April 8th, 2013
08:22 PM ET

Navy to deploy laser to destroy drones, small boats

By Chris Lawrence and Lindy Royce-Bartlett

The U.S. Navy plans to deploy a laser weapon aboard a warship for the first time, Navy leaders said on Monday.

The laser will be deployed on the USS Ponce in early 2014.

"The weapon's quick-reaction capability matches what we see as potential targets" in the Persian Gulf, a Defense Department official said.

The laser has been tested against and destroyed drones and fast-moving small boats, the official said.

A second defense official said the laser is fully capable of being used against threats even though it is its first deployment.

"The system has been tested and proven. So while it's going on the Ponce as a demonstration, it is a system that can be used in real-world scenarios."

The first official estimated the cost at roughly $31 million.

"That could go down in the future, accounting for an actual procurement order," that official said.

In announcing the laser on Monday, Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder touted the technology.
He said the "solid-state laser is a big step forward to revolutionizing modern warfare with directed energy, just as gunpowder did in the era of knives and swords."

He also said it's expected to ultimately save the Navy money.

"Our conservative data tells us a shot of directed energy costs under $1," Klunder explained. "Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability."

The laser does not require "unique platforms" and could potentially be deployed on a variety of ships, one of the officials said. But another also said it does have limitations.

It needs a "line of sight" for targeting. "It does not curve, and cannot go over the horizon," the official said.

He also noted that bad weather can affect the beam, but added that "bad weather can be a factor in many of our current weapons systems" as well.

soundoff (436 Responses)
  1. home personal training

    This is so cool! The laser has been tested against and destroyed drones and fast-moving small boats. No deaths and target destroyed!

    April 12, 2014 at 9:51 am | Reply
  2. Cecila Schramek

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    June 9, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Reply
  3. NNN

    The Navy didn't develop anything. Raytheon took some industry grade fiber communication lasers, the kind used to drive long haul fiber optics links for the communications industry, and hacked them together into an array to form a combined laser of modest power. Then the laser by itself is nothing, it must be cued to the target's position by the PHALANX weapon system, also made by Raytheon, how convenient. Navy test and evaluation is a hopelessly inept joke of an activity, they haven't demonstrated anything, which is why they have to resort to computer generated imagery, aka a cartoon, to show how it works in the real world, or so they hope, how low can they go. The news release is just a scam to justify the Navy throwing more money away on nothing.

    April 10, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Reply
  4. ron

    1. A $2.00 laser can blind a pilot. From that comes $31 million, (+ $1.00) to blow it up?
    2. And STILL no flying car?
    3. If Tesla were alive, he'd be sending Edison a note saying, "In your face!"
    4. Really liked the guy who mentioned light sabers, BTW!
    5. Cheney is caught saying, "Ex-cellent,... now we can being our work on the Death Star. Heh, heh, heh"
    6. CIA secretly installs secret "hemorrhoid remover" under Kim Jong Un's toilet, as practical joke.
    7. By the third generation of beam weapons, the government finally acknowleged they were really designed for planetary defence, due to the coming alien threat.
    8. Air force versions un-official nickname "Flying Fickle Finger Of Fate".
    9. Hey, now we're only a warp engine away from ticking off the rest of the universe.
    10. NBC's found to employ latest tool, to pry Jay loose from the Tonight Show.

    April 9, 2013 at 10:46 pm | Reply
  5. Peter

    Can the system tracks and destroy multiple drones at one time?

    April 9, 2013 at 8:46 pm | Reply
    • Terry

      Will a reflective surface neutralize the laser? You could put camo cloth on a mirror and it will only expose the mirror when the laser strikes.

      April 9, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Reply
  6. Puzzled in Peoria

    Leave it to the military to try to justify a $31 million weapon that's ineffective in bad weather. I wish I owned stock in the defense industry.

    April 9, 2013 at 8:12 pm | Reply
    • C-RAM lover

      We have defenses for any situation, don't worry. I guess that's the point of defense. How much money are those lives worth? You really should get some perspective.

      April 9, 2013 at 9:21 pm | Reply
    • Guest

      So buy stock in the defense industry .... sheesh.

