Print 121 comment(s) - last by TheGreek.. on Aug 31 at 1:35 PM

Laser weaonry may not be that far away from tomorrow's battlefields.  (Source: Wired, Danger Room)
The U.S. will possibly field man-sized portable laser weapons in coming years

One of the cornerstones of science fiction films and books is the laser rifle. The U.S. has spent millions of dollars trying to field laser weapons to do all sorts of tasks and, according to some analysts, we are getting close to fielding man portable laser weapons.

Time Magazine tells the story about developments in laser weaponry, circa 1972. Many of us are familiar with the laser weapons that are being designed to stop ballistic missiles before the warhead can separate from the missile body. These tend to be very large lasers that are mounted on trucks or inside specially outfitted aircraft.

One type of laser weapon that has yet to materialize is the man-sized portable laser. The lasers were described as being able to burn a quarter-inch hole in an enemy solider from as far away as five miles.  And, unlike Star Wars, real world lasers leave no visible trail.

The weapon would be a snipers dream since the laser beam would travel at the speed of light; once the target was in the sights, a hit was ensured. Another benefit of portable laser weapons is the fact that a laser beam follows a flat trajectory rather than a curving arc like a projectile. Gravity has practically no effect on a laser beam, so lining up a shot at extreme distances is much easier to do with a laser rifle than with a projectile weapon.

These laser weapons have yet to materialize and with the drawbacks of chemical laser technology, namely the storage of corrosive chemicals and harmful fumes resulting from the laser operation, who knows when or if man portable laser weapons will be perfected.

Chemical lasers get energy from a rapid chemical reaction and obtain continuous wave with power at the megawatt level. Common types of chemical lasers used in drilling and military applications include chemical oxygen iodine laser, all gas-phase iodine laser, and deuterium fluoride laser.  Almost all laser-based weapons to date have been chemical based.

Yet there are still some laser weapon technologies that could bring the long dreamed of laser gun to fruition. Solid-state lasers, the oldest and most mature types of lasers, are one of the more viable options since they don’t require corrosive chemicals to produce the laser beam. The solid-state laser simply requires a supply of electricity to produce a beam, and only needs enough power for a single pulse rather than a continuous beam.

Current solid-state lasers are used for everything from tattoo removal to optical refrigeration. However, unlike gas and chemical lasers, solid-state lasers cannot achieve megawatt capabilities without vast amounts of electricity -- not practical for mobile forces.  Yet kilowatt lasers may be enough for soldiers on the ground. 

From Boeing's $7 million High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator, to Northrop Grumman's $57 million Joint High Power Solid State Laser, 100kW portable solid-state lasers can now fit the size of a truck.

According to Wired we cold see solid-state pulse lasers fielded by U.S. soldiers in as little as two years. Of course, according to the Time's 1972 article on laser technology, man-sized portable laser weapons would have been viable for a decade now.

Comments     Threshold

This article is over a month old, voting and posting comments is disabled

RE: No visible beam? No deal!
By GeeSussFreeK on 8/28/2007 12:02:04 PM , Rating: 2
I seem to remember that the rebellion had red lasers and the empire had blue. It always confused me as a kid cause I wanted the good guys to have blue and the baddies red. I guess that would work if you saw the commies as the good guys...but then I would have to consider you a terrorist and arrest you under the patriot act!

RE: No visible beam? No deal!
By zsdersw on 8/28/2007 12:21:55 PM , Rating: 2
IIRC, the Empire's lasers were green

RE: No visible beam? No deal!
By GeeSussFreeK on 8/28/2007 1:16:54 PM , Rating: 2
Yes, you are right! I had 2 problems...why are the allies red, and who cares about green lasers! Thanks :)

RE: No visible beam? No deal!
By borismkv on 8/28/2007 1:44:51 PM , Rating: 2
You must have thought COBRA was the good guys or something :P

RE: No visible beam? No deal!
By rsmech on 8/28/2007 2:31:28 PM , Rating: 2
I thought the same thing, but you need to remember that when we were kids we seen what would be considered the middle to end of the series. The prequels explained it for me. You have to remember that the empire use to be the good guys in the beginning, therefor not red. The rebels couldn't ask the empire to trade guns.

Doesn't mean much, just my take. It seemed to show a lot of insight into the developing the whole series over many years.

RE: No visible beam? No deal!
By Ringold on 8/28/2007 3:45:38 PM , Rating: 4
On the other hand, I thought the Empire was the good guys even at the end..

Check out the books; the Rebel's took over and the whole galaxy went to hell. At least under the Empire there was minimal crime and fear kept the galaxy in order. Commerce thrived and unless you pissed off the Emperor or Vader you did fairly well -- especially if your were human. Non-human's had a rough go of it, but so what. All those random invaders that killed billions (trillions?) would've moved on to terrorize the next galaxy rather than face an Empire armed with multiple Death Stars..

.. That's my theory, anyway. :)

I always hated the Rebel scum.

RE: No visible beam? No deal!
By brenatevi on 8/28/2007 10:48:19 PM , Rating: 3
*blink* Oh yeah, Alderaan was just asking to be blown up. You know, no weapons or anything. And then there were the other massacres... And let's not forget how the Emperor seized power, manufacturing an artificial war that darn near wrecked the galaxy. Oh yeah, sounds like a virtual garden spot.

"Nowadays you can buy a CPU cheaper than the CPU fan." -- Unnamed AMD executive
Related Articles

Most Popular Articles5 Cases for iPhone 7 and 7 iPhone Plus
September 18, 2016, 10:08 AM
Laptop or Tablet - Which Do You Prefer?
September 20, 2016, 6:32 AM
Update: Samsung Exchange Program Now in Progress
September 20, 2016, 5:30 AM
Smartphone Screen Protectors – What To Look For
September 21, 2016, 9:33 AM
Walmart may get "Robot Shopping Carts?"
September 17, 2016, 6:01 AM

Copyright 2016 DailyTech LLC. - RSS Feed | Advertise | About Us | Ethics | FAQ | Terms, Conditions & Privacy Information | Kristopher Kubicki