It's not Star Wars on the high seas — but the U.S. Navy says it has made a "historic leap" by deploying a laser weapon system for the first time. The Navy released a video showing a LaWS — shorthand for "laser weapon system" — being used by the USS Ponce during target practice in the Persian Gulf.
In the video, the laser weapon, which the Navy says is tied into the Ponce's defense system, destroys several targets on the sea and in the air. The laser can also optically "dazzle" or disable an enemy craft.
"Laser weapons are powerful, affordable and will play a vital role in the future of naval combat operations," Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, the chief of naval research, says in a news release about the deployment.
Klunder adds, "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 says laser weapons have other advantages, as well, including being safer than gunpowder-based ordnance and much cheaper than kinetic weapons such as missiles. Each shot by the laser, Klunder says, costs less than $1.
The video of the laser weapon at work during a deployment comes more than a year after we reported on what could be a shift in U.S. military tactics. News of the plans to deploy the weapon system first emerged in the spring of 2013, when a laser successfully destroyed a drone aircraft, as we reported.