We are undeniably living in the future. Today, the evidence is this glowing-red hole burnt straight through a truck's engine by a high-powered laser at a distance of one mile Released this week, the above photo shows just what Lockheed Martin's newest directed energy weapon can do.
With a flick of a videogame-like controller, the sailor locks the laser onto the drone in mid-air. Within seconds, there's a flash of light and sparks, and the drone nosedives straight into the ocean, the latest victim of the U.S. Navy's new Laser Weapon System (or LaWS). The laser, mounted on the USS Ponce, has been stationed in the Persian Gulf for months, and today the Office of Naval Research released video of the first successful, live-fire tests there.
In World War II, mighty bombers came equipped with gun barrels, manned by gunners at the ready to protect the plane from attacking fighters. The B-52 Stratofortress even came with a tail gun for self defense and last used it in combat over Vietnam in 1972. The change in fighter weapons from guns to missiles made tail guns obsolete, but now Lockheed and DARPA are bringing them back. As freakin’ lasers.
Popular Science sat down with Lockheed Martin's Chief Technology Officer Ray Johnson to talk about the future of war and the future of technology. The conversation started with lasers, worked its way through 3-D printing, and ended with a perspective on the military aircraft of the future.
Intercepting and destroying projectiles in midair is costly business. Rockets, like the Qassams and Katyushasfired into Israel by Hezbollah and Hamas, cost around $1,000 each. The counter-missiles that theIron Dome, Israel's rocket defense system, uses to destroy incoming rockets are far more expensive: about$40,000 a pop. This disparity, and the accompanying prioritization of what gets defended, means the Iron Dome ignoresanything smaller thanrockets and artillery shells.