Laser weapons aren’t just a “Star Wars” fantasy anymore — they are now aboard U.S. Navy warships.
The Navy has been testing an active laser weapons system, called LaWS, on the amphibious transport dock Ponce for several years. But during a recent test, the Navy proved that LaWS is fully functional and ready for action, reports CNN.
Without making a sound, the laser targeted a mock enemy drone similar to ones used by Iran, North Korea and China. Using only a focused beam of light, the drone’s wings caught fire and it immediately plunged into the water below, said CNN.
“It is throwing massive amounts of photons at an incoming object,” said Lt. Cale Hughes, a laser weapons system officer, told CNN. “We don’t worry about wind, we don’t worry about range, we don’t worry about anything else.”
The $40-million weapons system fires a beam completely invisible to the human eye and travels at the speed of light, according to the CNN report.
Once in action, the weapon system only costs about one dollar per shot, Hughes told CNN.
Currently, the laser is designed to neutralize small aircraft and boats, but Navy engineers think that future versions of LaWS could have the potential to take missiles out of the air.
“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.”