The Times of London reports that a US Navy ship has destroyed a drone at a considerable but unspecified distance using a 150-kilowatt laser beam. The weapon was developed by Northrop Grumman and is believed to have a range of "considerably more than a mile." It apparently would be effective not only on small unmarried aircraft but also against lightweight raiders like those used by Iran to harrass ships in the Persian Gulf. The current laser is mounted aboard USS Portland, an "amphibious transport dock" that includes both a flight deck for helicopters and a well deck like that of Second World War landing craft, from which amphibious vehicles can be launched to attack a hostile shore. The US has eleven such craft, China has six, and many other navies have smaller numbers of ships with similar capabilities, though usually of smaller size.
The Times says that an older amphibious transport dock, USS Ponce, was deployed to the Middle East between 2014 and 2017 while armed with two smaller laser weapons, one with a firepower of 30 KW, the other with 15 KW. For a time there was talk of selling Ponce to Argentina, which of course the UK saw as a threat to the Falkland Islands, site of a brief and bitter war in 1982. Now it seems more likely that Ponce will be decommissioned altogether. Blue skies! -- Dan Ford
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