Navy Initiates a Five-Year Plan to Build Laser BlastersS

Long range laser weapons that do more than make little red dots show up on distant objects have long been a dream of science fiction creators and the military alike. Now it looks like a true, long-range laser blasting weapon may be ready for action within the next five years. The Navy is ponying up cash for three defense contracts to build out a laser developed a few years ago at the Thomas Jefferson National Accelerator Facility. The laser, called a FEL (for "free electron laser"), can generate 10,000 watts of power, all across the visible spectrum. That means it could theoretically be optimized to shoot through fog or cloud. The Navy wants its current contractors to develop a prototype 100 kilowatt FEL, and then later one on the megawatt level. Noah Shachtman has all the details over at his Wired blog Danger Room. [Danger Room]