On May 16, a high-energy solid-state laser - dubbed Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) - installed on the deck of US Navy warship USS Portland fired a concentrated beam of laser on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV).
The laser, according to photos and videos shared by the Navy, instantly started a fire on the drone, disabling and destroying it completely mid-air.
In a statement on Friday, the Navy's Pacific Fleet announced the successful laser test, noting this was the "first system-level implementation" of a high-energy laser of this kind.
It said that the weapon was developed by the US Office of Naval Research and defense contractor Northrup Grumman but did not provide any other details around its capabilities or the exact test location.
"The Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator is a unique capability the Portland gets to test and operate for the Navy," Capt. Karrey Sanders, the commanding officer of Portland, stated. "With this new advanced capability, we are redefining war at sea for the Navy."
The US Navy says direct energy weapons (DEWs) like the one tested recently can cause damage strong enough to neutralize an "increasing number of potential threats," including UAVs, armed boats, and adversary intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.
These weapons, it explained, work by converting chemical or electrical energy to radiated energy and then focusing it directly on the aerial/ground-based target.
Advanced laser systems not just increase the response options of a warship but also offer the advantage of speed.
This is because the laser beams that these weapons fire are nothing but concentrated photons, which travel at the speed of light or, you can say, 50,000 times the speed of an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM).