Australia Is Getting A Laser Weapon That Sounds Terrifying

Australia is working on developing laser weapons strong enough to stop tanks.

By Chris Snellgrove | Updated

Whenever we talk about the technology of franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars starting to come true, we usually talk about the development of things like space rovers and even colonies on Mars. However, it looks like Australia is taking things to the next level by focusing on creating cutting-edge weaponry straight out of your favorite sci-fi movies. As Popular Science reports, Australia is currently hard at work developing a laser that would be strong enough to stop a tank.

If you grew up rooting for the courageous soldiers of G.I. Joe, America’s top secret strike force that battles the evil forces of Cobra, you’ve probably asked aloud once or twice why lasers haven’t replaced guns on our modern battlefields yet. The answer is as short as it is simple: we already have laser weaponry, but most lasers don’t have very much stopping power. Until the lasers get a bit stronger, most countries’ militaries are sticking with conventional guns on the battlefield and lethal drones in the sky, but that could all change if Australia successfully develops this next generation of laser technology.

The chief reason that Australia is working on laser weaponry is that the Department of Defence unveiled the 2020 Force Structure Plan a few years ago. Even though Australia isn’t typically a battlefield (outside of Hollywood features like the Mad Max movies, at least), the country has an understandable interest in preparing for the conflicts of tomorrow. When it comes to making a laser strong enough to stop a tank, the main hurdle everyone is trying to clear is the sheer power requirements of the technology.

australia laser
G.I. Joe and Cobra using enough lasers that it looks like a rave, in G.I. Joe: The Movie (1987)

For example, while Australia has stated it wants to develop laser technology as something more renewable and reliable than guns and bullets, the truth is that right now, it would take literally thousands of kilowatts (or even megawatts, according to some experts) to shoot down something like a missile. With it currently taking enough energy to power a small town to shoot down missiles, it seems like this technology is a long way from becoming renewable and reliable.

Until Australia perfects its weapon, lasers are going to continue to have only very niche uses on the modern battlefield. Right now, the tech is great for shooting down drones, but that’s because the energy only has to pierce two very thin millimeters of plastic casing. Considering some older models of tanks are 600 millimeters thick and made of steel composite rather than cheap plastic, it’s clear that Australia’s scientists clearly have their work cut out for them.

As cool as it would be to see Australia make powerful laser weaponry a norm on the battlefield, we can’t help but wonder if this will make other space-age technologies seem possible. If one country unleashes soldiers with laser weapons, can it really be that long until another country develops a working lightsaber? If that is what the future of combat in Australia looks like, then it will be fair to say that the Mad Max movies actually undersold how weird things are likely to get in that country in the coming years.