Here's How The US Navy's New Laser System Burns Up Its Targets


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US Navy Photo

USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the Office of Naval Research-sponsored Laser Weapon System, LaWS, while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.

The Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, is the first weaponized laser on a US warship.

The 100 kilowatt turret was installed aboard the USS Ponce this summer as part of a $40 million R&D project to explore the potential of a weapon system that doesn't require expensive traditional projectiles.

Missiles, along with the military systems and vehicles they are launched from, come at an exorbitant price.
As the graphic from Stratfor below shows, a single SM-2 missile costs $400,000.

That's an awful lot of taxpayer money to spend on destroying modest targets like small enemy vessels or drones, which LaWS successfully brought down in tests done in November.

Projectiles used in missile defense are costly. Israel's Iron Dome rocket defense system, for instance, can reliably shoot down cheap ($750) incoming rockets, but it does so with a $40,000 interceptor of its own.

In contrast, the energy for a single laser shot from the LaWS comes at the much more sensible pricetag of $1.


The graphic also shows that the LaWS technology only culminates in the turret visible on the ship's deck. The beam director is linked to the lasers' power source via fiber optic cables.

US Central Command has given the USS Ponce's commander clearance to use the LaWS in a defensive capacity.