The new Navy Laser Weapon System now ready for action in the Persian Gulf is not only capable of blasting any “threat that comes inbound” into fiery smithereens, the Navy says it’s cheap as well. With the new leaser weapon, known as LaWS for short, the Navy is not only moving into the future as it protects United States sailors, it’s saving the U.S. taxpayer a few bucks.
While a Navy ship coming under threat from an enemy vessel, a fighter jet or a even drone might normally respond with a missile such as the Standard SM2 which costs about $750,000, the LaWS can blast an attacker for just 59 cents — yes, 59 cents — for each time the laser is fired.
The laser itself cost about $40 million to develop over a seven-year period.
The new laser weapon, the first “directed energy weapon” ever deployed on a seagoing military vessel, is now mounted on the U.S.S. Ponce in the Persian Gulf.
“If we had to defend that ship today, it will destroy any threat that comes inbound,” said Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, of the Office of Naval Research. “We have the ROE to support that.”
ROE is an abbreviation for “rules of engagement,” the military regulations which determine when weapons can be used against enemy combatants.
The new Navy laser weapon has been in operation on board the Ponce since September, but has only been used in tests. Admiral Klunder said that while tests continue on a regular basis, the LaWS is now ready to defend U.S. sailors and Marines in combat situations, should any arise.
“The reality is it’s ready,” said Klunder. “It’s part of the ship, it looks like it’s part of the ship, and it is part of the ship.”
Unlike more conventional missiles and artillery weapons, the laser does not necessarily need to function as a lethal weapon. The power level of the laser beam can be adjusted, meaning that when a perceived enemy threat is spotted approaching, a low energy beam can be focused on the target which will, in the Navy’s terminology, “dazzle” anyone on board the craft.
If that high-tech display isn’t enough warning to deter an attack, the power would then be turned up, and the laser weapon used to blow the attacking ship to bits.
The new laser weapon also comes with a “long-range optical system,” better known as a telescope, powerful enough and with sufficiently high resolution that the LaWS doubles as an intelligence gathering system, allowing the Navy to keep possible enemy craft under surveillance from miles away. Watch the new Navy laser weapon in action, above.