US Air Force Fighters to Have Lasers by 2020

By Gary Cutlack on at

The pen-pushers paying for the US military's many and varied weapon systems expect to be outfitting some fighter planes with lasers before the end of the decade, with a form of "directed energy pod" coming to make the skies safer. Or more dangerous. Whatever the aim of it all is.

According to US defence research agency DARPA, the idea is to equip jets with laser weaponry when the power/cost/accuracy ratio become comparable to an equivalent load of conventional weapons, with the developer explaining: "With a weight goal of less than five kilograms per kilowatt, and volume of three cubic meters for the laser system, HELLADS seeks to enable high-energy lasers to be integrated onto tactical aircraft, significantly increasing engagement ranges compared to ground-based systems."

HELLADS is being tested this year and is presumably going well, well enough for Air Force General Hawk Carlisle to tell assembled warlords at a military conference that: "I believe we’ll have a directed energy pod we can put on a fighter plane very soon, that day is a lot closer than I think a lot of people think it is."

The HELLADS laser energy pod is a 150 kW system. We're not sure if that's powerful in laser world or not. At the very least it ought to be capable of severely dazzling the enemy and putting him out of action for several seconds while he pulls down his visor. [DARPA via Ars]