"WE'RE doing our part to make gunpowder a 20th-century technology." So says Dan Wildt of Northrop Grumman, whose battlefield laser weapon passed another milestone last week.
In tests, it fired a 105-kilowatt beam - enough to destroy rockets, mortars and artillery shells - at a stationary target for 5 minutes. Unlike weapons such as Boeing's huge Airborne Laser, which burns chemical fuel, the solid-state laser consists of semiconductors that emit light when a voltage is applied. This makes them much smaller, allowing them to fit on the back of a "ruggedised" truck. They can also run on electricity from a diesel generator.
The laser weapon will ultimately pinpoint, track and destroy a rocket up to a couple of kilometres away, claims Northrop Grumman.