Researchers at the University of Osaka have built a 2-petawatt laser — that’s 2 quadrillion watts of sweet, sweet directed power, orders of magnitude greater than today’s most powerful military lasers. Naturally, the announcement was immediately met with comparisons to the Death Star.
The Osaka laser system, called Laser for Fast Ignition Experiments, or LFEX, is not intended for military use, but that amount of power has clear military applications. Compare it to today’s cutting-edge military lasers, which include the 30-kilowatt Laser Weapons System currently mounted on the amphibious warship USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf. The LaWS has never been used in combat, but it took out several moving targets in a November demonstration.
In March, Lockheed Martin announced that they had demonstrated their own 30-kilowatt laser, the Advanced Test High Energy Asset, or ATHENA, which burned a hole in a car one mile downrange. In June, Germany’s MBDA Deutschland announced that their 40-kilowatt laser had knocked drones out of the sky nearly two miles away.