The US Navy has completed some pretty historic target practice, yesterday announcing that it has for the first time successfully deployed its laser weapon system from aboard a naval vessel. In a release, it calls the use of the "cutting-edge weapon" historic in more ways than one: the demonstrations, completed aboard the USS Ponce between September and November, didn't just prove that the laser works. (Specifically, it was able to hit targets affixed to a speeding boat and optically dazzle and later take down a drone, as shown in a video released by the Navy.) LaWS did so "seamlessly with existing ship defense systems," even on occasions where the weather was poor—windy, or exceptionally hot or humid.
"Laser weapons are powerful, affordable, and will play a vital role in the future of naval combat operations," said Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, chief of naval research. "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." The Navy runs down additional benefits as compared to our current weapons: LaWS is superior in terms of precision and speed; it runs on electricity (30 kilowatts), making it safer for ships and crews than their propellant and gunpowder-based ordnance; and it's cheaper, "at less than a dollar per shot," says Klunder. iO9 reports that the USS Ponce has been given the go-ahead to defend itself with the laser. (Read more laser stories.)