Wow. Guess I've been vacant of LF lately...and I'm cruising Kavar's again (despite my distaste for it now) out of boredom. Lasers, one of my favorite subjects.
Yeah I've more or less known about this for awhile, as well as the 747 planes which have chemical excimer lasers mounted with an eye-like pivotal guiding aperture. The entire bottom hull/belly is dedicated to powering these monsters.
The predecessor of this was a ground-based laser turret made by TRW that was approximately about as large as 16 trailer homes. So either they have improved and compacted it, or that ship's quarters are mostly dedicated to the feeding and care for this weapon.
Laser weapons, as you all can see, are a reality. They aren't yet a feasible weapon for ground level folks, though. Part of the reason is they're still pretty poor and inefficient amplifiers as electronic standards go. Another reason, as you probably noticed, being they're just too damn big to be handheld and have such power as portrayed in sci-fi.
The inevitable questions pop up about Star Wars type weapons... As far as lightsabers go? I'm no physicist but I've heard from the experts and read in periodicals that optical energy alone does not have the intractivity required even in a beam of light to stop another beam of light on collision and intersection. Plus I'm of the opinion SW weapons tend to be more like plasma/particle beams albeit with some kind of base laser as a guiding channel through the atmosphere--same with blasters. I don't know how differently particle beam weapons IRL are constructed from cyclotrons and particle colliders, though.
Hell, that'd probably be classified.
I'm going off what I heard from physics people and literature back in the days I was deluded into believing I was laser engineering material. And several afternoons of scouring the net for info.
Ok, maybe I also read from several laser hobbyist sites out there.
The closest lasers to being handheld "weapons" I know of are:
-portable gas lasers (discharge tube)
-small solid state lasers
-semiconductor diode lasers
-diode 'pumped' solid state lasers (literally a diode laser driving a solid state laser crystal rod or slab)
These really aren't powerful enough yet to actually cause anywhere near the level of destruction that would make them suitable as weapons. Maybe as tools of sorts.