Laser cannons mounted on jet planes? Yes, that is the future. Early last month, Boeing announced that it successfully defeated a ground target using its Advanced Tactical Laser (ATL) aircraft, marking the ship's first air-to-ground, high-power laser engagement.
Gary Fitzmire, vice president and program director of Boeing Missile Defense Systems' Directed Energy Systems unit, said that the weapon performed extremely well during the test, and that its three main components--the high-energy chemical laser, beam control system and battle manager--worked correctly in unison to provide an effective laser beam.
"This milestone demonstrates that directed energy weapon systems will transform the battlespace and save lives by giving warfighters a speed-of-light, ultra-precision engagement capability that will dramatically reduce collateral damage," said Greg Hyslop, vice president and general manager of Boeing Missile Defense Systems. "By demonstrating this capability, the ATL team has earned a distinguished place in the history of weapon system development."
Now we have a video showing the ATL in action. Of course, the test target appears to be a stationary vehicle, and the effects of the laser don't seem to be very devastating, but this is likely only a light taste of what's truly possible.