      April 9, 2013 at 9:46 pm | Reply
  7. Dylan

    finally taking Nikola Tesla's idea I see.

    April 9, 2013 at 8:00 pm | Reply
  8. Ajax

    Finally. There it is. From satellite hunter killers to warships. Now everybody knows we have a working death ray.

    April 9, 2013 at 7:16 pm | Reply
  9. cpc65

    Bring back the battleship and equip it with all lasers. And maybe a wave motion gun like in Starblazers.

    April 9, 2013 at 7:05 pm | Reply
  10. Graham

    Lasers don't kill drone planes. People kill drone planes.

    April 9, 2013 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  11. ...

    still waiting for that light saber

    April 9, 2013 at 6:23 pm | Reply
  12. svann

    How long before someone gets caught using the new laser to blow up beer cans?

    April 9, 2013 at 5:33 pm | Reply
  13. JeapersCreapers

    $31 million? Sure, it's only $1 a shot, but how many times will it get used? How many $100 thousand missiles do you have to fire to make $31 million? 310! That's a lot of missiles. Where is the return on investment?

    April 9, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Reply
    • Ricky

      Did you think that developing missiles did not cost any money? Missiles don't grow on trees last time I checked.

      April 9, 2013 at 7:46 pm | Reply
  14. Take A Look

    funny laser already for the US you would think we would get that far in years to come not already wounder what else the US has under there sleves and for some reason this cenerty is just movin to fast bet will have are own Flying DIses fly in space and have are own moon bases in 50 year

    April 9, 2013 at 5:11 pm | Reply
    • Norm

      Learn much? Back into the trailer Junior.

      April 9, 2013 at 5:42 pm | Reply
    • Frank

      I ran out of air trying to read your entire one sentence post.

      April 9, 2013 at 9:34 pm | Reply
  15. Fr33th1nk3r

    Words cannot even begin to describe how awesome this is!

    April 9, 2013 at 5:03 pm | Reply
    • svann

      truly it is unbelievable!

      April 9, 2013 at 5:34 pm | Reply
  16. b

    I heard they were going to train sharks and mount these on their heads....

    April 9, 2013 at 4:51 pm | Reply
    • duh

      uh,we don't have sharks, but we have ill-tempered seabass instead.

      April 9, 2013 at 6:12 pm | Reply
  17. Ayatollah

    We will put mirrors around our boats to reflect laser. Hah!

    April 9, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Reply
    • jake

      Ever taken a physic class?

      April 9, 2013 at 5:09 pm | Reply
      • svann

        A standard mirror can reflect 70% of broadband light. If you know the wavelength of a laser you can theoretically build a mirror to reflect 99+%. Thats how most lasers work – mirrors.

        April 9, 2013 at 5:37 pm |
  18. JesterJames

    I must have it... you know... for hunting. :p

    April 9, 2013 at 4:31 pm | Reply
    • Sparknut

      I need one for protection. Someone might try to break into my house and I need that laser to vaporize them!

      April 9, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Reply
  19. tez07

    And what will happen when the first Admiral tries to use it as a pointer for a presentation in D.C?.........There goes the Washington Monument

    April 9, 2013 at 4:26 pm | Reply
  20. Steve

    Lame. Where's the flash of orange light and the pew pew noises?

    April 9, 2013 at 3:52 pm | Reply
  21. hippy

    Lazer Beams, in my Dreams.....;-D

    April 9, 2013 at 3:36 pm | Reply
  22. frankie

    why you wanna hit me, hit me, hit me, hit me, hit me with your laser beam?

    April 9, 2013 at 3:31 pm | Reply
    • geoz

      love it.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm | Reply
  23. Han

    Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

    April 9, 2013 at 3:30 pm | Reply
    • frankie

      Hokie Religions? All hail Frank Beamer!

      April 9, 2013 at 3:40 pm | Reply
      • geoz

        Hokie Hokie Hokie Hi!

        April 9, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
  24. RJ23

    What's next? Sharks with frickin' laser beams attached to their heads?!

