At long last, laser weapons are nearing deployment

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Once the stuff of science fiction, U.S. military laser weapons now are considered the future successors to missiles and gun systems to protect military forces from enemy boats, unmanned aircraft, ballistic missiles, mortars, and rockets.

From the mythical burning mirrors of ancient Greek inventor Archimedes to the Martian death rays of H.G. Wells to Flash Gordon's raygun to Capt. Kirk's phaser, humans have been fascinated by the possible use of light beams as weapons for at least two millennia.

But it was not until the invention of the laser in 1960 that the true potential of that concept led to serious research programs, which led quickly to major size, weight, and power (SWaP) limitations. Laser is short for light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation.

In the decades that followed the construction of the first laser prototype at Hughes Research Laboratories in Malibu, Calif., numerous types of lasers have been developed, based on a variety of power sources and light generation materials, for a wide breadth of applications ranging from barcode scanners to cutting and welding in manufacturing, light shows, DNA sequencing, optical communications, laser printers, and surgery.  Read more...