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Navy to deploy laser on ship this summer

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The U.S. Navy announced April 7 that it plans to deploy a first-of-its-kind laser weapon prototype on a ship late this summer.

The laser will be installed on the USS Ponce transport vessel for at-sea testing in the Persian Gulf. The prototype is an improved version of the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) technology demonstrator, which has downed several unmanned aircraft in tests, the Navy said. A key feature of the newer variant is a single console that controls all functions of the laser.

The Navy views such speed-of-light weapons as a cost-effective means to disable or destroy small attack boats and unmanned and light aircraft.

"Spending about $1 per shot of a directed-energy source that never runs out gives us an alternative to firing costly munitions at inexpensive threats,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder.

The Navy is also exploring putting lasers on destroyers and the new Littoral Combat Ship. Three industry prototypes are under development, and the Navy plans to decide next year which, if any of them, will be installed on a ship for testing.

A video overview of LaWS can be viewed here.

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