By Justin Fishel
The Pentagon has plans to deploy its first ever ship-mounted laser next year, a disruptive, cutting-edge weapon capable of obliterating small boats and unmanned aerial vehicles with a blast of infrared energy.
Navy officials announced Monday that in early 2014, a solid-state laser prototype will be mounted to the fantail of the USS Ponce and sent to the 5th fleet region in the Middle East for real-world experience.
Video released by the Navy shows the laser lock onto a slow-moving target, in this case an unmanned drone, which bursts aflame in mid-flight. The drone soon catches fire and crashes into the sea below.
"It operates much like a blowtorch ... with an unlimited magazine," one official said.
There are potential targets for the laser in the 5th fleet region, which includes the Persian Gulf, where Iran operates small surveillance drones and is known for swarming and harassing U.S. Navy ships with small, armored speed boats.
Navy researches say so far the laser is 12 for 12 in testing, destroying its targets 100 percent of the time. Officials who briefed the press on the laser gun -- which the Navy calls a "directed energy pulse weapon" -- say it has non-lethal functions too, and may be used to send warning signals to other vessels.
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