Defense News, a military trade publication, reported in a recent article that India was developing a variety of new energy-beam weapons, including one that "can kill incoming ballistic missiles by bombarding them with subatomic particles or electromagnetic waves."
But there's a large difference between missile-destroying laser beams, which typically require large amounts of energy, and lower-powered laser dazzlers, which can be used to disorient or temporarily blind people.
Regardless, India's archrival, Pakistan, is following the news closely. "The Indian government has decided to equip its police and paramilitary forces in the Occupied Kashmir valley with slew of 'Directed Energy Weapons,' also called 'laser dazzlers,' to tackle Kashmiri protesters," Pakistan's The Nation newspaper reported.
U.S. scientists who have worked on military weapons expressed skepticism about India's claims. That's not surprising, since the Pentagon, for example, has invested some 30 years and billions of dollars in creating directed-energy weapons designed to shoot down ballistic missiles, and so far nothing has been deployed.
The U.S. Air Force has worked for years on the airborne laser, a megawatt-powered chemical laser housed on a Boeing jumbo jet that successfully shot down a missile target earlier this year in a test. But the Pentagon has shelved plans to deploy the weapon, citing concerns about its feasibility.
Laser weapons certainly have military applications, Mark Lewis, a former Air Force chief scientist, told AOL News, but he doubted that India has made a huge breakthrough in the field. "I have never seen anything to suggest they are very far along," he said.
Peter Zimmerman, the former chief scientist of the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency, was equally dubious about the prospects of India possessing advanced laser weapons. "Laser dazzlers are straightforward," he told AOL News, noting that commercially available green lasers can be aimed at landing aircraft to distract the pilots.
But missile-destroying laser weapons are less likely, he said. "Laser weapons from India?" Zimmerman asked. "Probable nonsense."