Aerial laser weapons, probably around the corner

(Next Big Future blog)

Well, judging by the illustrations known, "Fighter planes" is not exactly accurate. It's more like bombers and gunships; I remember concept drawings about such intents from the 80's.

100 kW laser output has been considered the threshold for an effective destructive* combat laser for a while; a 150 kW laser would be effective against a wide range of targets. That is, unless said targets employ countermeasures.

Destructive combat lasers would force lots of thoughts and lots of new dynamics onto the tactical level and also onto measures-countermeasures spirals in military tech R&D and procurement.

To be honest; I'm not particularly interested in destructive lasers. 
The attention and thought they would attract would divert from addressing more fundamental and less sexy problems in military theory and security policy. I can already imagine the voices which will claim that the force with the better lasers will dominate the battlefield. *Sigh*

*: I wrote this to point out the difference to lasers for ranging, beam rider guidances, illumination, obstacle detection, 3D sensor functions and dazzling.


  1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/High_Energy_Liquid_Laser_Area_Defense_System

    Supposedly it weighs 750kg. That's a significant weight increase. Sure, if you removed the anti-G air system (and used the Libelle suit instead) and the radar, you could perhaps cancel out some of the weight gain, but it's still significant.

    And what sort of impact would this have on aerodynamics?

    Wouldn't it be better to go for something smaller and weaker, but still capable of burning out the electronics in incoming missiles?

    1. I already mentioned his title was misleading; it's not for fighters.

      Fighters may use dazzling lasers, though. Those have been largely restricted to transport aircraft as anti-ManPADS defences ("DIRCM", useless against laser beam rider ManPADS).

      The countermeasures against dazzling are probably much ahead of the threat, though. I remember 1990's developments for windows and visors capable of turning from transparent to black (absorbing) instantly in order to counter laser hits. The transparency was upheld by an electric current only.
      Other developments turned opaque driven by the laser's own energy.

      Protection of missiles against lasers does probably not extend beyond some weight gain and worries bout the exposed sensor.