Back in May, I mentioned that a laser equipped Phalanx CIWS had successfully shot down a drone target, “What’s Next, a Laser Death Ray for Our Major Cutters?” Now we have the video and more details from Scientific American.
Since this was done with commercially available lasers and is expected to be operational as early as 2016, it is clear that beam weapons are coming on faster than we might have expected. A capability not addressed in any of the articles I have seen so far is the ability to blind pilots of manned aircraft even if it does not destroy the aircraft directly. There is also the possibility of having very precise ability to disable boats, or the ability to apply it in a low powered, non-lethal way to force compliance by making individuals very uncomfortable, in addition to use against cruise missiles and small boat swarms. It might even be used against incoming artillery shells.
Thinking about implications for the future, this does suggest we may want to make sure our future ships have ample electrical generating capacity. Having diesel electric propulsion would make that relatively simple.