"You know, I have one simple request. And that is to have sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads!" – Dr. Evil Well, we're not quite there yet, but the U.S. Navy released a video this week showing off the not-so-secret laser weapons system it's been testing for a while on ships in the Persian Gulf.
Dubbed LaWS, the technology is designed to help Navy vessels defend against "asymmetrical warfare" attacks by small, fast-moving threats like UAV drones or explosive-laden patrol boats.
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The video, accompanied by a frankly goofy hard rock soundtrack, shows the LaWS system using directed-energy beams to essentially heat up and detonate oncoming threats. There are no visible laser bolts - in the manner of the Death Star versus X-Wing fighters, say - but you can see the weapon take out threats both at sea and in the air.
According to the accompanying report from the U.S. Naval Institute (USNI), the LaWS system - installed on the transport ship USS Ponce - successfully disabled incoming UAVs and rocket-propelled grenades and burned out the engines of approaching rigid hull inflatable boats.
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There's also a quick sequence of images in the video showing a single crew member aiming the weapon with a device that looks a lot like your standard video game console controller. One of the benefits of the LaWS system, according to the Navy, is that it's much simpler and less expensive than traditional explosive munitions.
What's more, the LaWS system isn't just a test program anymore. The commander of the Ponce is now authorized to use the laser in defense of the vessel, according to the USNI report. And so it begins. The Navy hopes to deploy variations of the laser weapons across the entire fleet by 2020.