The US successfully tested a laser weapon that can destroy aircraft mid-flight

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PACIFIC OCEAN (May 16, 2020) The amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland (LPD 27) conducts a Solid State Laser – Technology Maturation Laser Weapon System Demonstrator (LWSD) MK 2 MOD 0 test. LWSD is a high-energy laser weapon system demonstrator developed by the Office of Naval Research and installed on Portland for an at-sea demonstration. LWSD’s operational employment on a Pacific Fleet ship is the first system-level implementation of a high-energy class solid-state laser. (U.S. Navy photo)

WASHINGTON (CNN) — A US Navy warship has successfully tested a new high-energy laser weapon that can destroy aircraft mid-flight, the Navy’s Pacific Fleet said in a statement Friday.

Images and videos provided by the Navy show the amphibious transport dock ship USS Portland executing “the first system-level implementation of a high-energy class solid-state laser” to disable an aerial drone aircraft, the statement said.

The images show the laser emanating from the deck of the warship. Short video clips show what appears to be the drone burning.

The Navy did not give a specific location of the laser weapons system demonstrator (LWSD) test, saying only that it occurred in the Pacific on May 16.

The power of the weapon was not disclosed, but a 2018 report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies said it was expected to be a 150-kilowatt laser.

“By conducting advanced at sea tests against UAVs and small crafts, we will gain valuable information on the capabilities of the Solid State Laser Weapons System Demonstrator against potential threats,” Capt. Karrey Sanders, commanding officer of Portland, said in the statement.

“With this new advanced capability, we are redefining war at sea for the Navy.”

The Navy says lasers, which it calls directed energy weapons (DEW), can be effective defenses against drones or armed small boats.

“The Navy’s development of DEWs like the LWSD provide immediate warfighter benefits and provide the commander increased decision space and response options,” the statement said.

In 2017, CNN witnessed a live-fire exercise of a 30-kilowatt laser weapon aboard the amphibious transport ship USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf.

At the time, Lt. Cale Hughes, a laser weapons system officer, described how they work.

“It is throwing massive amounts of photons at an incoming object,” Hughes said. “We don’t worry about wind, we don’t worry about range, we don’t worry about anything else. We’re able to engage the targets at the speed of light.”

The Ponce was retired from service later that year.

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