Though capable of matching the firepower of the Stingray missile in Standard mode, and virtually that of the Avalanche, and sustaining this firepower for much longer engagements than any missile, the Laser Cannon can only be used at a range of 21 km and below. While it is more effective at grounding medium, small and very small UFOs (especially when doing multiple intercepts in a single flight), on the defensive it is disadvantaged against larger UFOs, that can fire upon the interception craft long before it gets into Laser Cannon range.
Nonetheless, offensively, the Laser Cannon may be the 3rd most effective way of taking down larger UFOs (number one and two being Plasma Beams and Fusion Ball Launchers) - if you don't mind risking the attacking aircraft being lost in the process! It is quite common to discharge a full payload of Stingrays or Avalanches without taking down large UFOs such as Terror Ships, Supply Ships, and (most definitely) Battleships. But provided it can get in range, stay in range, and survive, an aircraft armed with dual Laser Cannon can deal enough damage to crash a Battleship six times over - over ten times the damage that an Avalanche-armed aircraft can deliver.
This superior payload also makes it the early game choice for when multiple intercepts during a single flight are necessary. If you only have 2 interceptors, and you have to shoot down 4 UFOs which are doing near simultaneous missions, the Laser Cannon and (if available) Plasma Beam are the only real choices.
And once in range, it deals out its damage comparably to missile-armed craft, but with much greater endurance. In effect the Laser Cannon is a predecessor to the Plasma Beam, though tactically hampered by its limited range and unexceptional firepower.
All cannon weapons - conventional, Laser, and Plasma - share the benefits of high total payload, and also of quick rearming. Cannon weapons of all types re-arm in the minimum time, usually 3 hours for an aircraft with dual cannon mounted. By comparison, missile launchers can take up to 7 or even 13 hours to reload, if fully depleted. The short reload time contributes to a high sortie rate. Along with the facility for multiple intercepts per flight, this can be crucial if an alien mission means that swarms of UFOs are flocking to Earth in a short time period.
Despite these advantages, the majority of Commanders do not manufacture the Laser Cannon for use as a craft weapon, instead asking engineers to mass produce them during idle time. This is because the Laser Cannon offers the highest net profit and is superb at bringing in cash when it is needed most (see Manufacturing Profitability for more details).
(Still, if you have all these Laser Cannons in stock from manufacturing them, why not actually mount some on your aircraft? At very least, they make a good second-best scratch weapon if you have to unexpectedly replace aircraft or expand your air force quickly, and you don't have time to produce enough Plasma Beams.)
|Cost per Unit:||182,000|
|Workshop Space required:||6|
|Reload Time:||24 frames|
|Ammunition Used:||Not Applicable|
Note that the accuracy and reload time given in the in-game UFOpaedia are incorrect. The values given here are taken directly from the executable.
|X-COM: Enemy Unknown/UFO Defense: Craft|
|Craft:||Skyranger • Lightning • Avenger • Interceptor • Firestorm|
|Craft Armaments:||Stingray • Avalanche • Cannon • Fusion Ball Launcher • Laser Cannon • Plasma Beam|