The X-Wings and TIE Fighters seen in "Star Wars" may be reserved for a galaxy far, far away, but the lasers? Well, we're getting closer to seeing those on actual fighter jets and combat planes everyday. In fact, DARPA is currently working on two laser weapon projects and has plans to put liquid-cooled, solid-state lasers on military aircraft as early as 2014.
The High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) will be a 150kw laser designed for use on the ground and in the air, mounted to planes for air-to-ground attacks. According to DARPA, the goal is to create a “laser weapon system that is ten times smaller and lighter than current lasers of similar power, enabling integration onto tactical aircraft to defend against and defeat ground threats.”
DARPA is also working with Lockheed Martin on the Aero-Adaptive/Aero-Optic Beam Control (ABC) system, which is focused more on defense than attacks. The project aims to create a small turret that can be attached to tactical combat aircraft, and defend them against incoming missiles or rockets.
Obviously, neither of these systems are in use today, but DARPA will begin testing HELLADS on the ground this year, with airborne tests expected to begin in 2014. ABC on the other hand, is a bit further along. Having successfully completed wind tunnel testing, Lockheed Martin is apparently going to start testing prototypes in the sky very soon.