The US defense company Raytheon debuted its new anti-aircraft and anti-missile laser system at the Farnborough Airshow in the UK. It will function as a supplement to the ship-mounted Phalanx system, an automated Gatling gun that fires at missiles and aircraft approaching a naval vessel. Raytheon representative Mike Booen said:
"It functions as the last line of defence, so if you can fit a laser onto it, you have a longer reach and an unlimited magazine, cause it keeps on throwing out photons," he added.
Two problems that have dogged laser weapon development for some time are weather conditions and the target itself. Damp maritime air can absorb the laser energy before it reaches the target and - as developers discovered in the 1960s when trying to target Russian Mig aircraft - a reflective surface can negate much of the laser's effectiveness.
Mr Booen acknowledges this, but said that these problems could be overcome.
"Every material reflects, but you can overcome this with power; once you get over a certain threshold - measured in multiple kilowatts - then the laser does what it is designed to do," he said.
Mr Booen said that once a material started getting hot, it affected the reflective ability, making the target absorb more energy and eventually leading to its destruction.
At the link, you can view a video of an unmanned drone getting shot down by the system.
Link via Fast Company | Image (artist's conception) courtesy of Raytheon