Laser weapons capable of burning small boats or sending drones plunging from the sky as flaming wrecks could find a home aboard U.S. Navy ships in the next two years according to Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, the chief of the Office of Naval Research.
The Navy has already worked with defense companies to test lasers for destroying both boats and aircraft, and has even looked at pairing lasers up with more traditional machine guns for ship defense.
The Navy used a laser-machine gun combination to shoot down shoot down robotic aircraft during Pacific Ocean tests in 2010. To the disappointment of "Star Wars" fans, the lasers did their destruction as invisible beams rather than as green or red laser pulses.
Another project with backing from the Office of Naval Research, the Maritime Laser Demonstrator, showed how a laser could disable a small boat during a 2011 test. Small boats may not sound like a threat to a U.S. Navy warship, but they can carry weapons such as torpedoes or even act as floating suicide bombs (one of the latter heavily damaged the destroyer USS Cole in 2000).
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