The American military's fascination with laser beams, plasma guns and death rays in general is demonstrated again today, with the announcement that it is to spend another $3.1 million (£1.9 million) on Laser Guided Energy (LGE) weapons.

LGE is a new weapon technology in which a controllable high voltage electric charge can be guided by a laser through the atmosphere to induce "a range of effects" against "a variety of targets".

The company responsible for LGE, Applied Energetics, is currently touting LGE as a counter-IED system to help destroy roadside bombs from a safe distance.

All hail Private Thor of the US Army

LGE is described by Applied Energetics as 'man-made lightning', where an ultrashort pulse laser creates a conductive path in the atmosphere. This technology combines the accuracy of a laser beam with a "manageable lethality" that supposedly reduces the potential for inadvertent injury and collateral damage.

The company has already delivered a compact laser system specifically designed to enable the technology under a Government contract, and delivered a transportable laser system for field demonstration and testing. The US Army's Research, Development and Engineering Command (ARDEC) is spending the latest round of funding to bring LGE technology out of the lab and onto the battlefield.

Ben Lagasca, Chief of the Advanced Energy Armaments at ARDEC, said, "The US Army has been involved with the development of LGE for the past 5 years. Now the technology is approaching the level of maturity needed to begin weaponisation."

You'll be pleased to hear that man-made lightning isn't just about blowing things up. Applied Energetics claims that its high-voltage technologies also "offer opportunities outside of warfare in the fields of aerospace, medicine, science, transportation and green energy."