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A laser fired from a US warship off the California coast has ignited a nearby boat. This is the first time that the high-energy laser (HEL) has been fired from a ship at another vessel.

It was developed by the US Office of Naval Research and weapons maker Northrop Grumman. The test took place off the California coast with a laser gun mounted on board the Navy’s self-defence test ship, formerly called the USS Paul Foster.

Lasers could offer an advantage over conventional weapons because they attack targets at the speed of light, which is many times faster than the speeds that missiles can travel. Video courtesy of the US Office of Naval Research.