The U.S. Navy has announced that the world’s first functional laser weapon is ready for action. The weapon, known as the Laser Weapons System (LaWS), can be found mounted on the USS Ponce, which is currently deployed in the Persian Gulf.
The weapon was designed to strategically take out flying unmanned vessels. It also has the ability to surgically destroy engines of manned watercraft without endangering the lives of any onboard personnel. The Geneva Convention restricts the use of laser weapons against humans, but the high precision of the laser could allow it to target a ship’s engine without the use of missiles. “That type of precision weapon work is something that you don’t really get with conventional weapons because there tends to be more collateral damage,” Inez Kelly, a U.S. Naval Forces Central Command science adviser, told CNN.
This technology could be the beginning of replacing missiles for the purpose of destroying enemy targets. On top of sparing lives, the cost comparison of a single shot from LaWS and a missile is astounding: while missiles can cost up to millions of dollars, a single LaWS “round” only costs about one dollar.
The weapon is currently only approved for drones and water vessels, but the Navy is also testing other applications — under the cover of classified status, of course.