The video: The U.S. Office of Naval Research has released a video showing a test of a new high-energy laser gun. In the clip, an inflatable boat moves slowly through the Pacific Ocean as it takes a direct hit from a laser fired from a ship a mile away. (Watch the video below.) The 15-kilowatt beam hits the boat's twin outboard engines, which glow hot, catch fire in seconds, and go dead. The military has been experimenting with lasers since the 1970s, although early systems involved chemical-based lasers that produced dangerous waste gases. The successful test of these safer high-energy lasers (HELs) is a major step toward a futuristic arsenal of laser guns, says the project's director, Rear Adm. Nevin Carr, as quoted by Wired. "But I still want the Megawatt death ray."
The reaction: This is "pretty impressive," says George Wong at Ubergizmo. The laser guns we all read about in sci-fi comic books are turning into a reality — "and a pretty scary one at that." If you think this is frightening, says Spencer Ackerman at Wired, just wait a few years. Within a decade, the Navy hopes to unveil 100-kilowatt solid state lasers capable of disabling ships, and eventually "burning missiles out of the sky." The Navy's also working on a "much more powerful Free Electron Laser weapon" that will have a full megawatt of juice, allowing them to cut through 20 feet of steel per second. Now that's scary. See the laser gun test for yourself: