A laser weapon may sound like something out of a science fiction novel, but the U.S. has developed a directed-energy weapon that brings the future to present day. No, this is nothing like your dinky little at home laser hair removal device. This is a serious weapon, and its precision is stunning.
Known as the AN/SEQ-3 Laser Weapon System, or XN-1 LaWS for short, this weapon was developed in 2010 by the United States Navy. In 2014, it was installed on the USS Ponce to carry out field tests. In December of that year, the U.S. Navy announced that laser weapon system worked perfectly, and the Ponce’s commander was authorized to use the XN-1 LaWS as a defensive weapon.
The XN-1 LaWS was designed to be a ship-defense system, and thus far, it has only publicly engaged in simulated attacks from a small boat and a UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) drone.
The LaWS features scalable power levels. On low power, it can be used to dazzle a person’s eyes, causing them to turn away from a threatening posture. On high power (30 thousand watts), the laser has the power to burn out motors, fry sensors and even detonate explosive materials.
Against a helicopter, this laser can burn through vital components, causing it to fall and crash.
Kratos Defense & Security Solutions won the $11 million contract to develop the system in 2010 as part of a U.S. Navy program. The Navy spent $40 million on the research, development and testing of this system over six years.
If testing goes well, the Navy may deploy a laser weapon with a one-mile range sometime between 2017 and 2021.
Directed-energy weapons are highly sought due to their economic benefits. An LaWS can be fired for little more than a dollar per shot, whereas conventional projectiles can cost thousands of dollars each.