Nov 17, 2014
U.S. Navy Deploys Its First Laser Weapon in the Persian Gulf
The amphibious transport ship USS Ponce has been patrolling with a prototype 30-kilowatt-class Laser Weapon System since late August. The laser is mounted facing the bow, and can be fired in several modes -- from a dazzling warning flash to a destructive beam -- and can set a drone or small boat on fire.
Since 2011, the Navy has boosted its presence in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world’s traded oil flows. Equipped with naval mines and small vessels that practice swarming tactics to attack larger warships, Iranian officials have periodically threatened to close the waterway.
The Navy laser wasn’t specifically designed or deployed to counter Iran’s arsenal of small armed vessels.
Naval Sea Systems Command technicians developed the prototype over seven years at a cost of about $40 million. The Ponce crew was authorized to deploy the weapon after it passed a series of at-sea tests, including lasing static surface targets.
The prototype focuses the light from six solid-state commercial welding lasers on a single spot. It “can effectively counter surface and airborne threats, to include small boats” and drones, according to the Navy.
The device can emit progressively stronger beams, first to warn an adversary, and then destroy it if necessary.