Light 'em up: Laser weapon now deployed on Navy ship in Persian Gulf

Total malpractice by the armed forces. How do you develop a weapon as wicked awesome as this, realizing the childhood dreams of American sci-fi fans, and not include a cool gratuitous sound effect each time the cannon fires? That’s 80 percent of the fun of laser guns. You’ll never convince me the crew operating this thing don’t mutter the “pew pew” sound under their breaths when they squeeze the trigger.

The weapon itself isn’t new. You’ll find conceptual demonstrations of it on YouTube dating back to 2013 and live-fire displays (some of which appear in CNN’s clip below) from 2014. What’s new is that this is no longer in development. It’s developed. It’s onboard a Navy ship right now, ready to melt Iranian drones in the sky should any approach. Rarely, though, will you see a weapon as futuristic as this that somehow also seems primitive in light of its potential uses. CNN touches on the obvious one: As the next generation of combat lasers scales up in power and targeting systems improve in precision, taking down incoming North Korean ICBMs will be a turkey shoot. It’ll be a high-stakes version of Missile Command. And surely technology will end up automating the process further, with just one human eventually needed to okay firing at computer-selected targets.

A laser umbrella against nuclear attack is the obvious “macro” purpose. The “micro” purpose is assassination given the laser’s amazing precision. Sooner or later, drones will fire this at terrorists instead of missiles, minimizing collateral damage. It’s a weapon that reduces the risk of mass devastation, both the enemy’s and our own.