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Plenty of sci-fi movies would have people believe that the future will be full of lasers zipping through the air. Technology hasn’t quite reached that point yet, but not for lack of trying; military forces have eyed the prospect for years and tried to make them a reality. But some have taken that drive more seriously than others; some people would rather have a death ray than the humble laser.

It’s more than just the whims of some mad scientist. The US Navy has been working on laser-based weaponry to combat drones and ships. Not to be outdone, however, Britain’s Royal Navy hopes to have an even better weapon in full production by decade’s end. The idea behind such developments is that energy-based weapons — like a so-called death ray — could do away with the steep production costs of traditional arms like missiles. If perfected, the technology could mean less manpower required, as well.

Efficiency is the key goal of the death ray, so that enemy planes would fall in an instant to the Royal Navy’s might. It’s an ambitious move, but it won’t take off until it can be demonstrated that the new technology is at least as good as conventional weaponry. If it does happen, though, then truth will officially be stranger than fiction.