By Associated Press, Wednesday, April 13, 1:55 PM
NAIROBI, Kenya — A ship-based laser tested by the U.S. Navy’s research arm could put the heat on Somali pirates.
The Navy for the first time last week successfully tested a solid-state high-energy laser from a ship. The beam, which was aimed at a boat moving through turbulent Pacific Ocean waters, set the target’s engine on fire.
The Office of Naval Research says the laser traveled over “miles, not yards.” For now, the test is a proof of concept, and it’s not yet known when it might be deployed as a weapon.
The baseball-sized laser beam, though, could be used to stop small crafts from approaching naval ships. It could also target pirates.
“You can use the laser to ward off an attack, or you can dial it down to a non-lethal level where it basically becomes a very bright light so they know they are being targeted,” Michael Deitchman, the director of air warfare and weapons at the Office of Naval Research, said Wednesday.
Deitchman said the laser provides two benefits not seen in other military weapons. The laser is precise, unlike bullets that can ricochet and hit unintended targets, and the laser’s strength can be dialed down from a lethal level to a nuisance level.
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Somali pirates attacks have become increasingly violent in recent months. Pirate assaults typically involve multiple skiffs zooming in on a target. The pirates often carry and fire AK-47 assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades at targets.