    April 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Reply
    • reckless abandon

      No we'll just have the brits deploy 007

      April 9, 2013 at 3:53 pm | Reply
  25. hecep

    Drones and small boats. Sounds like larger aircraft (fighters?) could be vulnerable also.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:56 pm | Reply
    • Logic

      Supersonic jets might be a bit hard to target, but drones and boats are slow.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:32 pm | Reply
      • EddO

        Not really, speed of light is faster than speed of sound.

        April 9, 2013 at 3:35 pm |
      • skrthatonedude

        @EddO The targeting systems and actuators would be the limiting factor in this case. What use is the speed of light if you can't aim it fast enough?

        April 9, 2013 at 6:42 pm |
      • svann

        You target it automatically using radar which also moves at the speed of light.

        April 9, 2013 at 9:16 pm |
  26. Hahahahahahhaah

    Lasers don't kill people. People with lasers kill people. Hahahahahahahahaha

    April 9, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Reply
  27. Phil

    What happens when the casing of the drone, missile or other target is mirrored, like stainless steel or even a mirror? Does the directed energy just get re-directed like other light waves?

    April 9, 2013 at 2:43 pm | Reply
    • hecep

      Depends on the frequency of the laser.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:57 pm | Reply
    • svann

      While you could reflect a good portion of the laser with a mirror, unless the mirror is tuned to the frequency of the light it would still melt with enough power. It also would never be able to accurately reflect back to the ship, if thats what you are thinking.

      April 9, 2013 at 9:20 pm | Reply
  28. Lt. John S

    Laser roasted! evenly cooked ... on air and space.
    But always think what other countries uses them against us? There will be no missiles to deflect these beams!?

    April 9, 2013 at 2:38 pm | Reply
  29. ScottCA

    As a side benefit they can shoot down ducks and roast them at the same time.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:26 pm | Reply
  30. ScottCA

    Great technology. This is the future.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Reply
  31. bfd007

    Are the American people going to get these to shot down drones over American soil ?

    April 9, 2013 at 2:18 pm | Reply
    • svann

      Its against federal law to aim a laser at a plane.

      April 9, 2013 at 9:23 pm | Reply
  32. Sivick

    you think the first captain to use it will say "fire phasers mr. worf!"?

    April 9, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Reply
    • James PDX

      I hope not. TNG sucks compared to the original.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Reply
      • TheSnarf

        ...said no one ever.

        April 9, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • Frank

      Hahahahahahahahaha...

      April 9, 2013 at 9:38 pm | Reply
  33. OCCUPY WALLSTREET FOREVER

    So what happens if the enemy uses mirrors to deflect this laser beam?

    April 9, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Reply
    • Joe

      Have a friend point a laser pointer at your chest while you're bouncing on a trampoline. Then hold up a mirror and see how much luck you have deflecting the beam back at him.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:19 pm | Reply
    • James PDX

      That depends on how reflective the mirror is versus how powerful the beam is. No mirror is 100% reflective and will absorb some energy. Most likely the beam will temporarily be deflected until the mirror heats up enough to destroy it's reflective capability.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:21 pm | Reply
    • Just a Guy

      Try flying a drone with a mirror large enough to deflect a laser beam. Just a bit unwieldy. But I suppose you could make the surfaces of the drone highly reflective.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:47 pm | Reply
    • hecep

      What happens? Well, I'd suggest that the enemy leave the frames on those mirrors. Easier to grab and hold, you know.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:02 pm | Reply
  34. MarkR

    So on a foggy or hazy day, the laser is pretty much useless as the particles in the air scatter the energy of the laser beam. Is the Navy trying to tell us that their other weapons don't work to well in fog? I want my money back!

    April 9, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Reply
    • Ladislav Nemec

      It will not work reliably in the North Atlantic. Fortunately, not many hostile drones or small boats come from that part of the ocean.

      May have better luck in tropical oceans where there are lot of hot heads, some of them covered with towels.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:14 pm | Reply
    • John

      It depends on the frequency of the laser. Just like how laser eye surgery works, the right frequency laser will go past the right median without being hindered. This is one reason laser actually does calibration to determine the conditions along the path to the target before it fires.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:23 pm | Reply
  35. Nodack

    Just in time, because China has been on a tear making Drones designed to take out US Carriers. Google it.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Reply
  36. AngryJew

    I hope that we do not give this weapon to Apartheid Israel.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:03 pm | Reply
  37. Snorkle

    nothing like a bullet that travels at the speed of light-wow!--so when do we get a phaser?

