It turns out that cheap drone weapons are re-energizing research and development of laser weapons. Apparently, the differential cost of offensive and defensive missiles is forcing countries to reconsider building defensive laser weapons. Israel’s successful Iron Dome anti-missile system is demonstrating that if an enemy is willing to flood the field with cheap missiles, they can bankrupt the defender using effective but expensive anti-missile missiles.
Lasers on the other hand after the initial purchase cost of the system uses about ten dollars in electricity per kill. Of course, lasers are limited by weather conditions. The quote from the article says, ““With lasers, if you can see it, you can kill it; typically rain and snow are not big deterrents,” says Robert Afzal, an expert on lasers at Lockheed Martin. “But a thundercloud—that’s hard.””
And the range of targets is impressive but not unlimited:
““A laser of that class (100 kW) can be effective against a wide variety of targets, including cruise missiles, mortars, UAVs, and aircraft,” says Perry. “But not reentry vehicles [launched by ballistic missiles].” Those are the warheads, and to ward them off, he says, you’d probably have to hit the rocket when it’s still in the boost phase, which would mean placing your laser in orbit. Laser tech is still far from performing such a feat.”
The Russians, Israelis and Americans all have active fiber laser weapons programs in the 100 – 300 kW range which is the current state of the art. But now that the economic necessity for these systems has been demonstrated I imagine more powerful and multi-weapon platforms can’t be far behind.
Well all I can say is it’s about time. We were promised lasers back in the sixties. Even Dr. Evil had sharks with frikkin’ laser beams back thirty years ago. Slackers.