Real Laser Cannon
On Dec. 10, 2014, the U.S. Navy deployed a real laser cannon for the first time. According to the Office of Naval Research, the system called LaWS (short for “laser weapon system”) will play a key role in the future of naval operations. The laser cannon was installed on the USS Ponce. The operational demonstrations took place in the fall of 2014, and the laser cannon operated seamlessly, complementing other defense systems of the ship.
According to Rear Adm. Matthew L. Klunder, during the tests the laser performed rather complicated tasks and was able to destroy its designated targets effectively and with “near-instantaneous lethality.” A laser beam, unsurprisingly, propagates at the speed of light, so no evasive maneuver is going to be fast enough to evade the beam.
To our considerable regret, the laser does not, in fact, shoot a cool green beam. The newest military technology is based on solid-state laser array that generates an infrared beam (and is, therefore, invisible to the eyes).
The new weapon has the advantage of requiring literally no ammunition (the electric charge needed to fire a single shot is quite easy to generate). The laser is cheap to maintain and extremely accurate. The scalable power levels even allow to use the laser cannon as a non-lethal weapon.
Apparently, the Office of Naval Research is currently developing a similar weapon for the U.S. Marine Corps. The ground-based system is thought of as an effective way to protect troops from drones and supersonic missiles.