US Jet Fighters Will Soon Have Freaking Laser Cannons

Army officials say tactical lasers are on their way.
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Army officials say tactical lasers are on their way.
Imagine jets with lasers

A future of Star Wars-like jet battles using laser cannons will be here soon. According to statements by the amazingly well-named U.S. Air Force General Hawk Carlisle, warfare using the laser—or "directed energy" weapon—is just around the corner. Ars Technica reported on a recent presentation at the Air Force Association Air & Space conference by the General, in which he said something he calls "Fifth Generation Warfare" is "a lot closer than I think a lot of people think it is."

Ars reported that the conference featured displays of "low-power laser weapons," which included systems that could be mounted on drones. That's great, but the Air Force wants much more heavy-duty "directed energy" capacity, like "a 150-plus kilowatt system under development by General Atomics in conjunction with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, called HELLADS," writes Ars Technica's Sean Gallagher.

The Air Force Association & Space conference wasn't simply about laser cannons. Ars reports that future fighter pilots may end up with a stunning assortment of tools geared to disable and penetrate enemy defenses as well, including, in the words of Gen. Carlisle, "cockpit selectable weapons" that would allow pilots fine-grained control over bombs, selecting exactly when they detonate.

Perhaps more striking than laser cannons, Ars reports the Air Force may one day be able to "conduct cyber attacks against adversaries’ networks from flying aircraft—either from drones or from manned aircraft, injecting attacks into radio and wireless networks that could disable or confuse enemy systems." Such abilities are already being tested and may be in field use in the near future.

We hope for a future in which the military never needs to use any of these weapons, but we can't help but look forward to footage of a laser-loaded fighter jet searing a test missiles out of the sky. Let's face it, that just sounds cool.

Photos by USAF/Wikimedia