These next generation laser weapons are lighter and smaller than any before them.
The Pentagon has ordered the manufacture of several 150-kilowatt laser weapons designed to defend warplanes so that the U.S. Air Force and Navy can begin testing in 2014. The new weapons would represent a major step forward, being as much as ten times smaller and lighter than similar weapons, not to mention much more powerful than similar weapons currently in development and testing. The weapons are designed to be defensive in order to shoot down incoming missiles or projectiles, but similar weapons have been used to great effect against ground and naval targets. The U.S. Navy has used a laser to successfully disable a small craft, for example. While the weapons are first scheduled for ground based tests, the eventual goal is to mount them on jet planes for launch from ground bases and aircraft carriers.
Previously, the USAF had planned to mount a 1,000-kilowatt laser on a modified Boeing 747. The modified 747 was intended as a long range platform for hunting and destroying ballistic missiles, but those tests were scrapped due to the problems and limitations of laser weapons over great distances. The new tests don't have the same problems, because the smaller lasers mounted on drones or jets wouldn't be expected to work over such great distances. These weapons are being developed as part of a DARPA initiative called HELLADS - High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System.
Source: Tech News Daily