Every science fiction movie you've ever seen is about to come true. The Office of Naval Research claims laser cannons will be on ships in about four years. In fact, contracts for defense contractors to build them should go out this year.
Mike Deitchman of the ONR said once his office can prove the guns work effectively, they can recommend the Navy begin building them, and he said that process will begin in "30 to 60 days."
This past April, it was proven in a test that the weapons can actually work. Take a look at the video below to see a laser cannon burn through the motor of a motor boat.
Currently, the laser shoots 14 kilowatts of light, which Wired compared to "140 lamps, all shining in the same direction and at the same wavelength." One hundred kilowatts is what would be useful for the military.
It would be a single-state laser, meaning it focuses its light through a solid medium (crystal, fiber optics), rather than a Free Electron Laser (also known as a megawatt laser), which uses magnets and would be able to "burn through 20 feet of steel in a single second."
"It's easier to shrink down a solid-state laser [to get on a ship], and there's a maturity here, vice the Free Electron Laser," says Deitchman. "The solid-state laser will still deal with many asymmetric threats, but not the most hardened, most challenging threats. It's near-to-mid term. The Free Electron Laser is still long-term."
Having any sort of laser cannon on ships, or even in the contracting phase, would be a major step forward into a military world that, until now, is just imagined.
We may just be coming up on the Year of the Laser .