U.S. Navy Laser Will Zap Enemy Weapons Out of the Sky.
Nine months ahead of schedule, the U.S. Navy has produced a megawatt laser with the potential to do things like zap enemy planes out of the sky and disable missile threats.
To power the Free Electron Laser (FEL), the Office of Naval Research (ONR) created an electron injector necessary to fuel the megawatt beam. To support the intense amount of light to focus such a laser beam, it requires a lot of power. Some lasers run on crystals, others are fueled by chemicals. The FEL passes supercharged electrons through magnetic fields, and the new injector supplies the laser with a huge source of electrons at a very high speed.
"The FEL is expected to provide future U.S. Naval forces with a near-instantaneous laser ship defense in any maritime environment throughout the world," ONR's FEL program manager Quentin Saulter said in a press relase.
The FEL is "the future of Navy ship protection," the ONR said. It can take down multiple enemy weapons at a time. It's not a totally new technology, though. The FEL has actually existed since 1976, but until now it hasn't been able to reach megawatt power. Additionally, moisture and aerosols in the ocean air can make it difficult for the FEL to be effective on Navy ships.