The future has arrived at the U.S. Navy, which will begin deploying lasers this year and an electromagnetic rail gun within two years.
The laser will be set up on the transport dock USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf. One single sailor can operate the device, which can burn through targets and fry electronics with beams that are invisible to the human eye. The laser is designed to shoot down aerial drones and disable swarming speedboats.
Besides its ability to be fired continuously, the biggest advantage of the laser is that it’s cheaper to use than missiles and smart bombs. The downside is that the laser is a lot less efficient if there’s rain, dust or turbulence in the atmosphere.
The Navy is also working on getting electromagnetic rail guns ready for deployment. The rail guns, which fires projectiles at six or seven times the speed of sound, are meant to replace or supplement traditional firearms.