The U.S. Navy released a video (below) earlier this week — complete with an animated segment — showing a solid-state laser weapon aboard a naval ship, tracking and burning a small drone from the sky. Though still in prototype stage, military officials are already heralding the Laser Weapons Systems, or LaWS, as the “game changer” that will revolutionize naval tactics and modern warfare. Some have gone as far to say that with the advent of this laser weapon, “The future is here.”
Viewers of the video below can see LaWS’s lethality. The silent three and a half minute clip includes real footage of a test drone firing that took place off the coast of San Diego, Calif. The drone’s fiery descent from the sky into the ocean in reaction to LaWS’s laser burst clearly showcases the weapon’s deadly capabilities. However, what with all the jargon currently surrounding LaWS — drones, lasers, the future — one can’t help but think of Star Wars, the intergalactic epic space opera.
The animated portion of the video, shown after the testing footage, starts off with a slow zoom aerial shot of a military ship. The scene gradually closes in on a robot-looking contraption aboard the ship — this robot is, in fact, LaWS. However, with the animated sleekness and LaWS’s cylindrical, dome-headed design, one could easily mistake this video as a confirmation of the Navy’s desire to make R2-D2 — droid extraordinaire in the intergalactic fantasy — a reality.
Moreover, the whole video begins with a text against a black background detailing LaWS’s origins. Reminiscent of the signature opening scrawl that begins every Star Wars film, the only elements missing were the upward movement crawl with the preface: A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away …
However, film analogies aside, LaWS is, above all else, a military technological advancement. It is designed to disable or destroy targeted adversaries. The laser can shoot out nonlethal bursts to “dazzle” an enemy’s sensors and hinder their systems without causing physical damage. The Navy acknowledges that LaWS cannot yet be used on missiles or enemy jets, but the real footage of the targeted drone’s quick and blazing demise speaks to LaWS’s destructive power.
And with the announcement of the LaWS’s first official installment in 2014 aboard the USS Ponce, a floating forward base in the Persian Gulf that usually hosts military operations and humanitarian assistance to the Middle East and southwestern Asia, this video may be U.S. Navy's way of explicitly responding to Iranian attack boats and Tehran’s fighter jet tactics.
LaWS is fatal weaponry, and it could completely transform the way wars are fought in the future. However, for the general population, drones and lasers are still perceived as products of sci-fi fantasy rather than military reality. Therefore, despite the severity of the message behind the LaWS demonstration, it seems only a natural progression to compare the military video to a George Lucas major feature experience.
Check out the footage here (Darth Vader’s theme song may be used as an accompanying soundtrack):