It's been 114 years since HG Wells first described the nefarious "Heat Ray" in The War of the Worlds. And finally—finally—the US military is on the cusp of deploying a mobile high energy weapon of its very own. Luckily, ours is designed to fry incoming artillery and mortar threats, not the whole of a freshly-conquered civilization.
The US military has been working on various iterations of laser-based weapons since the mid-1990s, but development has been slow going. Transitioning laser technology from a lab setting to active combat is no easy feat. Recently, though, the Defense Department shifted development funding from messy liquid-based lasers to the more portable and stable solid-state variety, a move that is already paying dividends. Northrop Grumman showcased its 13.4KW Gamma laser cannon in May, and the Navy set dinghies alight with its Maritime Laser Demonstrator in 2011, Then, last week, Boeing showed off what is essentially a laser cannon on wheels: The High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD).