Laser weapons have been genuinely viable for a while, but they’ve been huge, heavy, and largely designed to destroy missiles while being schlepped around on a 747.
No, what DARPA is going to start testing this year is something a lot less Real Genius and something a lot more Star Wars. But before you do anything, open this in another tab so you can hear it while you read the rest of this article. IT’S IMPORTANT, OK?
Called the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System, or HELLADS, it’s going to be a relatively small and light laser weapon, and the best part is, they’ve already got the laser working:
The program has completed laboratory testing of a fundamental building block for HELLADS, a single laser module that successfully demonstrated the ability to achieve high power and beam quality from a significantly lighter and smaller laser.
Or, roughly paraphrased, “Yeah motherf***ers, we just made the first part of a blaster. Whatcha got? Huh? Huh? AMERICA!” And then five minutes of flexing.
This isn’t a completed weapons system yet, the second part of the module needs to be built, and then it’s off for testing.
On the other hand, DARPA is apparently fast-tracking this because of its military value, both because it’s a more precise weapon and precision is becoming increasingly important in the military, and its secondary value in targeting when you have to fall back to missiles.
We have some early footage of the laser tests, if you were curious:
Oh, in case you weren’t nerding out already, researchers in the UK also have built a working tractor beam. So Star Trek is officially becoming reality in our lifetimes. Bring on the warp drive!