The U.S. Navy successfully test-fired an active anti-drone laser weapons system, which is now ready for action, CNN reported.
LaWS, an acronym for Laser Weapons System, has been on board the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship for several years, but with a recent test, the U.S. Navy showed that the system is fully operational.
CNN witnessed LaWS destroy a drone in flight, as well as destroy moving targets. Focused beams of light engulfed a drone in flames, knocking it out of the sky and making it fall into the water below.
“It is throwing massive amounts of photons at an incoming object,” laser weapons system officer Lt. Cale Hughes told CNN. “We don’t worry about wind, we don’t worry about range, we don’t worry about anything else. We’re able to engage the targets at the speed of light.”
“We don’t have to lead a target,” Hughes added. “We’re doing that engagement at the speed of light so it really is a point and shoot – we see it, we focus on it, and we can negate that target.”
The beam of light travels at the speed of light, is invisible to the human eye and costs about $1 per shot, according to CNN.
The $40 million system requires electrical power from a small generator, as well as a three-man team to operate.
The laser system is currently used to take out small aircraft and boats, which could limit collateral damage.
“I can aim that at any particular spot on a target, and disable and destroy as necessary,” Capt. Christopher Wells of the USS Ponce told CNN. “It reduces collateral damage – I no longer have to worry about rounds that may go beyond the target and potentially hurt or damage things that I don’t want to hurt or damage.”
The Navy is also developing second generation systems that could take out faster and larger targets such as missiles.