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Back in the 1980s, Ronald Reagan supported the development of the so-called "Star Wars" missile defense system. In essence, the Gipper wanted to be able to shoot Soviet missiles out of the sky in order to keep America safe. The Pentagon poured millions of dollars into offensive laser development, but unrealistic expectations and immature technology caused the initiatives to fail. Recent advancements in laser technology, along with more sober expectations, have jumpstarted the notion of using lasers as weapons of war. Two types lead the pack: solid-state lasers and free-electron lasers (FEL). Military leaders appear to be throwing their weight behind the FELs because, unlike solid-state lasers, they are able to travel through the atmosphere (including the rain) with minimal degradation. Attaching such lasers to military vehicles, such as Naval vessels, could become a reality beginning with the next generation of the military's fleet.

Attack at the Speed of Light [Popular Science] via Defense Tech