US deploys first laser cannon for combat
At $1 a shot, this may be the first nail in the coffin of the arms industry.
The US Navy's first Laser Weapon System (dubbed LaWS) has been mounted on the bridge of the amphibious transport ship USS Ponce and is being used in active duty in the Persian Gulf.
It will be used to disable small, fast, attacking boats as well as unmanned and light aircraft.
A video shows the 30kW laser cannon being operated by a hand-held controller not dissimilar to that found on an X-Box or PlayStation gaming console.
It shows the laser cannon targeting and blowing up remote control boats and airborne drones with an invisible light beam.
The cannon took the US Navy the best part of 10 years to develop at a cost of close to US$40 million.
The economics of future laser-based military projects look very favourable, with each shot costing less than $1 and the electricity powered laser firing at the speed of light and never running out of ammunition.
The laser has reportedly exceeded the navy's expectation with regard to both its reliability and capability and is a fully integrated component of the Ponce's defence systems.
Successors to the laser cannon are expected to use 100kW of power and could replace more expensive, sophisticated and lethal weapons systems such as the Phalanx and Rolling-Airframe missile.