The U.S. Navy is planning to deploy a $40 million experimental laser weapon to the Persian Gulf, where it could be used to stop small Iranian boats from attacking U.S. warships and for other military purposes.
The Navy announced the plans on Monday for what it called a laser cannon to be installed aboard the USS Ponce, an amphibious assault ship used for mine clearance and humanitarian operations, according to The Wall Street Journal
The laser system, while still under development, has been used successfully in early tests to destroy small drones and boat targets.
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The system has a limited range, so it can’t target incoming missiles or jets. But its directed energy allows it to disable sensors or burn holes in planes and ships, making it an effective weapon against Iranian fast boats or drones, the Navy says.
While the Pentagon has tried for years to develop laser systems, the Navy’s version is the first of its kind ready to be dispatched, and military officials say the Persian Gulf’s physical environment makes it a perfect testing ground.
The weapon is designed specifically to deter the kind of attack that took place in 2000, when a small boat loaded with explosives hit the USS Cole in Yemen, killing 17 sailors.
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