With promises to reduce cost per shot and provide unlimited magazines, each of the services are betting their directed energy technology can give them an edge on the battlefield.
The Navy, Air Force, Army and other organizations all have ongoing programs and are reporting progress.
The Navy is focused on system integration, said Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director of surface warfare.
The service is working to integrate lasers developed through its high-energy laser and integrated optical-dazzler with surveillance, or HELIOS, program, with its existing Aegis advanced combat system, he said during remarks at die Directed Energy Summit in Washington, D.C., in March.
"If I have a system that can kill and I have a system that can actually sense, then I have to make sure it integrates with the other things I have on my ship that can sense and kill," Boxall said. "The most important aspect of the laser is its integration into the existing combat system."
Aegis, which was developed by Lockheed Martin, is used extensively by the Navy as well as international partners. It can attack enemy assets while also protecting against aircraft, cruise missiles and ballistic missiles.
The Navy awarded Lockheed Martin a $150 million contract for two HELIOS systems last year with options worth up to $942.8 million.
Boxall noted the service is aiming to install a system onboard an Arleigh Burke-Class Flight IIA destroyer in 2021.
The other laser is expected to be used for land-based testing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Paul Lemmo, vice president of integrated warfare systems and sensors at Lockheed, said at the Surface Navy Association's annual symposium in Arlington, Virginia.
The Navy wants to speed up the process of acquiring new laser technology by using its accelerated acquisition board of directors, Boxall said.
The board--which is chaired by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson--was created to quicken the pace of bringing new capabilities to the fleet, Boxall said.
The Navy previously installed a 30-kilowatt laser weapon system, known as LaWS, on the USS Ponce in 2014.
Boxall noted that the system itself was "not really" impressive, but it was useful to put it into an operational environment.
"If you move something from an engineering product to something the war-fighter needs, you start learning a lot of things--and we did a lot with LaWS," he said.
Another effort the Navy is working on is the solid-state laser technology maturation...