For the first time ever the US Navy has done a live firing test of its HEL high-energy laser cannon, setting fire to a nearby boat. The system utilises a Joint High Power Solid Sate Laser mounted on the deck of a warship and is designed to disable assault vessels. Originally, the system was focussed on shooting down enemy missiles from land-based stations, however recent developments have enabled the HELs to be mounted to mobile platforms. Commentators have noted that the system could be used as a deterrent for naval pirates, who have increased hijacking attacks in the Indian Ocean over the last few years. Speaking on the successful test, Peter Morrison from the Office of Naval Research said that, ‘this test provides an important data point as we move toward putting directed energy on warships.’
The US Navy’s HEL system.