US Navy laser weapon performing beyond expectations: official

The laser weapon system (LaWS) is tested aboard the USS Ponce amphibious transport dock during an operational demonstration while deployed in the Gulf in this November 15, 2014 U.S. Navy handout photo provided December 11, 2014. REUTERS Photo

A laser weapon deployed aboard the USS Ponce in the Gulf has performed beyond expectations in four months of operational testing, the chief of Navy research said on Dec. 10, lifting hopes for a new U.S. defense against cheap anti-ship arms.
   
Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, head of the Office of Naval Research, said the $40 million laser weapon was fully integrated into systems aboard the USS Ponce at the end of the summer for a year of testing.
   
"This is the first time in recorded history that a directed energy weapons system has ever deployed on anything," he said.
   
New video of the 30-kilowatt laser showed it dazzling a small aerial drone in two seconds, frying its electronics and sending it plummeting into the sea before it had time to catch fire.
   
Another showed it targeting a hard-to-see rocket-propelled grenade aboard a small, distant attack boat, causing the device to detonate and send a spray of shrapnel across the water.
   
"We're not testing it any more. This is operational. It's on a ship in the Persian Gulf," Klunder said. "This isn't something we've got in a box we're saving for ... a special moment. They're using it every single day."
   
The deployment of the weapon comes as the Pentagon is concerned about losing the technological edge that has enabled it to rapidly overcome rivals on the battlefield for decades.
   
Many countries are developing precision munitions, long-range missiles and other systems to counter U.S. superiority. China, Iran and other nations have developed accurate anti-ship missiles to force the U.S. Navy to operate further from their shores.
   
The Navy laser lifts hopes for a more powerful 100-150 kw system able to deliver a jolt of...

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