The US Navy has deployed a ship to the Persian Gulf called the USS Ponce. The USS Ponce is an amphibious transport dock ship and it is carrying with it the first laser weapon sent into trails on an active duty warship. The laser weapon is effective against numerous targets, including Iranian gunboats. The laser is a 30-kilowatt class weapon and has been aboard the ship since August.
The laser aboard the USS Ponce uses six solid-state commercial welding lasers that can be merged into a single strong beam. The laser beam can be used as a warning shot or as a weapon capable of setting a small drone or boat on fire. The laser weapon took seven years and $40 million to develop.
Reports indicate that the tour in the gulf is more of a trial continuation for the weapon than regular duty. The Navy wants to learn more about the laser ahead of any potential deployments in a combat situation. One of the biggest benefits of operating the laser weapon compared to conventional weapons is cost.
The Navy says that it costs about $1 to fire the laser weapon. One thing about the laser weapon that remains classified is exactly how long its range is. Range for a laser weapon is dependent on weather conditions, dust and vapors in the air, and other factors.