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Laser weapon will be the first to be deployed on a ship

The U.S. Navy has announced that it will deploy a prototype laser weapon aboard a Navy ship later this summer. The announcement is confirmation of the Navy's plans that were announced almost exactly a year ago today. In April of 2013, the Navy promised that it would be ready for shipboard testing of laser weapons by this summer.
The prototype laser that will be deployed is an improved version of the Laser Weapon System known as LaWS. The laser will be installed on the USS Ponce for at-sea testing in the Persian Gulf.
“This is a revolutionary capability,” said Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder. “It’s absolutely critical that we get this out to sea with our sailors for these trials, because this very affordable technology is going to change the way we fight and save lives.”

A 2012 test of LaWS against a UAV 

Navy officials say that the laser weapon is a top priority to counter asymmetric threats like unmanned and light aircraft as well as small attack boats. The major benefits of laser weapons include that they have an “unlimited” magazine and attacks at the speed of light.
“Our nation’s adversaries are pursuing a variety of ways to try and restrict our freedom to operate,” Klunder said. “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.”
Sailors control the laser system using a game-like controller to target a range of threats and control whether the treat is disabled or destroyed. The Navy currently has three prototypes and will determine which of the three is most suitable to move forward next year.

Source: ONR

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Overall usability?
By melgross on 4/8/2014 9:41:01 AM , Rating: 2
Two questions I'd like to see answered.

One is how quickly can this fire? Taking something down might require several shots. The more quickly those shots can be made will decide on how useful this will be during a real battle with multiple targets.

Two is how this will be affected by rain, fog and the like. If it only works in clear weather, then it is only partly usable. There is no guarantee that an attack will only take place when the ship can best defend itself.

RE: Overall usability?
By deltaend on 4/8/2014 10:12:20 AM , Rating: 2
It will be able to fire a continuous stream, so fire rate is not the question here. The question is about intensity and just like you asked, the intensity during conditions that aren't ideal. Of course, this isn't the only weapon that this boat will have, so I doubt that they will truly be too vulnerable in foggy conditions.

RE: Overall usability?
By PaFromFL on 4/8/2014 10:37:26 AM , Rating: 2
Photons don't always go where you want them. The main drawback is blindness if the laser light accidentally scatters off a nearby drone or passes near aircraft. I suspect all crew members will need to wear safety glasses. Friendly fire may produce actual fires.

RE: Overall usability?
By dgingerich on 4/8/2014 11:03:45 AM , Rating: 2
They use specialized adjustable mirrors and a targeting/distortion laser to reduce scattering, making it much more effective. It can take down a drone or cruise missile in about 3-4 seconds of continuous fire, smaller missiles are taken out faster, but harder to hit. No extra eye protection is needed for the crew of the ship because it doesn't back-scatter.

RE: Overall usability?
By Mitch101 on 4/8/2014 11:49:05 AM , Rating: 3
However all of this is useless compared to a fully armed and operations battle station.

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RE: Overall usability?
By kattanna on 4/8/2014 11:26:40 AM , Rating: 2

im suprised to see it being tested on an OLD diesel boat.

but.. given the abilities of the laser, I guess it makes sense actually.

RE: Overall usability?
By Arkive on 4/8/2014 12:40:31 PM , Rating: 2
I would imagine if it can bake through metal it should be able to clear a path through rain drops and/or fog. That said, precise and continued target acquisition will always be the most difficult challenge with a weapon like this, especially at higher velocities. Remember, a missile-based weapon only has to intercept the target and explode. A laser-based weapon has to stay focused on a very specific point on the target until failure occurs.

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