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Anyone who has seen the science fiction series Star Trek has probably heard the phrase "Shields Up!" countless times. In the series, this means that a kind of force field encloses the entire spaceship and protects it from attack. Now the US Air Force, USAF, is taking the first steps to develop something close to the shields in Star Trek, according to Interesting Engineering.
It is not about any mysterious force fields but rather about a big amount of laser weapons that create a kind of umbrella that no missiles should be able to get through. For this to be possible, today's lasers must be both much smaller and more powerful. USAF envisions the imagined tech to be a part of the future defense, and making a reality of the laser shields is a part of the 40-year plan.
Then USAF expects to develop nanolaser systems that are so small that it is possible for aircraft to be dressed in quantities of megawatt lasers. With future, extremely accurate weapon control systems, the lasers would then be able to automatically shoot down all missiles and perhaps even bullets coming towards the plane.
A large nationwide system of even more powerful lasers could build a shield that protects an entire country or region from all ballistic missiles. Something that could potentially make today's nuclear missiles less devastating in war.
It will take many years or decades before laser shields and control systems are good enough to properly function as a shield, but work is already in full swing in the US military. The Air Force has already tested the Self-protect High-energy Laser Shield. It is an experimental laser system that will prove if it works to use lasers on a plane to shoot down incoming missiles.
In the coming year, the US Army will test the Tactical Ultrashort Pulsed Laser, which will is said to have the capacity to generate a terawatt in a very short time.
The US military is likely to invest heavily in developing shield technology over the next few decades. The chances are high that it could provide new opportunities for civilian applications. Laser is already used for everything from measuring distances to eye surgery.
We can only guess what we will be able to do in the future with small, cheap, powerful, and very accurate lasers.