The U.S. Marine Corps is taking a few notes out of Dr. Evil’s playbook and now wants to mount lasers on everything in its inventory—just as soon as they can figure out how.
According to ArsTechnica, the commanding general of the Marine Corps’ Combat Development Command, Lt. General Robert Walsh, informed defense reporters that “directed energy weapons” were the direction the Marines were headed. Or, basically, that lasers are the shit, because they totally are.
“As soon as we could miniaturize them, we would put them on F-35s, Cobra [attack helicopters]… any of those kind of attack aircraft,” Walsh said, according to a report from National Defense. But given how much difficulty Defense Department researchers have had reducing the size and power required for directed energy weapons, that day is still a long way off—and the objective right now is to get a system that could be flown on a C-130.
The C-130 is the clear choice for early implementation of the Marines’ plans, as current laser and battery technology isn’t quite small enough for an application like the F-35 fighter.
The Air Force is heavily invested in developing a laser system for its F-35A, and it’s not a stretch to imagine that the success of that program could quickly adapt to the Corps’ F-35B.
There have been multiple applications for weaponized lasers in the past, having been mounted on everything from Boeing 747 to a Navy test ship, deployed for countering missiles, drones and other small, motorized threats. Earlier applications of airborne lasers were cancelled after disappointing results, but those were based on chemical lasers, and the Defense Department is now convinced solid-state lasers are the way to go.
The Marines are already working with the Office of Naval Research on developing a 30-kilowatt laser similar to the Navy’s test application, but for ground vehicles.
The benefits of developing laser weapons and countermeasures is mostly based on avoiding the costs of traditional and current field applications. Rather than launch a missile costing a quarter of a million dollars and sustaining a ammunition supply, the laser offers similar results at less cost and with the potential for more efficiency.
But we’re still a long way off from the F-35 of the future (...of the future), and it wont necessarily be Star Wars—Reagan nor Lucas. But what was a fantasy just a few years ago is suddenly about to revolutionize the battlefield.