WASHINGTON — The Navy is going to sea for the first time with a laser attack weapon that has been shown in tests to disable patrol boats and blind or destroy surveillance drones.
A prototype shipboard laser will be deployed on a converted amphibious transport and docking ship in the Persian Gulf, where Iranian fast-attack boats have harassed American warships and where the government in Tehran is building remotely piloted aircraft carrying surveillance pods and, someday potentially, rockets.
The laser will not be operational until next year, but the announcement on Monday by Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert, the chief of naval operations, seemed meant as a warning to Iran not to step up activity in the gulf in the next few months if tensions increase because of sanctions and the impasse in negotiations over the Iranian nuclear program. The Navy released video and still images of the laser weapon burning through a drone during a test firing.
The laser is designed to carry out a graduated scale of missions, from burning through a fast-attack boat or a drone to producing a nonlethal burst to “dazzle” an adversary’s sensors and render them useless without causing any other physical damage.
The Pentagon has a long history of grossly inflating claims for its experimental weapons, but a nonpartisan study for Congress said the weapon offered the Navy historic opportunities.
Syrian Army ousts rebels from E. Damascus, lifts threat to capital
In a series of lightning strikes, the Syrian army’s 4th Division-Republican Guard was able to drive most of the rebels out of the eastern suburbs of Damascus Monday, April 8, DEBKAfile’s military sources report.
The division’s armored units cornered the rebel forces which had massed in the Ghouta suburb ready to take the center of Damascus. Few will survive the merciless pounding by the Syrian tanks and artillery. In two other eastern suburbs, Daria and the Sayida Zainab, the rebels were surprised while preparing to storm the international airport and made a panicky rush for the exits when they saw the Syrian forces driving toward them.
By this operation, Bashar Assad, aided by his brother Maher at the head of the 4th Division, were able to surprise the rebel forces in time to curtail their advance from the eastern suburbs on the center of Damascus and seat of government.
Syria’s rulers owe this landmark success to the speed of their operation and the positioning of tanks and heavy artillery in the vanguard to lay down a hellish carpet of fire as they moved.
This tactic was almost certainly designed by Assad’s foreign military advisers, either Iranian or Russian, as the largest-scale military operation to be seen on the battlefield in Syria’s two-year uprising-turned-civil war.
The rebels fought back Monday with a suicide car bomb attack in the Sabaa Bahrat Square of central Damascus. At least 15 people were killed, many others injured and heavy damage caused dozens of cars and buildings. Although it was one of the most powerful explosions the war has seen, it did not slow the 4th division’s relentless advance on rebel positions.
The Syrian army’s victory pivots the war into a new phase by sharply reversing its low state just last Wednesday, April 3 when, in desperation, an unnamed officer warned the rebels and their leaders of “certain death” if they continued to advance on Damascus.
This was interpreted as a threat of chemical warfare as a last resort after the 4th and 3rd divisions had failed to halt the rebel drive into the capital.
The message set alarm bells ringing in Washington, Jerusalem and Amman, who feared the use of chemical weapons was imminent.