The Laser Weapon System, or LaWS, is the first weaponised laser on a US warship.
The 100 kilowatt turret was installed aboard the USS Ponce this summer as part of a $US40 million R&D project to explore the potential of a weapon system that doesn’t require expensive traditional projectiles.
Missiles, along with the military systems and vehicles they are launched from, come at an exorbitant price.
This is what the laser system operator views when selecting the target:
As the graphic from Stratfor below shows, a single SM-2 missile costs $US400,000.
That’s an awful lot of taxpayer money to spend on destroying modest targets like small enemy vessels or drones, which LaWS successfully brought down in tests done in November.
Projectiles used in missile defence are costly. Israel’s Iron Dome rocket defence system, for instance, can reliably shoot down cheap ($US750) incoming rockets, but it does so with a $US40,000 interceptor of its own.
In contrast, the energy for a single laser shot from the LaWS comes at the much more sensible pricetag of $US1.
The graphic also shows that the LaWS technology only culminates in the turret visible on the ship’s deck. The beam director is linked to the lasers’ power source via fibre optic cables.
US Central Command has given the USS Ponce’s commander clearance to use the LaWS in a defensive capacity.
Here is a video of the LaWS system in action:
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