The US Navy says it has successfully tested the world’s first laser gun system designed to target drones and “a variety” of other targets.
Dubbed the Laser Weapons System (LaWS), the gun was recently tested by the amphibious transport ship USS Ponce against a mock enemy drone, CNN reported Tuesday.
According to the report, the massive amount of energy released from the weapon was able to down the drone by setting its wing on fire.
The Navy claims that on paper the LaWS is capable of moving at the speed of light, around 50,000 times faster than an incoming intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM).
“It operates in an invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum so you don’t see the beam, it doesn’t make any sound, it’s completely silent and it’s incredibly effective at what it does,” said Lieutenant Cale Hughes, a laser weapons system officer.
The $40 million weapon is operated by three people and only needs a supply of electricity that comes from its generator.
It’s designed with the intent of being able to counter airborne and surface-based threats,” said Hughes. “And it’s been able to prove itself over the last three years as being incredibly effective at that.”
The current generation of the LaWS is supposed to bring down small airborne aircraft and disable small boats.
The US Navy announced last month that the Pentagon had commissioned arms maker Northrop Grumman to develop a more powerful version that could function as a missile defense system.
Northrop said the 12-month, $53-million accord with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) will see the company “design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system.”
The US Navy has been pouring money on new weapons systems over the past few years, ranging from the $4.4 billion stealth Zumwalt-class warships to the $500 million Kinetic Energy Projectile (KEP), or more simply the railgun.