Watch the Navy's New Laser Cannon Successfully Fry a Drone 

After months at sea patrolling the Persian Gulf region, the USS Ponce and its shiny new laser cannon have successfully confronted and destroyed not only an unmanned aerial vehicle but also an incoming speed boat and other moving targets—all without breaking a sweat.

"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," Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, chief of naval research, said in a press statement. "Laser weapons are powerful, affordable and will play a vital role in the future of naval combat operations." And, according to reports, the LaWS performed its duties with nary a hiccup, regardless of the prevailing conditions.

Up next, the LaWS will undergo a series of technical upgrades to boost its power output from the current 30 to 50 kW and then again to 100 kW. And given that these weapons cost less than a dollar per shot (far less than conventional kinetic rounds) the LaWS are expected to become mainstays of America's destroyer and LCS fleets by the early 2020s. [Pop Sci - Military Aerospace]

The U.S. Navy's First Laser Cannon Is Now Deployed in the Persian Gulf

After seven years and $40 million of development, the US Navy has finally sent its prototype laser weapon, one capable of blowing holes clean through UAVs, on patrol throughout the disputed Persian Gulf.

The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) prototype has been affixed to the bow of the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport ship, since August. Its 30kW beam, generated by focusing the apertures of six solid-state commercial welding lasers onto a single point, is multi-functional—equally capable of dazzling approaching ships and burning UAVs clean out of the sky—and only costs about a dollar a shot, John Miller, the 5th Fleet commander, told Bloomberg News in an e-mail statement last Friday.

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The LaWS is expected to remain aboard the Ponce for the next year or so, not so much to counter Iran's continued saber rattling regarding the Straight of Hormuz, but to field test the new technology and ensure that it can actually handle the rigors of life aboard a naval vessel.

"How does it operate in that environment — heat, humidity, dust and at sea," Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said in a Bloomberg interview earlier this year. "It's got to roll, move around, how much power does it take to sustain it?"

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"I have to take it out and get it wet, and the Arabian Gulf's a pretty tough environment," he continued.

Should the LaWS pass this upcoming sea trial, the data generated from the test will be utilized by the likes of BAE Systems, Northrop Grumman, and Raytheon to build an even bigger, more powerful class of lasers that should set sail by 2021. And combined with the recent advancements of the terrestrial HEL MD, which is already up to 50kW, we're closer than ever to having GI Joe-style laser battles. [Bloomberg via GCapt - FAS]

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