The military is developing laser weapons to arm the F-35 and AC-130, and expects to have a demonstration model by 2010 with a full-scale development project to follow. Such a weapon has many advantages:
@ it can fire indefinitely, subject only to the engine fuel to power it and the cooling system to keep it from overheating. And the aircraft can be refueled in flight.
@ after the laser hits a target, there are no bomb fragments that say "Made in USA", allowing covert attacks with full deniability. A laser could detonate fuel storage tanks and leave no evidence that an attack had even taken place at all.
@ it is more accurate than guided bombs, which can go off target due to mechanical failures.
@ the damage caused by the laser is very localized, with a damage radius of only a few feet.
This has become possible due to recent technological advances that make lasers smaller, lighter, and more efficient. Another improvement is in fighter technology, as new fighters will be able to feed a megawatt of power into a laser within five years, and more within ten years.
Microwave weapons are also being designed, but will only be carried by unmanned aircraft as they are harder to control and more likely to harm their own aircraft and its crew.--Stephen V Cole