The US Navy has installed a laser weapon on the amphibious warfare ship the USS Ponce. World media reports that this is happening for the first time. Based on the known information, the weapon is capable of destroying specific targets.
The amphibious transport dock ship USS Ponce is a warship currently located in the territorial waters of the Persian Gulf. According to reports, it has been patrolling with a 30kW high-tech laser on board since the end of August.
Experts say that the laser weapon has several applications. It can shoot out a blinding warning signal, as well as a destructive laser beam. It is capable of bringing down drone aircraft and sinking small vessels.
The presence of American naval forces in Persian Gulf waters has been on the rise since 2011. The stated goal is the guaranteed freedom of movement between the Persian Gulf and Strait of Hormuz.
The Strait allows for the easy transportation of 1/5th of the world's oil. Danger of limiting this transportation was in the form of repeated threats by Iranian authorities that they would close off the strait. This can be achieved using naval mines and small warships.
After numerous questions and accusations, naval forces explained that the laser is not pointed at a specific country. They state that their sole purpose is to test how reliable their technology is in the extreme conditions of heat, high humidity, sand and sea, all present for the warship.
Mounting the laser on the ship is an important test which will determine any operational issues at this stage of the experiment. Data needs to be gathered on exactly how much energy is required for operation and how it can be provided.
The first laser weapon took a period of 7 years to develop. Its cost comes out to $40 million. The prototype focuses 6 lasers into a single point. In industry, this is used for welding in a point.