Space & Innovation

U.S. Soldiers To Shoot Laser Weapons by 2023

The weapons will counter threats from rockets, artillery, mortar, cruise missiles, and unmanned aerial vehicles.

Since the Golden Age of Science Fiction, stories of future soldiers with laser guns have been among the most enduring tropes in all of genre fiction. And now it looks like fiction is about to become fact.

In a question-and-answer session with lawmakers, U.S. Army representative Mary J. Miller said that American armed forces will be equipped with high-energy laser weapons by the year 2023.

Zapped! U.S. Navy Deploys Laser Weapons

Speaking before the House Armed Services Committee's Subcommittee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, Miller said the Army is committed to developing offensive and defensive directed-energy weapons, including high-energy lasers. While some directed-energy systems are already online, like the Navy's XN1-LaWS program, the military has largely held off on deploying laser weapons.

"Lasers have been promised for a long time, but they've never held up and delivered what was asked for, so the operators are rightfully skeptical," Miller said to lawmakers. However, the Army is currently testing laser weapons in "operational environments" with the goal of delivering reliable directed-energy weapon systems within 10 years.

"We have to make sure the lasers work and do the full set of scopes against the threats we project," Miller said. "And those threats include the counter-rockets, counter-artillery and counter-mortar as well as [unmanned aerial vehicle] and cruise missile threats."

Laser Attacks On Pilots Get Worse

Details on the weapons systems are being kept under wraps, but an official from the Air Force said that all branches of the military are developing laser weapons. Many kinds of military aircraft are already fitted with lasers, but they're used primarily as countermeasures for infrared targeting systems, according to David Walker, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology and Engineering.

You can see the Navy's LaWS system in action, however. A couple of years back, the Navy publicly posted the video below, showing lasers weapons aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey in San Diego, Calif.

click to play video