In April, the U.S. Army unveiled it's newest secret weapon - laser guided bolts of lightening that can take out anything from a single person to a entire city block. Today, the Army is reporting success in their first field tests.
The technology, called a laser induced plasma channel, is designed to seek out and destroy targets that conduct electricity better than the air or ground around them.
"The tech here is truly frightening," said George Freeman, a retired Army officer in Downey. "The tactical potential is enormous."
With this much destructive potential, Freeman urges caution. "Fortunately we are not in a war like when we developed the atomic bomb. I hope the Army takes its time and makes sure the weapon is thoroughly tested before deploying it in battle."
Still, the scientists and engineers working on the weapon are confident in the underlying physics. "The technology is proven - we are just harnessing it differently and combining it with stable laser technology," said Dr. Adam Fishburn, a Army scientist working on the weapon.
Laser based weaponry is being developed and deployed at a dizzying pace. For example, Northrop Grumman demonstrated a system in May that could destroy a cruise missile in mid air.
However, Freeman said there were still challenges involved with synchronizing the laser with the high voltage. "In addition, we need to consider the environment - the weapon has to be rugged enough to operate in weather and geographic extremes. The system would also need to be able to perform in the field over extended periods of time."
It is unclear how soon the Army can deploy this sort of technology in the battlefield. A representative from the Picatinny Arsenal, headquarters for the project, was not available for comment.
However, there's clearly interest in getting this deployed.
"A weapon that can harness lightning bolts with the accuracy of a laser could spell the end for the era of cruise missiles," said Freeman.