Atmospheric 'lens' could shield troops from laser weapons

It could also be used for reconnaissance and creating mirages.

How do you defend yourself against laser weapons when they fire at the speed of light? BAE Systems has an idea. It's developing Laser Developed Atmospheric Lens technology that, as the name suggests, uses lasers to temporarily ionize the atmosphere to create lens-like structures. If you're facing a laser attack, you just have to form a lens to serve as a refractive shield. The technology could protect both aircraft and land-based forces from deadly blasts, and it could fill other roles as well.

BAE expects LDAL to be useful for reconnaissance, for instance. You could use it as a magnifying glass to get a clearer look at the enemy than you would with conventional sensors. The lensing system could also create mirages that fool enemies who are still looking for a target to strike.

The technology is very early, to put it mildly. The company imagines LDAL going into service sometime in the next 50 years, which can feel like an eternity in the military world. However, it's scientifically feasible -- the big question is simply whether or not laser weapons will dominate the battlefield to the point where atmospheric lensing is practical.