Laser weapons may be a battlefield reality by the end of 2008

Laser weapons are an interesting subject that has been a staple of science fiction and movies for decades. Laser weapons will become a reality on the battlefield at some point -- though exactly when that point will be is a subject of debate.

When it comes to laser weapons there are two basic types: chemical and solid-state. The chemical lasers are powered by chemicals that would make them hazardous on most battlefields to the soldiers deploying the weapon systems. That makes the solid-state laser a more viable option for many weapon systems.

According to Wired, Northrop Grumman has told the Pentagon that it will have weapons grade lasers by the end of 2008. Northrop says that it will have a 100 kilowatt laser -- the strength widely considered the starting point for military grade weapons. That amount of power would be effective against rockets and mortars in flight.

To reach the 100-kilowatt threshold Northrop uses what it calls Laser Chains. The laser will use eight Laser Chains to achieve the full 100-kilowatt power. Northrop has tested the first two laser chains and was able to achieve a peak power of 30kW for over five minutes continuously and more than 40 minutes total. Northrop also reports that electrical-to-optical efficiency was greater than 19 percent.

A Northrop representative is quoted by Wired saying, "We are completely confident we will meet the 100 kW of power level and associated beam quality and runtime requirements of the JHPSSL Phase 3 program by the end of December, 2008."

DailyTech reported in August that Boeing had successfully ground tested the Advanced Tactical Laser aircraft's laser with a successful firing at a ground target.

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