We might have a while to wait until we get full-fledged space dogfights like those in Star Wars, but the U.S. Air Force wants to give us the next best thing — in less than a decade, to boot.
Breaking Defense reports mounting lasers on both larger planes and smaller, fighter planes is a serious priority for the Air Force. The applications are limitless, considering you can do a lot of damage with a hyper-focused (and hyper-accurate) beam of energy. Plus, c’mon, it’s just plain awesome.
But that doesn’t mean it’ll be easy. The Air Force Research Lab points out that applications from the air might be the most complicated of any proposed, but that doesn’t mean it's impossible. The Navy already has a weaponized laser weapon mounted on a warship, and the Army is developing some truck-based laser weapons, but neither of those have to deal with the breakneck pace and constant vibration of flight.
"Air applications actually can be the most challenging," AFRL laser guru David Hardy told Breaking Defense. "On a ship, I’m probably going to have more SWAP [Size Weight And Power] than I’m going to have on an aircraft. [A]ircraft tend to shake more than a ship does: A ship rolls but it doesn’t vibrate as much."
So, yeah, there’s still some science to work out — but hopefully the Air Force eggheads can nail all that down in the next seven years to hit that target goal. Now we just need the Marines to start working on a 1.0 model of a lightsaber, and we’ll be set.