Separately, in May 2017 the Army tested a five-kilowatt drone-killing laser mounted on an eight-wheeled Stryker armored personnel carrier in an air-defense trial at Fort Sill. The mobile armored laser shot down twenty-one of twenty-three drone targets in what was billed as a realistic exercise. A powered-up ten-kilowatt version, with greater range and hitting power, will be tested in November.
On June 26 an Apache helicopter successfully tested a high-energy laser pod on targets at the White Sands testing range in New Mexico—the first laser weapon ever employed by a helicopter.
As much as laser-armed helicopters might seem like they belong in a Command & Conquer video game, in reality they are joining a wide variety of ground-, air- and sea-based laser platforms—many of which may be entering service in the coming decades and a few of which are already operational. In fact, a new era of laser warfare may soon be dawning, thanks to lasers’ usefulness for countering two important weapons systems: drones and long-range missiles.