As technology advances, so too is the way that we carry out modern warfare. No, not the game, rather the weapons that militaries use around the world in everyday defense.
Drones are posing a significant security threat to bases around the world, but historically the best way to take out a $200 drone might be to shoot it down with a $100,000 missile. That hardly seems worth it. However, technology is advancing.
Laser weapons are proving to be low-cost high-impact options for militaries around the world. They are highly accurate as well as incredibly flexible – as well as reusable. Another benefit is that they minimize collateral damage, only taking out the intended target.
How laser weapons work
Laser weapons of the modern era are fueled by decades of research from companies like Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman.
The laser systems developed by these companies run on batteries and Lockheed Martin specifically uses a technology called a Spectral Beam Combined Fiber Laser. This is a small and powerful laser beam system that utilizes artificially intelligent algorithms to stream fiber lasers into one larger beam.
For laser weapons systems, the energy travels by mirrors and lenses which allow for adjustments based on weather or atmospheric conditions. The benefit of laser weapons is that they aren't impeded by gravity or wind resistance.
With laser weapons, which are essentially highly focused energy beams, militaries can take out engines, instantly burn tires, sink a boat or bring down drones in a fraction of a second. The other main benefit to laser weapons is that if a target moves you don't have to fire a new projectile, you just move the laser.
What lasers change about battle
Laser weapons as a munitions system mean that troops don't have to transport massive amounts of ammunition, rather just one weapons system. Since the destructive energy of laser weapons comes directly from generators or batteries, there's no need to carry around dangerous munitions where accidents can occur.
This lack of dangerous munitions also simply means less cargo. This also means less equipment and more stealthy troop movements.
Traditional missiles also cost a lot of money, upwards of several millions of dollars per missile. When you have laser weapons, their power is essentially infinitely renewable, so any upfront cost of the system is offset through not needing to constantly buy munitions.
All of this praise for laser weapons said, they aren't meant to replace normal munitions fully, rather just compliment them.
The cutting edge of the technology
Lockheed Martin is one of the defense contractors leading the way in the laser weapon industry. They claim to have fully functioning laser systems ready for field testing, and they've already demonstrated a few of their capabilities.
Field tests are already underway for the laser systems developed by the company and reviews are raving.
Specifically, the company's ATHENA system is a prototype ground-based laser system for low-value threats. The U.S. Navy has fitted the weapons system onto the USS Arleigh Burke for initial field testing.