The United States Defence Department has developed a prototype of an aircraft armed with a laser gun that could destroy tanks 10 miles away.
The laser weapon, shown mounted on a modified Lockheed aircraft
The weapon is capable of destroying targets up to 15km (10m) away, according to Defense Update online magazine.
The ten-centimetre-wide beam will heat targets almost instantly to thousands of degrees and will slice through metal even at maximum range. It is intended both for battlefield use and for missile defense.
The weapon can also be fitted on a 747 aircraft to shoot down missiles
It is anticipated the beam will be adjustable, allowing the gunner to choose between, for example, targeting a vehicle’s fuel tank to destroy it utterly, or slice through a tyre to bring it to a halt without injuring the driver.
The laser will be housed in a rotating turret attached to the underside of the aircraft and will be aimed independently of the plane. Early tests have focused on testing the rotation of the laser housing.
The laser is housed in a rotating glass turret, seen here on the front of the aircraft
So far the laser itself has not been tested in flight, but first trials are expected during 2008.
Tests on a laser for destroying vehicles will be carried out on the prototype based on the C-130 “Hercules” transport aircraft. A separate version of the missile will be trialled on a Boeing 747.
By Tom Chivers
Last Updated: 1:13am GMT 29/03/2008