US Navy deploys its first ever functional laser weapon

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It’s official: the US Navy has entered the future. Vice Admiral John Miller tells Bloomberg that the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport, has been using the Navy’s Laser Weapon System in the Persian Gulf since late August. The high-tech arsenal is no threat to larger vessels, but it’s potentially ideal for defending against Iran’s fleet of smaller ships. The Ponce can use non-lethal laser flashes to spook enemies or thwart their sensors, and it can destroy small craft if they don’t heed warnings.

The U.S. Navy has deployed on a command ship in the Persian Gulf its first laser weapon capable of destroying a target. The amphibious transport ship USS Ponce has been patrolling with a prototype 30-kilowatt-class Laser Weapon System since late August, according to officials. The laser is mounted facing the bow, and can be fired in several modes — from a dazzling warning flash to a destructive beam — and can set a drone or small boat on fire. The Ponce “provides a unique platform” to deploy the new capability “in an operationally relevant region,” Vice Admiral John Miller, the 5th Fleet commander, said in an e-mailed statement. The ship is the 5th Fleet’s primary command and control afloat staging base for operations. Since 2011, the Navy has boosted its presence in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz, through which a fifth of the world’s traded oil flows. Equipped with naval mines and small vessels that practice swarming tactics to attack larger warships, Iranian officials have periodically threatened to close the waterway.

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