Air Weapons: Slow Burn Lasers Roam the Skies


August 21, 2007: The U.S. Army and Air Force have discovered that low power lasers can be pretty lethal battlefield weapons. For decades, the conventional wisdom was that you needed a high powered laser (as in instantly burning through the metal skin of a missile). But over the last few years, it's become obvious that slow burn (lower powered) lasers will do useful stuff like cause the explosives in shells, missiles and roadside bombs to go off. That's very useful, and the U.S. Department of Defense has been conducting lots of tests of late to find out exactly how useful these cheaper, easier to use (because of the lower power requirements) lasers would be.

More work is also being done on lasers that can blind enemy sensors. This sort of thing has been around for years, but new, cheaper and more sensitive sensors are also more vulnerable to lasers. With progress, you often get new perils as well.

The army is mounting slow burn lasers on hummers, and plans to use them for detonating roadside bombs. The air force is mounting similar lasers on C-130s, so that death from above will have a new meaning. In development are lower power lasers for blowing up rockets, missiles and shells in flight. Microwave and laser powered weapons are soon to be in use on a wide scale. It shouldn't be a surprise, given the great deal of development work under way.


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