In Star Wars, you must have seen those X-Wings and the Millennium Falcon shooting lasers like anything.
Well, very soon that would become a reality. And we mean VERY SOON!
According to reports, by 2020 US Air Force will have a fighter jet equipped with an actual laser weapon that will have the potential to destroy everything in its path.
US Air Force Research Laboratory, or AFRL, said it’s on track to demonstrate to the world the new weapon in the next 15 years.
An upbeat chief engineer for the lab, Kelly Hammett, said: “It really is a national tipping point.” Though laser weapons are not a new thing, arming a fighter jet travelling at many times the speed of sound with a working laser beam is difficult.
Hammett said that in the next five years, the research lab will overcome this hindrance because a new technology allows lasers to withstand the g-force and vibrations of the jets.
The advantages? An unlimited ammo is one.
“Incredible precision strike capabilities could be enabled there,” says Hammett.
The drawback? Laser weapons will be dependent on the plane’s energy source. “As long as the plane has fuel to power itself, its laser weapons essentially would be loaded,” said Hammett.
The Air Force may arm an F-15 Eagle to test the weapon. The F-15 is a fourth-generation fighter aircraft that would most likely be less in use by the time the weapon becomes a reality.
An artist’s impression of how a laser weapon equipped F-15 will work. Air Force Research Lab
The commander of Air Force Combat Command, General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle said that a first prototype test case might be conducted “in the next year or two”. But laser weapons won’t replace the conventional weapons immediately.
How will the laser weapons work? A concentrated beam of light will heat a target to such a degree that they burn or ignite.
But that is not all. There could also be a defensive laser shield, like the one you see in movies for fighter jets.
The AFRL is working on this idea that creates a 360-degree laser bubble around a jet. That bubble would disable or destroy anything that comes inside, like a missile or another aircraft.
Is there a need for such devastating weapons? Yes, if we go by General Carlisle’s (and the like-minded’s) logic.
“As we look at what adversaries have watched us do for the last 25 years, they know when we control the air, we win, so they’re doing everything in their power to stop us from doing that.”