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United States Navy deploying prototype laser-gun to the Persian Gulf

The United States announced it is sending a ship-board laser attack system to the Persian Gulf for the first time.

This new $32 million laser weapon - designed to destroy drones, disable small boats as well as the ability "dazzle" high-tech sensors - is about to be deployed in an operational area.

The prototype Navy Laser Weapons System (LaWS) is being fitted to the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport and docking ship that is due to become operational this year and take up station off Iran during 2014.

Extensive testing of the laser system will take place, including shooting target drones. The US Navy has also released a video to coincide with this announcement showing a successful test firing of the laser shooting down a drone earlier this year.

The laser which is ultimately intended to be capable of shooting down missiles - though the prototype version does not yet have that capability is being deployed at a time of increased tension with North Korea and Iran over their nuclear missile programs.

The message to Iran seems to be clear as they have reportedly began investing heavily in a fleet of low-tech, cheap but versatile drones and speed boats to threaten shipping within the Straits of Hormuz.

"The future is here," said Peter Morrison at the Office of Naval Research's Solid-State Laser Technology Maturation Program.

The weapon is being billed as a step toward transforming warfare. Since it runs on electricity, it can fire as long as there is power at a cost of less than $1 dollar per shot.

"Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability," Chief of Naval Research Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder, said in a statement.

Klunder said the Navy expects that someday incoming missiles will not be able to "simply outmanoeuvre" a highly accurate laser beam travelling at the speed of light.

A recent report from the Congressional Research Service praises the laser technology but also notes drawbacks, including the potential it could accidentally hit satellites or aircraft. Weather also affects lasers.

"Lasers might not work well, or at all, in rain or fog, preventing lasers from being an all-weather solution," it said in its report.

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