Laser Beam Energy as Weapon
Laser technology is only 30 years old, but it is much diversified. There are already varieties of military applications, although there are many limitations restricting the use of lasers. Today, the armed forces in most countries routinely use a wide range of laser devices such as laser range finders and designators. In some countries, work is proceeding on more imaginative laser weapon concepts that will eventually fulfill realistic, yet very precise, military requirements. The design of a specific laser weapon is heavily influenced by the characteristics of the intended target. If the desired effect of the weapon is to neutralize aircraft, helicopters, or missiles by burning holes through them or tanks by putting many miniature cracks (crazing) in the glass vision blocks to make them appear to be frosted, a very-high-energy laser has to be used with a power output on the order of several megawatts (MW). Such a laser would be a true anti-material weapon. However, if the target is a sensitive electro-optical system or some other type of sensor system, which has to be jammed or destroyed by a laser operating in a countermeasure mode, the choice will be a low-energy laser operating within the frequency bandwidth of the target sensor. This use of a laser can also be considered anti-material. If the target is a soldier, there is one part of his body that is extremely sensitive to laser radiation—his eyes. It is sufficient to use a low-energy laser operating in the visible or near-infrared (near-IR) part of the spectrum to damage the soldier’s eyes and, in effect, cause blindness. If the laser is to cause burn injuries to the soldier’s skin or to set fire to his uniform, a high-energy laser is required. In either case, if the purpose of the laser is to blind or burn the soldier, it will obviously be antipersonnel.