Thunderbolts from the sky. They call it the Precision Airborne Standoff Directed Energy Weapon (PASDEW), I call it Zeusmania.

In the annals of awesomeness, this shall be the standard against which all future awesomeness is measured.

According to the Marines’ laser request, obtained by DANGER ROOM, this so-called Precision Airborne Standoff Directed Energy Weapon (PASDEW) wouldn’t just be an improved killed machine. It would also have particularly devastating psychological effects. Such weapons, when used against people, “can be compared to long range blow torches or precision flame throwers, with corresponding psychological advantages for [Coalition Forces] CF.”

In other words, the lasers don’t just kill people, but they kill people in really gruesome, frightening ways — particularly because the beam from such weapons, like the Advanced Tactical Laser, is invisible to the human eye. That means you could have three guys standing around, and one of them suddenly burst into flames.

“It is a lethal capability [insurgents] cannot readily counter and will not fully comprehend,” goes the military’s description, which seems optimistic given that descriptions of the device are already circulating publicly on sites like Danger Room. It seems we’re not close to actually having this capability, although an experimental laser cannon did hit 67 kilowatts in a test in February and the magic battlefield threshold of 100 kw was expected to be reached within 6-8 months after that, so who knows? If you start seeing an unusual uptick in reports out of Iraq of spontaneous human combustion, you’ll know.

Exit question: Isn’t this weapon likely to be … counterproductive in a counterinsurgency setting? Our success lately comes from building trust with the locals. Demonstrating a godlike power to light any one of them on fire from 50,000 feet before they knew what hit them would seem to, er, cut against that.