It had to happen eventually. The American Northrop Grumman
Corporation has just opened the first ray-gun factory. Officially, the plant
will build high-energy, solid-state lasers and figure out how to install them
in military vehicles. The first weapon being produced is the JHPSSL (Joint
High-Power Solid State Laser), a 100 kW solid-state laser. The JHPSSL is to be
mounted on armored vehicles and in aircraft. JHPSSL is basically an
anti-aircraft and anti-missile system. It has already demonstrated that it can
destroy artillery and mortar shells, as well as rockets and cruise missiles.
Israel is interested in using JHPSSL as part of its rocket defense system. Ray
guns have long been a staple of science fiction, and when the first lasers
appeared in the 1950s, science fiction writers just assumed that many of their
ray guns were "lasers." All this is not quite science fiction any more, mainly
because it will take another decade or so before you have a hand held laser.