US Central Command has given permission for the commander of the USS Ponce ship to defend itself with the weapon, if anyone attacks.
The 30 kilowatt Laser Weapon System (LaWS) was installed aboard USS Ponce this summer as part of a $40 million research and development effort from ONR and Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) to test the viability of directed energy weapons in an operational environment.
ONR Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder (no really) said that the captain of that ship has all of the permission necessary if there was a threat inbound to that ship to protect its sailors and Marines with the laser.
The laser will be used against drones, slow moving helicopters and fast patrol craft.
So far, the laser has been seen disabling a small Scan Eagle-sized UAV, detonated a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) and burned out the engine of a rigid hull inflatable boat (RHIB).
Humans were not a target of the weapon, under the Geneva Convention.
He did say that the Navy has tested LaWS against a simulated small boat so-called swarm attack and that the system was effective.
LaWS is tied to the ship’s navigation radar and the close-in weapon system (CIWS) and can be targeted independently by sailors on the ship through a station in Ponce’s combat information centre (CIC).
LaWS has proved useful as a surveillance tool due to its powerful optics that can detect objects at “tactically significant ranges” like a shipboard “Hubble Telescope,” Klunder said.