The US States Air Force has, along with Boeing, successfully tested a laser weapon designed to defend against incoming ballistic missiles.

The chemical oxygen iodine laser (COIL), mounted on a Boeing jumbo jet, was tested off the coast of California and reportedly caused the incoming missile to crack and fall apart.

The use of lasers to defend the US was first launched in the 1980s as part of the Reagan Administration’s Strategic Defense Initiative programme.

Boeing and Northrop Grumman were delighted with the results but with Defense Secretary Robert Gates promoting the idea of ship-based missiles to defend against attacks from North Korea and Iran, the futuristic concept is likely to stay more science fiction than science fact.