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 Poncehas 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
“The laser… can be fired in several modes … and can set a drone or small boat on fire”
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.
The Navy laser wasn’t specifically designed or deployed to counter Iran’s arsenal of small armed vessels, Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Jonathan Greenert said in an interview earlier this year.
“I wouldn’t target a country for a weapon, nor would I preclude putting together a weapons system for a country by itself,” he said.
The laser deployment is “a worthwhile experiment” because “it’ll help us feel out the operational limitations” such as power constraints, Frank Kendall, the Pentagon’s top weapons buyer said at a Bloomberg Government breakfast in April.