The US Navy has announced it is preparing to roll out a new sea-based laser weapon capable of shooting down surveillance drones. But a congressional report warned it may not work in the fog.
The US Navy announced late on Monday that it had developed a new laser weapon that would be deployed in 2014, two years ahead of schedule. It would be fitted aboard the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport ship retrofitted as a waterborne staging base.
"The future is here," ONR official Peter Morrision said, while Chief of Naval Research Admiral Matthew Klunder said the cost of one blast of "directed energy" could be less than $1.
"Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability," he said in a US Navy statement, adding that they had posted a video of a laser test on YouTube.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) and Naval Sea Systems Command successfully tested high-energy lasers against a moving target ship and a remotely piloted drone.
"The solid-state laser is a big step forward to revolutionizing modern warfare with directed energy, just as gunpowder did in the era of knives and swords."
The laser runs on electricity, so the weapon "can be fired as long as there is power," and is a lot safer than carrying explosives aboard ships.
A March 14 report from the non-partisan Congressional Research Center described the new weapon as a potential game-changer in naval warfare, but it also noted some drawbacks, including the potential it could accidentally hit satellites or aircraft.
Weather also affects lasers, the report added. "Lasers might not work well, or at all, in rain or fog, preventing lasers from being an all-weather solution," it said.
bk/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)