US Navy unveils new laser weapon

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U.S. Navy Unveils New Laser Weapon

No, it's not "Star Wars" or "Independence Day" -- but it is certainly a step to the war crafts of the future.

The U.S. Navy's Laser Weapons System, the first of its kind, launched on the naval ship USS Ponce early in November.

The new weapon can neutralize targets with nothing more than concentrated energy.

Christopher Harmer, senior naval analyst at Middle East Security Project, compares it to getting a sunburn after being out in the sun for 4 or 5 hours.

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US Navy unveils new laser weapon
MANAMA, BAHRAIN - DECEMBER 06: A US Navy patrol boat follows a boat that passed near the USS Ponce where U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was taking a tour, on December 6, 2013 in Manama, Bahrain. Secretary Hagel is on a six-day trip to the middle east before returning to Washington. US Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel toured the Ponce which was recently refitted and converted to a staging base for mine countermeasures helicopters and carries a laser weapons system. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
This still image provided by the U.S. Navy and taken from video shows a remote-controlled target aircraft as it is hit by the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) during an exercise conducted by the U.S. Navy. The Laser Weapon System temporarily installed aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey in San Diego, Calif., is a technology demonstrator built by the Naval Sea Systems Command. Citing a series of technological breakthroughs, Navy leaders announced plans Monday April 8, 2013 to deploy for the first time a solid-state laser aboard the USS Ponce in fiscal year 2014. (AP Photo/US Navy)
A member of the U.S. Navy patrols the deck of the USS Ponce, where Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel was touring, in Manama, Bahrain, Friday, Dec. 6, 2013. Standing on the massive deck of the Navy’s USS Ponce, Hagel said the U.S. is entering the new nuclear pact with Iran “very clear eyed” and it remains to be see whether Tehran is serious about keeping its development peaceful. (AP Photo/Mark Wilson, Pool)
The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) temporarily installed aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) in San Diego, Calif., in this July 2012 photo is a technology demonstrator built by the Naval Sea Systems Command from commercial fiber solid state lasers, utilizing combination methods developed at the Naval Research Laboratory. Navy leaders announced plans Monday April 8, 2013 to deploy for the first time a solid-state laser aboard the USS Ponce in fiscal year 2014. (AP Photo/US Navy, John F. Williams)
The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) temporarily installed aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG 105) in San Diego, Calif., in this July 2012 photo is a technology demonstrator built by the Naval Sea Systems Command from commercial fiber solid state lasers, utilizing combination methods developed at the Naval Research Laboratory. Navy leaders announced plans Monday April 8, 2013 to deploy for the first time a solid-state laser aboard the USS Ponce in fiscal year 2014. (AP Photo/US Navy, John F. Williams)
This image provided by the U.S. Department of Defense shows an infrared image of the Missile Defense Agency’s Airborne Laser Testbed, right point, destroying a target missile, left point, on Thursday, Feb. 11, 2010. This successful test is a boost to a program that has had billions in cost overruns and saw its budget sharply cut by the Pentagon last year. The Air Force and Boeing Co. announced Friday, Feb. 12, 2010 that an airborne laser system tracked a target missile as it accelerated over the ocean off the Point Mugu Naval Warfare Center on Thursday night. The Air Force says an energy beam heated the missile until it broke up. (AP Photo/U.S. Department of Defense)
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"That amount of energy being placed on a target in a very small amount of time is going to cause a chemical and physical disruption in the structural integrity of that target," he says.

Though not as powerful as other weapons aboard a typical military ship, Harmer says the laser will have useful applications in fending off attackers.

"If there are a number of targets attacking a Navy vessel, the gun is simply going to run out of ammunition before it engages all of the targets," says Mr. Harmer. "Whereas with a laser, you can more or less continually fire a laser as long as you've got adequate power supply and adequate cooling supply."

Although you can't see it, the laser neutralizes a target by sending a beam of energy, cooking everything in its path.

Now operational, the prototype laser costs just 0.59 cents a shot. That is a fraction of the cost of launching a navy standard missile 2, which has a sticker price of $400,000 each.

While the U.S. Navy is far from developing the laser cannons of the starship enterprise, it has taken a first step to the future of military technology.

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