If Nikola Tesla had been deployed with the USS Ponce this past year, he would have been proud. A directed energy weapon — similar, in some ways, to his own 1934 invention “Teleforce” — was proved to be operationally effective on board a Navy ship for the first time.
The trials of the Navy’s laser weapon system (LaWS) were hailed as a success. But despite promising test results and decades of research and development, it could be many more years before the military is ready to bring directed energy weapons into the mainstream.
The Defense Department defines directed energy as a “weapon or system that uses directed energy to incapacitate, damage or destroy enemy equipment, facilities and/or personnel.” They require power levels of around 50 kilowatts or higher. To destroy anti-ship cruise missiles would require a beam of 500 kilowatts and demand megawatts of power.