Scared of drones? Then you should see the new weapon the US Navy hopes to use to knock them out of the sky. I'm talking about frickin' lasers here, folks.
After years of testing, the Navy says it's making final adjustments on a new prototype of a Laser Weapons System -- dubbed LaWS -- that will be deployed into the real world in late summer.
In tests over the past few years, LaWs has proven itself to be effective at using directed energy bursts to hit airborne targets, lighting them on fire and sending them to a dramatic final meeting with the desert or ocean floor. Next up, the system will be deployed aboard the U.S.S. Ponce for at-sea testing in the Persian Gulf.
In recent months, the Navy has been testing LaWS with existing weapons systems to see if they could successfully hand off tracking and targeting capability to the laser system. The results, according to a Navy release, have been positive:
"The result is a weapon system with a single laser weapon control console, manned by a surface warfare weapons officer aboard USS Ponce who can operate all functions of the laser -- and if commanded, fire the laser weapon."
And just to make it easier to visualize for us civilians, the whole thing is controlled just as imagined in all those terrible 1980s movies where the military is confronted yet again by the Russian menace. Well, kind of.
"Using a video game-like controller, that sailor will be able to manage the laser's power to accomplish a range of effects against a threat, from disabling to complete destruction."
In addition to being scary, effective, and joystick-compatible, LaWS is also a bargain, according to Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder.
"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," he said.
If all goes well with the system's test deployment, the next step will be to hand the technology off to teams from Northrop Grumman, BAE Systems, and Raytheon to develop the next generation of Pew! Pew! power. Those prototypes could be installed on Navy destroyers and other vessels in 2016 for further tests.
To see the LaWs in action, watch the video of a successful test shot below and be thankful no one has yet figured out how to strap one of these things to a shark.