(From militaryaerospace.com – J.R. Wilson) – Directed-energy weapons like lasers have been in development for decades, show great promise, and are being field-tested in substantial numbers, but are they ready for widespread deployment?

Ray guns, Jedi lightsabers, Imperial blasters, Klingon disrupters, Federation phasers, Martian heat-rays-directed-energy weapons (DEWs) have been a staple in science fiction since H.G. Wells’s War of the Worlds in 1898. While the first laser was not developed until 1960, there is a long list of real or imagined precursors dating back nearly 2,500 years, including:

  • Secret, independent work on radar by pre-World-War-II researchers in France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, the Soviet Union, the United Kingdom, and the United States, which was seen as the possible basis for a “beam” weapon;
  • Nikola Tesla’s experiments with – and claims to have built and demonstrated – “charged particle beam weapons” in the 1920s and ’30s; and
  • Greek inventor Archimedes’s “burning mirror” weapon, which, according to legend, set afire Roman ships attacking Syracuse in 212 BC.

The U.S. military began to show real interest in directed-energy weapons in the 1980s, as part of President Ronald Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative. In its early concept, SDI was seen as using orbiting lasers – first X-ray, then chemical – as part of a layered defense to destroy enemy missiles from launch through the exoatmospheric mid-course phase. Ultimately, the idea was scrapped for reasons of insufficient beam power and the need for hundreds of satellite-based lasers with low expectations of efficiency.” (…)


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Photo©U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams, as published in above-quoted article