Star Wars fanatics who've longed for the days of fleets of laser-equipped vessels blasting enemies out of the sky and sea, your ship has quite literally come in.
The U.S. Navy announced that, for the first time, it will outfit one of its ships with a laser weapon. According to a Navy press release, the laser will be capable of performing "actions ranging from non-lethal disabling and deterrence all the way up to destruction."
"The future is here," said Peter Morrision, program officer for the Office of Naval Research's Sold-State Laser Technology Maturation Program. "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."
Officials say the laser gives the Navy a multimission weapon with unmatched precision, targeting and control functions. Because the laser is powered by electricity, it's also extremely affordable.
"Our conservative data tells us a shot of directed energy costs under $1," Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder said. "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."
Klunder added: "We expect that in the future, a missile will not be able to simply outmaneuver a highly accurate, high-energy laser beam traveling at the speed of light."
BLOG: Drones Dive Into Toxic Volcanoes
While the laser won't be considered a big gun just yet, Navy officials say it will provide a new layer of protection against swarming small boats and unmanned aerial vehicles. Watch a drone burst into flames after being blasted by the laser in the Navy's recently released video.
The prototype, estimated to cost between $31 million and $32 million, could be installed as early as October aboard the USS Ponce, a floating base in the Middle East.