American military aircraft and drones will be fitted with laser weapons that will be able to incinerate targets will be operational within the next decade.
Experts working at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have been working on so-called death ray weapons in the laboratory for a number of years.
However, these weapons, which use intense light and heat to destroy their targets, are now being tested in the field.
Scientists have been working on a method of reducing the size of the weapons without diminishing their power.
Air Force Chief Scientist Dr Greg Zacharias told Scout.com: 'The promise of directed energy is that electricity is cheap. Plus, you get the speed of light working for you so incoming missiles are easier to shoot at.'
An early version of the system was used at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
According to Zacharias, technicians want to be able to increase the power of the weapons from 10-kilowatts to 100kilowatts.
He said the system needs to be able to track a fast-moving target before opening fire.
Zacharias said 'The other part is all the component technology. You are going to give up fuel or some armaments. It is not just getting enough power on board it is getting the aiming technology. Its dealing with turbulent air flow on a high-speed platform,.
The systems will be first fitted to large transport jets such as the C-17 and the C-130.
Once the weapons are miniaturised, they will be fitted to fighter aircraft such as the F-15, F-16 and the F-35.
Zacharias said laser weapons could prove very effective in an anti-insurgency campaign against a group such as ISIS.
He believes laser weapons could be more accurate and produce far less collateral damage than a traditional high explosive.
He said: 'You might want to put lasers on board so you have a distributed package when you have a bunch of different platforms carrying different parts - of weapons, sensors and even fuel in one very expensive fighter package. It is like having distributed satellite. You could have distributed fighter packages as well.'
According to DARPA, the threats faced by US forces are becoming increasingly dangerous..
A statement on their website claims: ' Laser weapon systems provide additional capability for offensive missions as well—adding precise targeting with low probability of collateral damage. For consideration as a weapon system on today’s air assets though, these laser weapon systems must be lighter and more compact than the state-of-the-art has produced.'