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High-Energy Lasers Advance Defense and Industry

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Advancements in fiber and femtosecond lasers are mustering an expanded arsenal of solutions in areas from the combat theater to the plant floor.


Ever since the laser first appeared in the public consciousness, popular culture has reframed it as a prospective weapon of infinite range and power. This is largely because popular culture is unshackled from the concerns of engineering and physics. But the idea of light-based directed energy has nevertheless prompted interest and investment in the laser’s potential military applications — where it is most often viewed as a defensive countermeasure. Decades of government-funded demonstrations have yielded promising results that indicate laser-based weapons are finally ready for the battlefield. Chief among the recent advancements are high-power lasers capable of producing tens of kilowatts of energy in a beam that can knock down an unmanned aerial system (UAS) or a drone, which are among today’s proliferating threats. Further out on the horizon are systems operating in the hundreds of kilowatts, designed to destroy much larger and more distant targets such as missiles.

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Published: March 2021
adaptive optics
Optical components or assemblies whose performance is monitored and controlled so as to compensate for aberrations, static or dynamic perturbations such as thermal, mechanical and acoustical disturbances, or to adapt to changing conditions, needs or missions. The most familiar example is the "rubber mirror,'' whose surface shape, and thus reflective qualities, can be controlled by electromechanical means. See also active optics; phase conjugation.
FeaturesLasersfiber laserscontinuous-wave lasersdiode lasersultrafast lasersadaptive opticsdefense

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