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December 13, 2017

Fighter Jets are Getting Laser Weapons by 2021

It will be just like Star Wars!

…maybe.

The United States Air Force (USAF) recently awarded Lockheed Martin $26.3 million “for the design, development, and production of a high power fiber laser” and have the goal of putting that laser on a fighter jet by 2021. Whether they will be able to accomplish this gargantuan task is another matter.

Laser Weapons have been in development for years

Formally called “directed energy weapons” in military parlance, lasers have actually been in development for the past twenty years. The lasers have become smaller and more stable, and their power has grown from dozens of watts to dozens of kilowatts.

The problem is that the enormous weight required to generate destructive energy makes these devices very difficult to implement on anything except extremely heavy vehicles. Lockheed recently unveiled a powerful 60 kilowatt-class laser that can fit on a truck. It can burn through a tank and knock a mortar out of the sky, but it can only fit on the largest truck in the U.S. Army.

Fitting a powerful laser on a nimble fighter jet remains temporarily out of reach. But it’s nearly guaranteed that it will be accomplished in the future, and that’s because the demand for it is so great.

Military strategists envision that one day they will also be able to accomplish such tasks as destroying incoming ballistic missiles, knocking down enemy communication networks, and shutting down enemy vehicles.

Stay tuned!

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