Directed-energy weapons systems could provide efficient, cost-effective countermeasures in an age of drones and other airborne threats. Recent scientific and engineering breakthroughs are bringing these systems closer to deployment. Long before George Lucas conceived of the Death Star with its super laser focused on Alderaan, even before H.G. Wells wrote War of the Worlds with its hostile aliens and their heat-ray weapon, the Greek inventor Archimedes concocted his own heat ray composed of mirrors to concentrate sunlight and ignite the sails of invading Roman ships. The invention of the first working laser in 1960 further inspired militaries around the world to research and develop high-energy lasers (HELs) for the protection of their troops. While the quest has taken decades, the year 2014 alone has seen numerous milestones come to pass.
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