On Thursday, July 18th, Malaysian Airlines flight MH-17 was struck by a missile. The United States believes the missile was a Soviet-designed Buk, and American infrared satellites pinpoint the location of that missile's launch to territory in Eastern Ukraine held by Russian-backed separatists. Is it possible that, while Cold War technology launched the missile, and modern technology identified where it was launched, future laser technology could shoot missiles out of the sky?
The answer is a strong and definitive maybe. Outfitting modern commercial airliners with anti-missile lasers is a much more expensive and complicated process than simply not flying over war zones, and even if current lasers work against small missiles, they can't yet stop larger anti-air weapons. A recent op-ed in the Wall Street Journal argues that anti-projectile lasers, for weapons smaller than missiles, are feasible now. The National Defense Magazine sees a more gradual development of anti-missile lasers. Though the technology is still in labs and proving grounds, the growing field of energy weapons suggests that a future filled with protective lasers is possible.