The United States Office of Naval Research, in conjunction with Northrop Grumman, has successfully tested
a solid-state, high energy laser (HEL) mounted on the deck of Navy ship. Aimed at a small target vessel moving through the turbulent waters of the Pacific Ocean, the laser beam managed to successfully set the target's engines on fire. And the Navy says that the beam can travel over miles, not just yards. This research is a step towards a whole new technological genre of warfare.
Already it is said that the laser beams would be incredibly successful
at warding off the pirates infesting the waters off of the coast of Somalia. With the ability to take away an attacking ship's ability to move, the ability to change the beam from a lethal mode to a nuisance mode, and more precision than bullets, it is expected that these things will find their way
to those troubled waters around the Horn of Africa rather soon. But this new type of weapon will not stop just there; now that we have a successful beam like this, the next steps would be working to make alterations to its size (the current one is about the size of a baseball) and power is next, meaning that the lasers could eventually be used in any type of naval warfare-- not just against small attack craft. They are already working on a laser capable of defending against incoming ballistic missiles; this appears to be a preview of what is to come.