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You could do the same thing with a projectile, but the appeal of a laser is that all that it needs to work is a whole bunch of very excited photons. There's nothing expensive to buy, nothing heavy to carry, and nothing dangerous to keep around. The only requirement is a power source.
In the video below, Lockheed is demonstrating a 10-kilowatt fiber laser called ADAM, for Area Defense Anti-Munitions. It's ground based, but can engage small boats and aircraft. As you'll see, it's an effective way to torch a small boat, but it's generally accepted that laser weaponization will require power outputs of at least 100 kilowatts. Lockheed is already busy scaling up laser systems, however, so you should view this test as a just a little tiny pew-pew on the path towards something more like this.
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