Monday, August 15, 2011

Laser weapons are all fired up

Gail Overton
Senior Editor
Laser Focus World

Numerous celebrations and mainstream news releases surrounding the 2010 50th anniversary of the laser were successful, I think, in raising awareness for the general public that lasers have indeed arrived. Although laser eye surgery, laser hair removal, and bar-code scanners are probably the most well-known laser applications in everyday life, nothing brings home the power of laser technology like laser weapons.

Once the stuff of science fiction, laser weapons are real and being deployed more and more in both military and civilian settings. You can find a great review of laser weapons from Jeff Hecht by clicking here, and information on a new Wiley book from Lehigh University professor Alastair McAulay entitled Military Laser Technology for Defense: Technology for Revolutionizing 21st Century Warfare can be found here.

And check out this YouTube video of a maritime laser demonstration:

The video above shows how the Office of Naval Research successfully disabled a small ship using a solid-state, high-energy laser mounted on the deck of the Navy's test ship, the former USS Paul Foster.

On the laser countermeasure or weapon-defeating front, an August Laser Focus World article on infrared countermeasures (IRCMs) shows how these missile-busting IRCM laser devices are already being deployed on commercial airlines!

Lasers that destroy missiles and enemy combatant small vessels or hostile unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are OK in my book; however, those Laser Energetics Dazer Laser or BAE Laser Dazzle weapons that "disable" hostile civilians or angry crowds raise many questions. Not sure if the public would prefer a laser beam to a rubber bullet; only time will tell.

--Gail Overton

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