The US Navy has used a laser gun to blow up a boat at sea.
A warship equipped with a high-energy laser, or HEL, not HEK, has targeted a test boat off the coast of California and set its engines on fire. The idea is that HELs mounted on warships could keep smaller attack boats at bay – we guess including protecting Guybrush Threepwood and his crew around the Horn of Africa.
The BBC says that HELs have been used before, but they’ve focused on shooting down missiles or attacking land-lubbers. But effectively using a high energy laser at sea has proved difficult. Auntie has a video here.
Although lasers as a weapon have been researched by the US for some time, they were clunky systems which emitted chemical waste. Moist sea air meant lasers fired on water were less powerful.
It is early days yet. The Office of Naval Research says there is a lot that needs to be done before lasers can be both efficient and safe at sea. But the first shot fired “provides an important data point as we move toward putting directed energy on warships.”
Peter Morrison from The Office of Naval Research didn’t say anything about having the best job in the world but we can say with the efficiency of a 1970s prototype he’s probably thinking it.