US Air Force successfully shoots down multiple missiles with a laser

The test could lead to aircraft that can take down any missile threat.

The US Air Force just edged closer to its goal of outfitting aircraft with laser weapons. Testers at the White Sands Missile Range have successfully shot down multiple air-launched missiles using the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD), proving that it can hold up under intense situations. While SHiELD is currently a ground-based behemoth (see below), the finished technology should be portable and rugged enough to be used aboard aircraft.

You won't see the technology used in-air for a while. The USAF only gave Lockheed Martin a contract in 2017, and the first airborne tests aren't expected until sometime in 2021. It would likely take a while after that before the system could find its way into service.

Provided the technology works as promised, though, it could have a dramatic effect on combat aircraft. The laser wouldn't be an offensive weapon, at least not at first. Rather, it would be used to shoot down missiles (both air-to-air and surface-to-air). As long as nothing interfered with the laser, an aircraft could be virtually impervious to missile attacks and effectively control the skies.

Ground-based SHiELD laser defense weapon