I typically think of a laser gun as a weapon only seen and heard of in science-fiction films, but if the United States Air force has their way, we may soon see fighter jets shooting their enemies from the sky with real-life combat lasers. The weapons, which are called “directed-energy weapons pods” not only would be utilized to shoot down and destroy enemies, but they would also be able to disarm an oncoming missile before it has a chance to reach its target.
In addition to disarming missiles and burning holes in the enemy, the Air Force is also considering the use of these laser beams to shoot down drones as well as for use in ground attacks. The best part about this revolutionary weapon, which isn’t quite ready for live action yet, is the fact that it has the potential to save the U.S. military millions of dollars in the long run. The cost per shot is much cheaper than traditional missiles and guns which are currently the weapons of choice for these aircraft.
While this all may seem as though it is part of a science fiction novel rather than a news story, Air Force General Hawk Carlisle believes that we are very close to making this a reality.
“I believe we’ll have a directed energy pod we can put on a fighter plane very soon,” Carlisle explained at this week’s Air Force Association Air & Space conference. “That day is a lot closer than I think a lot of people think it is.”
According to reports by arstechnica, these laser cannons could be onboard U.S. aircraft as early as 2020. The system, which is called HELLADS, currently is being worked on by General Atomics, utilizes over 150 kilowatts of energy, and aims to be 10 times smaller and lighter than current laser technology. This very lightweight design makes the weapon feasible for aircraft use.
“With a weight goal of less than five kilograms per kilowatt, and volume of three cubic meters for the laser system, HELLADS seeks to enable high-energy lasers to be integrated onto tactical aircraft, significantly increasing engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems,” explained Dr. David Shaver.
It should be interesting to see how quickly the rest of the world’s military forces catch up to the U.S., and bring laser cannons of their own to the skies.