A Navy laser set fire to a small ship bobbing in unruly seas this week, the first at-sea demonstration of one of the Navy’s ray guns.
Check out the Navy’s video of a fire slowly consuming the inflatable boat’s outboard motors.
This test took place Wednesday near San Nicholas Island, off the central California coast, and proves the laser can work in a maritime environment, according to Navy officials. Previous incineration tests all took place on land.
The solid-state, high-energy laser was mounted onto the deck of a self-defense test ship, the former USS Paul Foster, and integrated with the ship’s radar and navigation systems. It fired a 15 kW beam across a mile of open water, but it’s designed to be scaled up to 100 kW, according to builder Northrop Grumman, which has a $98 million laser contract through June 2014.
So far, it’s not powerful enough to take out an incoming missile or warship — that’s up to its larger brethren like the FEL. But it proves lasers can be effective weapons against small ships at relatively close range — like pirate ships, perhaps.