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July 21st, 2010
Our Laser's Bigger than Yours!

In a grainy, black-and-white video that looks like a home movie of a UFO attack a sleek aircraft streaks through the sky one minute, only to burst into flames the next and plummet into the sea.

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The Phalanx Close-in Weapon System (Credit: Raytheon)

The defense contractor says it depicts part of a test conducted in May during which the U.S. Navy used a solid-state laser to shoot down unmanned aerial vehicles over the Pacific Ocean.  During the test, the Navy's Laser Weapon System (LaWS), guided by Raytheon's Phalanx Close-In Weapon System sensors, engaged and destroyed four UAV targets flying over water near the Navy's weapons and training facility on San Nicolas Island in California's Santa Barbara Channel, about 120 kilometers west of Los Angeles. The Phalanx—a rapid-fire, computer-controlled, radar-guided gun system—used electro-optical tracking and radio frequency sensors to provide range data to the LaWS, which is made up of six solid-state lasers with an output of 32 kilowatts that simultaneously focus on a target.

Mike Booen of Raytheon gave USA Today the money quote for the day: "The targets came in over the ocean, and it was a good day for lasers, bad day for drones." 

Now that the laser-enhanced Phalanx has demonstrated the ability to find and hit incoming UAVs, the weapon will be installed on an operational Navy test ship for additional testing, he adds. Still, even if the laser system continues to test successfully, such a weapon would not be fully developed for combat before 2016, according to Booen.

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