Laser beam capable of burning hole in car from one mile away

laser

This is what a laser can do to a truck from one mile away.

The engine was destroyed after a weapon called an 'ATHENA', short for Advanced Test High Energy Asset, was fired at the vehicle.

This 30 kilowatt fibre-optic laser was manufactured by US defence company Lockheed Martin.

They say it's the first time a ground-based system like theirs, combining multiple laser streams into one beam, has ever been successfully tested.

Increasingly it looks like lasers will take centre stage on the battlefields of the future.

Last year the US navy installed its first laser weapon system, called LaWs, on warship USS Ponce.

The ship is currently stationed in the Persian Gulf, a stretch of water between Iran and Bahrain.

Laser

Looking like a cross between a telescope and a cannon, it tracks a moving target before firing a high-intensity light beam strong enough to burn a hole through steel.

You can't see the laser because it is on the infrared spectrum, but it is a versatile and cheap weapon. Each pulse of energy from the laser "costs under a dollar".

It is also apparently easy to use. Rear Admiral Matthew Klunder told a press conference in December: "Any of you that can do Xbox or PS4, you'll be good with this."

The laser controller

During testing this laser brought down a drone and took out a small boat. Footage of the test shows the speedboat bursting into flames.

Rear Admiral Klunder was keen to stress that this system was no longer in testing mode.

At the same press conference he said: "If we have to defend that ship today, we will [use the laser] to destroy a threat that comes."

Footage of the speedboat bursting into flames was posted online
Image caption Footage of the speedboat bursting into flames was posted online

The strength of the beam can be adjusted, either to a low pulse to warn approaching ships, or to a higher level to dazzle and stun.

It's also useful because it relies on electricity, rather than ammunition, so it doesn't need reloading. The US army's research team is trying to develop a ground-based system.

These weapons could use similar technology to that displayed by Lockheed Martin.

Laser weapons are currently banned for use against humans, according to the Geneva Convention, a series of rules which govern warfare.

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