The US Air Force is planning to equip its planes with high-tech laser weapons within only five years.
The laser blasters of the Star Wars universe might seem light years ahead of today’s technology, but according to the US Air Force it won’t be long before we start to see real-life laser weapons being used by jet aircraft to take down targets during actual military operations.
Powerful lasers have already been tested out aboard US Navy ships as a way to deter drones or smaller vessels and the same technology can also be used to destroy incoming missiles.
“‘It really is a national tipping point,” said Kelly Hammett of the U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory. “We see the technology evolving and maturing to the stage where it really can be used.”
Directed-energy weapons pods mounted to a jet fighter could prove highly advantageous by enabling the pilot to attack multiple targets while keeping ammunition costs to a minimum.
There are even plans to implement a form of defensive shielding on aircraft that would also use laser weapons to automatically destroy any missiles within a certain radius of the plane.
The front runner for these technologies is the High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) which should be ready for use in actual aircraft within the next five years.
“The goal of the HELLADS program is to develop a 150 kilowatt (kW) laser weapon system that is ten times smaller and lighter than current lasers of similar power, enabling integration onto tactical aircraft to defend against and defeat ground threats,” DARPA wrote.
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