The science fiction of the Star Wars universe seems to be getting closer and closer to reality. The United States military is developing a powerful new laser weapon(Tactical Ultra Short Pulsed Laser) capable of firing metal vaporization pulses rapidly, much like a machine gun.
The new weapon, called “Tactical Ultra Short Pulsed Laser for Military Platforms,” is expected to be a million times more powerful than any other laser weapon out there, reports New Scientist. Based on military plans for the weapon, the laser will look more like the types of laser rifles in sci-fi movies than anything engineers have built in the past.
Laser weapons that the US military has developed in the past were designed to pierce through metal, allowing them to disable relatively nearby vehicles or drones.
The new weapon Tactical Ultra-Short Pulsed Laser, by contrast, is powerful enough to vaporize rather than melt metal, making it much more effective weaponry. It fires incredibly short pulses – between 20 and 50 per second – that is shaped to allow them to self-focus while traveling, not unlike the ‘blaster’ shots shown in the Star Wars movies, which allow the new laser to hit much more distant targets without dissipating.
Tactical Ultra Short Pulsed Laser
In addition to building a more powerful laser in its own right, the military is leaning even further towards sci-fi tropes and trying to give the weapon an electromagnetic pulse effect (EMP) as well. When lasers hit metal, the plan is for them to quickly accelerate electrons that are strong enough to disrupt nearby electronics.
But while it sounds far-fetched, all of this is possible and feasible with technology that already exists today, said Derryck Reid, an engineer at Heriot-Watt University.
“This is not science fiction,” he concluded.