US Navy's laser can kill drones - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

US Navy's laser can kill drones

The LaWS, an acronym for laser weapons system, is deployed on board the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, ready to be fired at hostile targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew. (Source: CNN) The LaWS, an acronym for laser weapons system, is deployed on board the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, ready to be fired at hostile targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew. (Source: CNN)

(CNN) - It may sound like something from a science fiction novel: A weapon of light and photons that's silent, deadly and relatively cheap.

In the sometimes-hostile waters of the Persian Gulf looms the U.S. Navy's first - in fact, the world's first - active laser weapon.

The LaWS, an acronym for laser weapons system, is deployed on board the USS Ponce amphibious transport ship, ready to be fired at hostile targets today and every day by Capt. Christopher Wells and his crew. CNN was granted exclusive access to a live-fire test of the laser.

"It is more precise than a bullet," Wells said. "It's not a niche weapon system, like some other weapons that we have throughout the military. You know, where it's only good against air contacts or it's only good against surface targets or it's only good against, you know, ground based targets. In this case, this is a very versatile weapon. It can be used against a variety of targets."

LaWS begins with an advantage no other weapon ever invented comes even close to matching. It moves, by definition, at the speed of light. For comparison, that is 50,000 times the speed of an incoming ICBM.

"It is throwing massive amounts of photons at an incoming object," said Lt. Cale Hughes, laser weapons system officer. "We don't worry about wind. We don't worry about range, we don't worry about anything else."

First, the Ponce crew launches the target - an incoming drone aircraft, a weapon in increasing use by Iran, North Korea, China, Russia and other adversaries.

Immediately, the weapons team zeroes in on its target.

"We don't have to lead a target," Hughes said. "We're doing that engagement at the speed of light, so it really is a point and shoot. We see it, we focus on it, and we can negate that target."

Then, in an instant, the drone's wing lights up, heated to a temperature of thousands of degrees, lethally damaging the aircraft and sending it hurtling down to the sea.

All this, from a silent and invisible killer.

"It operates in an invisible part of the electromagnetic spectrum so you don't see the beam," Hughes said. "It doesn't make any sound, it's completely silent and it's incredibly effective at what it does."

It is remarkably precise, minimizing collateral damage. And all the $40 million system needs to operate is a supply of electricity and a crew of three. No multi-million-dollar missile, no ammunition at all. The cost per use?

"It's about a dollar a shot," Hughes said.

Today, the laser is intended primarily to disable or destroy aircraft and small boats. However, the Navy is already developing more powerful, second-generation systems which would bring more significant targets into its crosshairs: missiles.

Those missions remain classified. However, the commander and crew are very much aware of the potential capabilities.

"It's designed with the intent of being able to counter airborne and surface based threats, and it's been able to prove itself over the last three years as being incredibly effective at that," Hughes said.

Copyright 2017 CNN. All rights reserved.

  • Science & technology newsMore>>

  • Privacy group tells FTC Google tracking violated 2011 order

    Privacy group tells FTC Google tracking violated 2011 order

    Friday, August 17 2018 4:43 PM EDT2018-08-17 20:43:22 GMT
    Saturday, August 18 2018 4:26 PM EDT2018-08-18 20:26:24 GMT
    A privacy group that lobbied the Federal Trade Commission to take action on Google nearly a decade ago says in a letter to the FTC that Google has violated the terms of a 2011 settlement because of practices...More >>
    A privacy group that lobbied the Federal Trade Commission to take action on Google nearly a decade ago says in a letter to the FTC that Google has violated the terms of a 2011 settlement because of practices exposed in an Associated Press report this week.More >>
  • As Musk admits to job stress, Tesla's board may have to act

    As Musk admits to job stress, Tesla's board may have to act

    Friday, August 17 2018 1:44 AM EDT2018-08-17 05:44:17 GMT
    Saturday, August 18 2018 4:26 PM EDT2018-08-18 20:26:06 GMT
    (AP Photo/Jack Plunkett, File). FILE - In this March 9, 2013, file photo, Electric car maker Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk gives the opening keynote at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. Musk has admitted in a wide-ranging interview with The New Y...(AP Photo/Jack Plunkett, File). FILE - In this March 9, 2013, file photo, Electric car maker Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk gives the opening keynote at the SXSW Interactive Festival in Austin, Texas. Musk has admitted in a wide-ranging interview with The New Y...

    Electric car maker Tesla's CEO Elon Musk tells The New York Times that stress is taking a heavy toll, but he stands by his tweet on taking his company private.

    More >>

    Electric car maker Tesla's CEO Elon Musk tells The New York Times that stress is taking a heavy toll, but he stands by his tweet on taking his company private.

    More >>
  • After Alex Jones timeout, Twitter CEO mulls deeper changes

    After Alex Jones timeout, Twitter CEO mulls deeper changes

    Wednesday, August 15 2018 11:37 AM EDT2018-08-15 15:37:15 GMT
    Saturday, August 18 2018 1:18 PM EDT2018-08-18 17:18:21 GMT
    (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File). FILE - In this April 19, 2017, file photo, Alex Jones, a right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist, arrives at the courthouse in Austin, Texas. Twitter says it is suspending the account of the fa...(Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File). FILE - In this April 19, 2017, file photo, Alex Jones, a right-wing radio host and conspiracy theorist, arrives at the courthouse in Austin, Texas. Twitter says it is suspending the account of the fa...

    Twitter lasted less than two weeks before joining other prominent tech companies in muzzling Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist who's used their platforms to spread false information and hoaxes for...

    More >>

    Twitter lasted less than two weeks before joining other prominent tech companies in muzzling Alex Jones, the right-wing conspiracy theorist who's used their platforms to spread false information and hoaxes for years with few, if any, repercussions.

    More >>
Powered by Frankly