US military officials have commissioned Boeing and General Atomics Electromagnetics Systems (GA-EMS) to build the 300-kilowatt superweapon.
The proposed Distributed Gain High Energy Laser Weapon System (DGHELWS) will draw on Boeing’s target tracking technology and GA-EMS’ laser weaponry to create a machine capable of picking drones and missiles out of the sky.
The contract was made on October 25, just days after the Chinese military successfully fired a hypersonic rocket, capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, around the entire earth before it plummeted towards a target.
It was also revealed recently that China plans to manufacture 1000 nuclear warheads in the next nine years.
Reports suggested that US intelligence and military officials were left stunned by the secret launch in August, hence the creation of a new weapons system in response.
Scott Forney, president of GA-EMS, said in a statement: “The high power, compact laser weapon subsystem prototype that GA-EMS will deliver under this contract will produce a lethal output greater than anything fielded to date.
“This technology represents a leap-ahead capability for air and missile defence that is necessary to support the Army’s modernisation efforts and defeat next-generation threats in a multi-domain battlespace.”
Dr Michael Perry, GA-EMS vice president for lasers and advanced sensors, described the new design as “very compact and lightweight package”.
He also said that the company has been developing new and more powerful “single beam DG Lasers” that can achieve extreme “beam quality” without needing to be combined with other lasers.
The proposed weapon will work by tracking flying objects and projecting a laser beam onto them, a beam so powerful that it will burn through and disable anything it touches.
Dr Perry told Popular Science that it will be able to intercept “a wide variety” of aerial threats “ranging from cruise missiles, manned aircraft, unmanned aircraft and rockets/artillery”.
The weapon will also be versatile in more ways than one.
Firstly, it will be able to work off batteries and a power grid, making it more maneuverable.
Secondly, Dr Perry explained, it will be able to adjust the power of the laser depending on what type of target it is attacking.
He said: “Specifically, it enables lethal fluence to be accumulated at the required range. For softer targets that can be destroyed with a lower power laser, the extra power can be used to increase the engagement range and/or dwell time.”
For the latest breaking news and stories from across the globe from the Daily Star, sign up for our newsletter by clicking here.