After a decade of speculation, the first energy weapon is about to see active duty. The Laser Weapon System (LaWS) was developed by the U.S. Navy as a response to the threat of small attack boats and UAVs. The demonstrator used a high power energy blast to burn through hulls and fuselages of incoming boats and drones.
The laser weapon has several advantages over the standard Navy machine guns and autocannons. It faster, deadlier and cheaper. Although a product of the $40 million research, one shot costs about $1, which is a third of a standard .50 caliber round.
The Navy is planning to fit the first operational LaWS on the USS Ponce (LPD-15), a Austin-class amphibious transport dock, which is currently serving as an Afloat Forward Staging Base in the Gulf. The USS Ponce is conducting operations off the Iranian coast, and might be vulnerable to swarm attacks by fast Iranian boats. With the futuristic weaponry refitted, this almost half-a-century old Desert Storm vet is still far from decommission.