As we move to the next decade and take stock of our own technological advancements, one field that has come better late than never is the advancement of laser systems. And while lasers as weapons of war are good watching on television shows, these new systems are actually not only impressive – they’re expected to be capable of cutting through 2,000 feet of steel per second. Such a system would be able to cut a ship in half in little to no time at all. And military analysts say it could be in the near future.
Raytheon‘s new prototype laser system recently carried out a test while onboard a seafaring vessel where it shot out and dropped an unmanned aerial vehicle using the power of focused light in a laser array. Alongside the demonstration as the vehicle was liquified came the explanation that future vessels will be able to make this simple act look like child’s play.
Currently systems being tested fire a 14 kilowatt beam using a far different laser focusing system than what we would normally be used to. Previously lasers worked on focusing light through prisms, mirrors, and other types of conduits. But this new system actually works in a way very similar to the LHC’s particle accelerator instead moving electrons along to focus the laser beam. And if 14 kilowatts in a single beam sounds dangerous and impressive, the military has already stated that their ultimate goal is to create a laser with one megawatt of power. If that sounds like a typical futuristic projection, researchers and defense contractors say they’re well ahead of schedule and expecting the system to be deployable shortly.
These lasers would be capable of firing long range at targets and firing holes in hulls, liquifying aircraft as they approach, and even destroying incoming missiles if they were combined with an effective targeting system. A future where lasers rule the battlefield may quickly be becoming a reality and the first ships to have them may actually be naval vessels.
Of course the next question that comes to mind is how well would these systems translate into space combat? The answer is actually surprisingly well. A space-faring vessel would need to carry all of its ammunition with it onboard. If a sufficient power supply were to be created that could power these weapons, onboard lasers would provide an advantage as ammunition would not need to be loaded up on the rockets as they blasted into orbit. A nuclear reactor powering the vessel would be more than sufficient to power the lasers. Other problems such as weather conditions and obstructions while proving to be of only limited concern on these laser systems would be even less of an issue in the void of space.
So while it may be a mixed blessing, we’re already getting a look at the weapons World War Three may be fought with. But let’s not forget the quote from Albert Einstein, “I know not what weapons World War Three will be fought with, but World War Four will be fought with sticks and stones.”