Defence giant Boeing has released video of its Advanced Tactical Laser being fired from an aircraft at a (stationary) vehicle. You can download three videos of the event or watch two of them on YouTube.
It may sound exciting, but the videos are actually a little underwhelming. The infrared laser beam is invisible, so what you see is a small fire igniting, apparently spontaneously, on a jeep's bonnet. But their unspectacular nature is a plus point for some: US air force officials have recently praised laser weapons for their "plausible deniability".
Even so, the videos may not do much to win over those who are sceptical about laser weapons. PopSci points out that the US air force's own scientific advisory board said in 2008 that "the Advanced Tactical Laser testbed has no operational utility" - while The Register's correspondent suggests that a C-130 with conventional weapons, or a helicopter sniper "would be more useful. And a lot cheaper."
Like another laser weapon funded by the US, dubbed the Airborne Laser, not even the air force, which is evaluating the technology, is convinced it is a good investment.
This was first published in October 2009