Hollywood has a long standing history of pushing real-world technology. Star Trek is often credited with creating the ideas for some of today’s most useful inventions. Not to be left behind, Star Wars might soon get its moment in the sun, as the US Navy is currently testing a real-life Death Star.
The US Navy is undergoing tests on a single-shot laser that would be mounted on warships, and used to shoot down drones and small boats in the Persian Gulf. I have to say that I couldn’t be happier about this. Our military has FINALLY reached a point where we’re not only using frickin’ lasers (Dr. Evil voice), but we’re using them to shoot down flying drones from our boats.
Our military (and our military contractors) have been investing heavily in militarized lasers for quite some time now, Lockheed has been leading the charge with this laser designed to blow up boats (video below), but it seems that with the Navy going public about this project we’re pretty close to actual deployment of this weapon.
The Navy is testing a new laser it is developing by using it on targets such as drones and small boats in the Persian Gulf.
Top Navy leaders say the laser could become a critical defense on a future generation of warships and offers great potential as a precise and economical weapon. A single shot from the laser could bring down a drone or blow up the engine of a small boat, officials said.
The prototype Laser Weapon System developed by the Office of Naval Research has proved cost-effective, and is less expensive to operate than many other systems, said Adm. Jon Greenert, chief of naval operations.
Each shot from the prototype laser was 59 cents, said Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, chief of naval research. Using a Standard Missile-2, a common surface-to-air weapon, would cost the Navy roughly $400,000.
The Navy recently finished its three-month test in the Persian Gulf on the USS Ponce, outfitted with the prototype laser. Navy officials said the Gulf’s heat, humidity and dust make it a difficult environment for naval vessels. Some researchers worried the conditions would hurt the laser’s performance.
“The only way to know if this is effective is to get it in the Gulf,” Adm. Greenert said.
As a result of the test, Navy officials said they planned to deploy the weapon into the Middle East for a year aboard the Ponce, allowing sailors to use the system to track potential threats and defend the ship.
“We have the authorities right now to use it in self-defense,” Adm. Klunder said. “If someone was coming to harm the USS Ponce, we could use this laser system on that threat and we would intend to do so.”
Adm. Klunder said that during the test sailors began using the system in ways its developers didn’t fully anticipate, such as for long-range surveillance. Sailors were able to identify approaching vessels at ranges “they have never dreamed of,” Adm. Klunder said. The range of surveillance capabilities is a closely guarded secret. “We were calling it a Hubble telescope on the water,” Adm. Klunder said.
Developing the prototype laser and installing it on the Ponce cost the Navy roughly $40 million, Adm. Klunder said.
Of course, for now a strike from a laser is far less powerful than a missile strike. Christopher Harmer, a naval analyst at the Institute for the Study of War, said if a warship were attacked now in the Gulf by a drone or swarm of small boats, its guns and cannon would be the most effective defense.
But that is unlikely to be the case forever. “Naval guns are near the theoretical limit of their performance envelope now,” Mr. Harmer said. “We can only expect very minor improvements in the future, whereas with lasers we can expect significant improvements in range, lethality, and accuracy.”
Adm. Greenert said for the next generation of lasers, the Navy will build a more powerful weapon that will be able to take down more than drones and small craft.
Once the laser begins to replace missiles for some jobs, it could allow ships to stay out at sea for longer. The Navy now uses missiles for counter-air and counter-ballistic missile defenses. But warships can carry only a limited number and have to return to port to reload. The laser, Adm. Greenert said, has a nearly limitless number of shots.
To read more about the project you can CLICK HERE to read the full article on the Wall Street Journal.
UPDATE: Here it is in action
So we’ve invested $40,000,000 in a laser that isn’t as powerful as our missiles now, but it’s brought us one step closer to lasers that will be MORE POWERFUL and MORE DEADLY than our current missiles. What an age we live in. THE FUTURE IS NOW BROS.
Btw, here’s the video of that Lockheed Martin laser I was telling you about before: