Navy Laser Set to Usher in New Era of Weapons Systems and Warfare

Reports indicate that the Navy is moving forward with plans to install a high-powered laser on a ship patrolling the Persian Gulf as the military looks for way to develop new types of weapons systems.

The $40-million directed energy technology system allows the Navy to develop a weapon system that is cheaper not only to manufacture, but to maintain as well compared to previous precision guided munitions and defense systems.

"Our conservative data tells us a shot of directed energy costs under $1," Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder said in a statement. "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 weapon system's intensity can be controlled in order to be used as a deterrent for small boats and aircraft as well as being potentially a non-lethal alternative to current munitions. It is scheduled to be installed on board USS Ponce in 2014.

"Because lasers run on electricity, they can be fired as long as there is power and provide a measure of safety as they don't require carrying propellants and explosives aboard ships," the Navy said.

The technology, called the Laser Weapon System, uses directed energy to produce a high-powered, concentrated laser beam that can be used in both defensive and offensive operations. A precision tracking mechanism allows the laser to track moving targets, but the laser's effect does become compromised in poor weather.

"Frankly I hope it sends a message to some of our potentially threatening adversaries out there to know that we mean business," Klunder told the Associated Press.

"This is a system where if you try to harm our vessels that I hope you will take a very, very serious moment of pause to think about that before you do it because this system will destroy your vessel or will destroy your UAV," he added.