Freaking laser beams were used to shoot down missiles by the US Air Force
Freaking laserbeams, man.
Over the weekend, the Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) used its Demonstrator Laser Weapon System (DLWS) to shoot down several missiles in flight.
That’s pretty cool on its own, but those truck-mounted laser pods are just the first stage in what will eventually be the SHiELD (Self-protecting High Energy Laser Demonstrator) system, which will be shrunken down and made rugged enough to take to the skies.
Okay, let me clear up a few preconceptions
No, these lasers aren’t able to be seen by the naked eye. No, they don’t make “Pew Pew” noises. And no, they don’t explode when they contact the target (the target, however, is another story – that explodes plenty). What they did over the weekend proves the effectiveness of using laser-based defenses against missiles.
That’s important. For many scenarios, laser defenses are better than the existing missile-based or projectile-based options. They don’t add additional mass or bullets to the equation, so only the wreckage of the missile they shoot down has the potential to hit anything on the ground. If used over sparsely-populated areas, the possibility of civilian casualties is greatly reduced.
Before you start thinking about Star Wars-style battles in space, it’ll take a few years before the laser units are small enough to fly with. The one shown off on the weekend needed a semi truck to carry it around, making the tech ground-based only for the time being.
Maj. Gen. William Cooley, AFRL commander called the test a “big step ahead for directed energy systems,” in a statement. I have to wonder which flavor of “Star” branded sci-fi he prefers.
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