How Lasers Are Going From “That Other Pink Floyd Enhancer” to the Weapon of the Future

I’ve always wondered something. Was science fiction of the past just really good at predicting the future, or rather is present technology just evolving based on the suggestions of science fiction?

In the case of the Navy’s decision to start outfitting their battleships with lasers, I hope it’s the former, and fear the later.

Regardless, in a move that a research by the Congressional Research Service compared to the invention of onboard missles in the 50’s, the Navy will be equipping the first of the much hyped Laser Weapons System (LaWS) prototypes aboard the USS Ponce, which is stationed in the Persian Gulf.

This laser weapon system has been in development by the Navy for some time now, and it appears that after a number of highly successful trials, they feel it is almost ready for use in the field, far ahead of schedule. So far, the laser has been used to shoot down drone plans during test runs, but could also be used to take down incoming missiles as well. They are also apparently equipped with a “blinding” function that will serve as a non-lethal alternative to distracting pilots.

The Navy isn’t just itching to use the term “laser cannon” a their next press conference though, as this beauty is actually incredibly efficient and practical. The military is particularly enthused about the relatively low cost of the device ($31-$32 million for the prototype), and the fact that each shot costs less than $1, which is a about a $100,000 improvement over your average missile. Plus, if you’re familiar with the term “laser precision,” you probably have an idea of the kind of battlefield effectiveness this thing is capable of.

The system does have some drawbacks though, as there is the potential of hitting friendly aircraft and satellites, as well as the laser’s dip in effectiveness under foggy, and similarly bad, weather conditions. We’ll know more about it’s potential though when the USS Ponce is officially outfitted with the cannon in 2013.

While not the first time laser technology of this type has been incorporated into combat, the scale and effectiveness of this particular design makes it one of the more unique and potentially useful implementations of the tech ever, and could signal the true dawn of the future of warfare.

Also the thought of a fleet of laser equipped battleships kind of takes some of the edge off that whole North Korea thing doesn’t it?

  

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