The 100 kW JHPSSL lasers won’t be ready to deliver to the battlefield. The program aims to demonstrate technology that the armed services can adapt for their weapon platforms on the ground, in the air, or at sea. The high-energy laser and the beam-control system are “the two technology drivers” for weapon systems, says William Gnacek, HEL TD program manager at the Army Space and Missile Defense Command. Once those technologies are demonstrated, a ruggedized laser and beam-control system will be integrated with power generation, thermal management, and fire control and communications systems for use on a wheeled vehicle to be tested against rockets, artillery and mortars in 2013.
Military agencies are also looking at less mature technologies. Neice is working on a joint program to develop fiber lasers, which he says have the potential to match chemical-laser efficiency. Key technical issues are raising output of single-mode lasers and developing ways to combine their output into a high-quality beam. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA, Arlington, VA) has launched a program called Architecture for Diode High Energy Laser Systems to develop diode lasers with efficiency greater than 60% and high-quality, low-divergence beams delivering 10 kW.
This past article shows that I believe the incremental improvement to military capabilities from lasers is less important than the revolutionary change of successfully deploying arrays of cheap, high efficiency lasers for launching vehicles into space
The scientific and technological advancement that is enabled by using lasers to understand and modify matter will have far more impact that crudely using lasers to blast things in battle More powerful weapons will come from using lasers to help unlock things like nuclear fusion.