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Since the first laser was demonstrated in 1960, there has been speculation about and growing interest in using the technology as a weapon, starting in 1963 with a classified U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) conference to assess the military potential of lasers. For the following four decades, however, size, weight, and power (SWaP) were critical issues that prevented lasers from assuming a practical role in defense planning.

With sufficient resources, the chemical lasers of the time could generate enough power to damage a target, but only could be carried by the largest available platforms and, needing replenishment of the chemicals used, could only be fired for a limited time before returning to base.

In recent years, however, solid-state (SSL) and fiber lasers that include high energy lithium-ion batteries have made high-energy lasers (HEL) practical and potentially as ubiquitous in combat as unmanned vehicles. While Russia claims to have deployed operational lasers, there is no proof that any laser weapon system actually has been deployed as more than a prototype.

That, however, is about to change.

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Category: Science