    April 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  38. Burt Way

    Our Air Force has been trying to kill Global Hawk 30 & 40 for nearly 2 years. Yet congress keeps forcing the Air Force to buy these highly flawed machines rather than fixing them. Maybe The services can use this new laser to kill them off.

    April 9, 2013 at 2:02 pm | Reply
  39. Scott

    I saw this on the news last night, and it seems like a VERY humane way to wage "war" if thats what you wish to call it...

    The beam hits a target, no matter where on the target....it just starts "drilling a hole" at some point it will hit something critical and down the device....

    If a manned device....It gives the humans aboard, a reasonable amount of time to abandon, ie eject....from the device...

    Killing the equipment, and not the humans....

    April 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm | Reply
    • Brando

      Anti-personnel lasers have been around and have been banned by international arms agreements for quite some time. The problem with lasers is that they are a very painful way to die and I'm surprised to see the US implementing these long-range lasers and simply calling them "Anti-drone" lasers. They can just as easily be pointed at a manned aircraft and melt the skin off the pilots.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:59 pm | Reply
      • Nodack

        All the same to me. Don't make them because they might hurt somebody? LOL. Better to just blow parts off their body with conventional a weapons? It's called war, weapons are designed to hurt people. Why do you think they come out with names like "Anti-personell mines?"

        April 9, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
      • James PDX

        So? If melting their skin off gets the job done, it's no skin off my back. What's with this new PC style of warfare where we try to kill the enemy humanely? Efficiency is the only killing concern we should have. If countries don't want their soldiers to die painfully, perhaps they should avoid conflict.

        April 9, 2013 at 2:15 pm |
  40. pasigiri

    Good. Now if they can mount them to freakn sharks heads it would be freakn awesome.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:42 pm | Reply
    • Nodack

      Nice one.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Reply
  41. MagicBishop

    OMG,, It's taken them 25 years to reassemble Dr. Hathaway's laser that Kent Knight and his team of genius misfits destroyed?

    April 9, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Reply
    • TheMovieFan

      Chris Knight.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:37 pm | Reply
      • Steve

        It was hidden in Lazlow's basement the whole time.

        April 9, 2013 at 3:57 pm |
    • tez07

      It just took them 25 years to eat all the popcorn in Dr. Hathaway's house

      April 9, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Reply
  42. tom jamieson

    Soon all the gun nuts will be able to buy their very own laser gun, now won't that just be great.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Reply
    • Rick

      I'll fight to protect our 2nd amendment right to bear lasers.

      April 9, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Reply
  43. Johnna

    Sounds like an episode from a Flash Gordon movie I once saw.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:32 pm | Reply
  44. Dustin

    they're hiding the wonderwaffe along with the ray guns and im willing to bet there is a more powerful laser on one of the satellites no doubt but they're saving it for if aliens land

    April 9, 2013 at 1:28 pm | Reply
  45. Lars

    So will the people who actually need this tech have it available to them or just our military? If the military has the drones, and the lasers that kill the drones, who are we really protecting with this laser tech? It seems to me we are just the aggressors declaring war on the world. What nation has drones that are a threat to anyone? Only one I can think of is us, the USA. We are the only nation on earth that has killed people using drones, yet now we have the tech to kill those drones. What's the point? Is there a drone threat from another aggressive war-mongering nation? I know of none.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:27 pm | Reply
    • Dustin

      Have you ever heard of Top-Secret information? I doubt you know much of anything.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:30 pm | Reply
    • AOK

      CHINA

      April 9, 2013 at 1:38 pm | Reply
    • Frankhy

      If the US is the only nation you can think of to have drones, you really need to broaden your mind. Currently all major nations are developing drones. While they may not have it at the moment, it is likely not far away at all that a douzen of countries will have it. Drones aren't exactly rocket science, so to speak.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Reply
    • Nodack

      Google China drones. They are making tons of drones designed to attack US carriers.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:11 pm | Reply
    • BK

      The idea is probably to have a suitable defense BEFORE other countries come at us with it.

