Is the Force strong with the U.S. military? Maybe, if they build a futuristic laser cannon.
With the release of Episode VII: The Force Awakens, the Star Wars craze seems to infect everything around us. Apparently, the U.S. military is no exception — although their efforts have been around for a good bit longer than the J.J. Abrams-directed epic.
A bevvy of defense contractors are working on a variety of laser systems that would be used on aircraft, vehicles, and boats, and they’ve already proven that such futuristic weapons as depicted in the Star Wars series are actually possible, although perhaps in not quite the same way, according to a Fox News report.
Boeing is working on one laser weapon called the Compact Laser Weapon System that is capable of shooting down drones from afar. Rather than fire a single laser blast like you would see in Star Wars, it focuses an intense laser on the drone until it burns a hole in it, causing the drone to combust and crash.
Such technology has also been demonstrated by the Navy aboard a ship, actually shooting down a real live drone with this method.
Lockheed Martin has also been working on its own laser technology, developing a laser turret for fighter jets on behalf of DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory. It is a 360-degree mounted turret that can fire in any direction. But it’s still very early in the development process, and faces challenges like atmospheric turbulence, which can scatter the light particles and reduce the strength of the laser to the point that it is useless. One idea is to use mirrors to help the beam penetrate the atmosphere.
Then there’s an interesting military vehicle known as the Hellbound, an ATV that can carry six troops as well as a laser weapon. It would be able to produce 100 kVA of power, which would help power a number of things — including a 10-kilowatt solid-state fiber laser.