Navy officials announced a new laser weapon today, saying it's designed to destroy small boats and send aerial vehicles crashing into the sea, Fox News reports. A prototype will be mounted on the USS Ponce and tried out in the 5th fleet region of the Middle East next year. The Navy also released a video of the laser locking on an unmanned drone and causing it to catch fire and crash. "It operates much like a blowtorch ... with an unlimited magazine," said an official.
At about $32 million each, the weapon is far cheaper than the Air Force's abandoned $1.5 billion nose-mounted lasers—and Navy researchers say their version hit every time in testing. But it fares less well in bad weather, requires a direct line of sight to the target, and could be rendered ineffective by a drone or vessel coated with a reflective surface, the New York Times reports. Meanwhile, the Navy is looking into a more versatile free-electron laser and a "rail gun" that fires bullets several times faster than the speed of sound.