The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to take warfare to the next level of science fiction by integrating lasers into planes within two years. Gizmodo reports last week the Defense Department’s research wing announced it would integrate the HELLADS (High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System) system, a solid state laser system light enough to be installed in bombers and fighters which would act as a defense mechanism, before the year is out. HELLADS delivers a 150kW charge which would be able to take out incoming surface-to-air missiles and other anti-aircraft ordinance. According to Dvice, the lasers would be usable on the ground as well and in an air to ground attack role.
While the illustration might look like the kind of thing a bored child in a classroom might doodle, the project is nonetheless real and nearly complete. The DoD plans airborne tests by 2014. In addition to installation on manned aircraft and potentially on ground vehicles like Humvees, it’s entirely possible the HELLADS system might be installed on drones as well. Time reported in December General Atomics, the initial prime contractor, was looking into a way to equip drones with the technology sometime in the next five years. One person “close to the program” told Time “It would give us an unlimited magazine.”