The development of lasers for combat purposes goes as far back as at least the Regan era, as the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) from that time period had many innovate ideas about how we could develop a sophisticated anti-ballistic missile system. Many of these anti-ballistic ideas featured lasers prominently. Despite this fact, laser weapons haven't really ever proliferated on the battlefield, but that could soon change.
The army, together with General Dynamics, an aerospace and defense company, is developing a short-range laser weapon that can identify and intercept drones, mortar shells, and other flying threats.
Reports say that the weapon could be deployed as early as 2017.
The weapon system could be mounted on the roof of an armored personnel vehicle, and it features a 5 kilowatt laser, a step-up from General Dynamics' previous effort, which came in at just 2 kilowatts. It has its own radar, so it stays operational even if the existing systems in the vehicle go down.
The joint venture is also looking to integrate a jamming system to the weapon, so it does not have to fire a shot to take down a threat. Remarkably, their current tests show that the system can identify and destroy UAVs 21 times out of 23.
This development shows how the changing landscape of war—the advent of technologies like drones and autonomous weapons—spawns a host of new innovations that ultimately reshape combat...and even society itself. In the end, those behind the work note that this laser system is just one of many in development that aims to protect soldiers in dangerous environments.