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Ship-Based Laser Weapon Successfully Demoed

Raytheon Missile Systems has demonstrated a ship-based infrared laser weapon system that can take out incoming airborne enemies. Called LaWS (Laser Weapon System), the new weapon system is to be paired with Raytheon's existing Phalanx CIWS (Close-in Weapon System) installations. The Phalanx, nicknamed 'R2-D2' by sailors for its similarity to the Star Wars character, is a 20mm Vulcan Gatling gun designed to take out enemy aircraft and missiles.

The LaWS is composed of six 32-kilowatt solid state infrared lasers that focus fire on a single target. In a demo video a test drone was blasted by LaWS until it burst into flames and crashed into the sea. Describing his company's new product, Raytheon VP Mike Booen said "Directed energy essentially gives warfighters an unlimited magazine. As long as they have electricity they have photons, and as long as they have photons, they have bullets."

However, it is considerably harder to fire lasers from ships to militarily-significant ranges because of the constant motion of the ship and the water-vapor laden environment that disperse the coherent light. Raytheon is currently testing the system and expects that the system won't hit the front lines until 2016.