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Watch the US Navy play real-life Missile Command with a laser weapon

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The U.S. Navy has released a video showing that they have, for the first time, successfully used a laser weapons system in the field.

Calling it a "historic leap," the directed energy weapon brought down an aerial drone as well as several other targets. Oddly enough, sailors involved in the testing can clearly be seen using a kind of ruggedized game controller to manipulate the weapons system.

Warships are among the oldest platforms in the U.S. arsenal, many of them designed to last for generations. But the U.S. Navy is particularly keen on mounting advanced weapons systems on them whenever possible. They've lead the military in alternative fuels research, pioneering ways to turn seawater into jet fuel. And now their LaWS, short for "laser weapon system" has been deployed on the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf.


"Laser weapons are powerful, affordable and will play a vital role in the future of naval combat operations," said Rear Admiral Matthew L. Klunder in a news release.

The Navy has fought hard in the past decades to defend the existence of a large standing fleet in the face of advances in missile and drone technology. The LaWS could therefore represent a way to protect crews at the speed of light.