US Navy unveils new laser weapon

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.

U.S. Navy Laser
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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)

"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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