The U.S. Navy announced yesterday that it's going to install a prototype laser cannon on the USS Ponce by next year, making it the first laser-armed vessel in the fleet. The new Laser Weapons System (or LaWS) is shown shooting down a drone with an invisible beam of energy in a video released by the Navy:
The Navy says the weapon system only $32 million to develop -- a downright bargain by Pentagon procurement standards. Development of the F-35, the U.S. military's next-generation fighter jet, is seven years behind schedule and has cost taxpayers $396 billion so far by comparison. LaWS is cheap to operate too: a single shot costs an estimated $1. The New York Times reports that the Ponce, once equipped, will deploy to the Persian Gulf as part of the U.S. fleet monitoring Iran.
LaWS isn't a wonder weapon, though. It doesn't work in bad weather or over long distances, and so far it can only take down aerial drones and small boats -- it wouldn't be much use against North Korean missiles, Iranian fighter jets, or even a TIE Fighter. With a few more years of testing and a couple million dollars in research, though...
Too bad the White House already ruled out building an orbital battlestation.