing the weapon.
Rear Admiral Thomas Eccles, Navy Sea Systems Command, said the beam can be turned on instantly and that ultimately "the generation of power is essentially a magazine, with endless supply of rounds".
Based on earlier testing the Navy is confident the laser is ready for real-world testing aboard the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf. The ship was selected because of its mission to be an enduring presence in the Gulf to counter Iranian maritime threats in the region. Coincidentally Iran uses small fast boats to harass American warships in the waters of the Persian Gulf.
Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, chief of Naval Research, said they hope the weapon sends a message to some of potentially threatening adversaries that they should think twice before trying to harm US vessels as the LAWS is much quicker to destroy enemy vessels or UAVs.
While for now the laser will be used primarily against slow-moving UAV`s and fast boats cruising at speeds of 50 knots, the Navy sees the system`s capabilities expanding over time to target faster weapons.