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'Star Wars' of the sea: Navy wants a ship-based laser weapon

Image of littoral combat ship
In this file photo, the future littoral combat ship USS Forth Worth is underway for acceptance trials on Lake Michigan. It is one possible class of ship that could carry a solid-state laser weapon.Mike Rote / U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy wants to shoot enemy drones and boats with solid-state lasers. And it wants them soon, according to a call for industry proposals issued this week. 

“We are in the process of developing a laser weapon prototype for the naval surface fleet to counter small unmanned aerial vehicles and small boat threats,” Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder, said in news release

Specifically, the Office of Naval Research is seeking proposals for the “building and testing of a prototype laser weapon — offshore, at sea, on a moving ship representative of a naval surface combatant at combat speeds, in ‘combat-like’ conditions,” according to the announcement

The Navy aims to operate the laser weapon from the ship’s available power and cooling systems, and wants it connected to the ship’s combat control and support systems.

Primary candidates for the weapon include the Arleigh Burke Destroyer and the Littoral Combat Ship

A proof-of-concept laser ray gun technology demonstrated at sea in 2011 disabled a small target boat. The video below shows the boat going up in flames. 

Up to four $1.5 million awards could go out for the first phase of the contract. For fiscal year 2013-2016, $110 million has been appropriated for the prototype phases, notes Stars and Stripes

John Roach is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. To learn more about him, check out his website. For more of our Future of Technology series, watch the featured video below.