      But yes, I agree that the last thing our military (or humanity in general) needs is energy weapons.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:28 pm | Reply
    • grady

      State of Israel developed the first ones.

      April 9, 2013 at 3:47 pm | Reply
  46. Tom Pitts

    "I miss the year 3000 when life was simple and brains flew through space and everyone ate lasers." – Phillip J. Fry

    April 9, 2013 at 1:23 pm | Reply
  47. GHynson

    Just one question,
    Can you use a huge prism to refract that laser?

    April 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Reply
    • Zimmey

      feel free to hold the prism while the Navy tests your theory

      April 9, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Reply
    • Ruby

      No. By its nature, a laser will not refract.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:08 pm | Reply
      • SentTheWave

        Holy crap, someone here who actually understands optics?! You have my respect.

        April 9, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
      • JT

        Yeah, because if you understand optics you have the key to the WORLD!! THE WORLD!!

        April 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm |
      • Escher7

        All electromagnetic energy refracts. Laser eye surgery is called refraction surgery. Shine a laser through a glass of water and see what happens.

        April 9, 2013 at 3:13 pm |
      • jkflipflop

        A laser beam is frequency locked and highly coherent. I think you mean that a laser can't spectrally separate by it's nature. It's also just packets of light, and can be refracted.

        April 9, 2013 at 7:38 pm |
  48. phil

    we need phasers and photon torpedoes

    April 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Reply
    • JLAM

      Photon cannons have always been available, even to the public. Flashlights. Not even joking. A photon torpedo would be...a flashlight on a torpedo.

      April 9, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Reply
  49. Peter

    It is kind of slow to burn through the target drone. What if drones come in in the hundreds and overwhelm this laser system. Are there any kind of rays that can disable the electronic components of the drones in a quick shot instead? That's all we need to do, to make them ineffective as a weapon. They will dive into the sea themselves.

    April 9, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Reply
    • Tom Pitts

      Peter, why are you assuming this laser system has to burn through it's target? I didn't read that in the article. A directed energy beam need only disable a drone to bring it down.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:34 pm | Reply
      • jkflipflop

        Totally wrong. That's not how any of this works.

        It does indeed burn a hole through the aircraft. There's no such thing as a long-range directed EMP beam that disables aircraft. That's Star Trek stuff.

        April 9, 2013 at 8:02 pm |
  50. Garrett

    I hope we can have laser fire arms in another 10 or so years. It'd be nice to shoot our laser weapons over 1,000 times and it'd only cost us like $15 or $20 to do that.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:57 pm | Reply
    • allenwoll

      .
      Ray Guns are a very sanitary way of wounding - Self-cauterizing ! - But take forever to heal.
      .
      THAT should be very attractive for our GunNutz ! - Hey, No ballistics tracing, either.
      .

      April 9, 2013 at 1:12 pm | Reply
  51. Steve

    So....... Satelites and aliens need worry...

    April 9, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Reply
    • Nodack

      Or satellites armed with lasers.

      April 9, 2013 at 2:17 pm | Reply
      • hecep

        Not if Stanley Kubrick's Space Child has anything to say about it.

        April 9, 2013 at 3:05 pm |
  52. Pan3

    shoot me with your laser beam...

    April 9, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Reply
    • hecep

      Or how about... Hit me your sizzle-stick!!

      April 9, 2013 at 2:49 pm | Reply
    • JT

      That's what she said!

      April 9, 2013 at 2:50 pm | Reply
  53. Ron

    Star Wars meets reality. What we need is a laser weapon in space pointer at North Korea and Iran.

    April 9, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Reply
    • AngryJew

      No, we need one pointed at Apartheid Israel.

      April 9, 2013 at 1:44 pm | Reply
      • Joe

        Shouldn't your name be "I HATE JEWS"? Cause that would be more accurate... one thing's for sure, you're not a Jew!

        April 9, 2013 at 2:08 pm |
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