In the occasionally hostile, Persian Gulf, the U.S Navy’s- and the world’s- first active laser weapon is looming. The Laser Weapons System, referred to as LAWS, is not an imaginary concept. It is not an experiment to explore a possibility. Aboard the USS Ponce amphibious transport vessel, it is deployed and prepared to employed in the firing of targets now, or whenever required by the ship’s captain, Capt. Christopher Well, alongside his crew.
News station CNN was able to report back on an exclusive first-hand encounter, accessing the live-fire test of the innovative laser technology.
“It is more precise than a bullet,” Wells told CNN. “It’s not a niche weapon system like some other weapons that we have throughout the military where it’s only good against air contacts, or it’s only good against surface targets, or it’s only good against, you know, ground-based targets — in this case this is a very versatile weapon, it can be used against a variety of targets.”
LAWS originates as an advantageous component that is unmatched or incomparable by any other weapon. It has the ability to navigate at the speed of light. When attempting to make a comparison that puts it into perspective, that speed is about 50,000 times the speed that an incoming ICBM travels.
“It is throwing massive amounts of photons at an incoming object,” commented Lt. Cale Hughes, laser weapons system officer. “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.”
That speed and power were witnessed firsthand by the news reporters. The USS Ponce crew launched the drone aircraft target, for the sake of the test, choosing the object because it represents a weapon heavily utilized by Iranian adversaries, as well as China, North Korea, and Russia opposition.
Right away, the weapons team locked in on their target. “We don’t have to lead a target,” Hughes exclaimed. “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.”
In milliseconds, the lights on the drone’s wing illuminated, heated up to a temperature amounting to thousands of degrees that disseminate the aircraft and send it on its’ way to crash into the sea.
The silent strike is invisible in its approach. “It operates in an invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum so you don’t see the beam, it doesn’t make any sound, it’s completely silent and it’s incredibly effective at what it does,” as stated by Hughes.
It has astounding precision, which, according to the Navy, will play a detrimental role in the limitation of wartime collateral damage.
“I can aim that at any particular spot on a target, and disable and destroy as necessary,” Wells declared. “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 only thing needed by the $40 million system in order to operate is a sufficient supply of electricity, which is produced from a small generator belonging to the vessel, accompanied by a crew of three. No need for any ammunition, and especially not the ordinary multi-million-dollar missiles. The actual cost to operate? “It’s about a dollar a shot,” said Hughes.
In current days, the laser is primarily employed for the disablement or destruction of aircraft and small ships. “It’s designed with the intent of being able to counter airborne and surface-based threats,” said Hughes. “And it’s been able to prove itself over the last three years as being incredibly effective at that.”
Yet and still, the Navy has an even more powerful system- second-generation arsenal- that is being developed in order to attract more prominent targets into the crosshairs of the missiles.
Those missions are closely kept secrets of classified nature. However, the potential capabilities they offer are widely known by the commander and crew. When asked if the current LAWS had the ability to shoot down a missile, he smiled and replied “maybe”.