The electromagnetic rail gun is going to be much cheaper compared to missiles, and because of the fact that lasers are powered by electricity they can be fired as long as there is power onboard a ship. Moreover, new technology of lasers will increase safety on naval ships as they will no longer need propellants or explosives onboard.
The new laser weapon is going to be operated by a single sailor, as the plan is a prototype of the laser to be mounted on USS Ponse by this summer. The new technology is directing invisible beams of energy, which could be disasterous for the target. The laser weapon is developed to target swarm and speed vessels, aerial drones, any potential threats to war vessels in the area of Persian Gulf, where the floating staging base USS Ponse is set to be deployed.
According to a statement released of the US Navy, the shot of a laser weapon will cost less than $1.
"Compare that to the hundreds of thousands of dollars it costs to fire a missile, and you can begin to see the merits of this capability," told Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Matthew Klunder.
Electromagnetic rail weapons, whose test could have been made in Virginia, fire a projectile at 6-7 times the speed of the sound and these may replace or supplement other long range weapons.
According to the information from AP, the rail weapons need a lot of energy so they can launch projectiles, and the USS Zumwalt destroyer of the US Navy is the only vessel that may provide the needed electric power. However, the ship is currently under construction at Bath Iron Works in Maine. Marine engineers are working on development of a battery system that will be able to store energy, enough for the laser gun.
You can check out the video of a laser gun demonstration aboard a moving surface combatant vessel and against remotely piloted plane.