Great News! Military to Get Star Trek Style Phaser Cannons!

Laser.jpgOk… they’re not actually phasers, but we are going to be seeing some seriously big honking lasers. Northrop Grumman has apparently broken one of the technological barriers to development and built a laser with more than 100 kW output which should pretty much fry anything in its sights.

Huge news for real-life ray guns: Electric lasers have hit battlefield strength for the first time — paving the way for energy weapons to go to war.

In recent test-blasts, Pentagon-researchers at Northrop Grumman managed to get its 105 kilowatts of power out of their laser — past the “100kW threshold [that] has been viewed traditionally as a proof of principle for ‘weapons grade’ power levels for high-energy lasers,” Northrop’s vice president of directed energy systems, Dan Wildt, said in a statement.

Those of you who have been following this story will remember that the key advancement which got us here was a switch from chemical lasers to electric lasers. The chemical lasers were extremely powerful, but in terms of battlefield use they were somewhat impractical since it could take up to five railroad cars full of chemicals to fire them once. The electrical laser just requires a sufficiently powerful generator to fire continuously.

So is this really “great news” for us? Opponents of military force may not think so, but lasers should have some distinct advantages in combat. Even for pacifists, one of the chief complaints regarding combat operations is the potential for collateral damage. (Read as: blowing up civilians) The general goal has been for “laser accuracy” with smart munitions. Well, here you have it. There’s nothing more laser accurate than an actual laser. Burning a hole in a target should generally produce less unintended consequences than blowing something up.

Now we just need to finish up work on the photon torpedoes. I mean, I realize that we’re probably never going to get the flying cars they promised us back in the seventies, but the least they can do is cough up a functional photon torpedo.