Lasers can map planets, cut metal, play your old CDs, zap tattoos, and send cats into furry frenzies of clickbait. But Robert Afzal, who leads Lockheed Martin’s advanced laser systems program, wants them to do more. He wants them to shoot stuff. Really big stuff. From the time scientists figured out in the 1960s that they could wield these intense beams of light as tools, the U.S. military has wanted one that can blast enemy missiles from the sky or fry a hole in a battle tank. “It’s 2018, and everyone’s wondering why we don’t have this technology yet,” Afzal says.
Thanks to him and his team, we now do. Early last year, they delivered the most powerful laser weapon on the planet to the U.S. Army. It is a 60-kilowatt-class blaster whose targeting dome, laser generator, and power and control hardware can be mounted on a truck and sent into battle.