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I want to flash back to a recent technology that has turned out to be mostly hot air. It is a warning about inventions that promise to change your life.

Starting about three or four years ago, America’s big phone companies and smartphone manufacturers, including Apple, wouldn’t shut up about 5G, the next generation of cellular internet networks.

“We’re only in the early innings of 5G, but already its incredible performance and speed have made a significant impact on how people can get the most out of our technology,” Apple CEO Tim Cook said in 2021.

AT&T, Verizon and other American phone companies blanketed us with commercials that bragged how 5G would make your phone faster and better and help physicians spot

A high-energy laser system on display at Raytheon Technology’s booth at IDEX 2023 in Abu Dhabi. (Agnes Helou / Breaking Defense)

IDEX 2023 — Two major American defense firms, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon Technologies, have put high energy laser (HEL) technology among their center stage offerings at the international arms expo IDEX 2023 in Abu Dhabi, hoping to catch the eye of potential foreign partners or buyers.

Lockheed’s set up uses three large screens to demonstrate simulations of what they believe their HEL tech will be able to do, while Raytheon has a prototype HEL system itself on display.

Interest in high-energy lasers has risen with the proliferation of asymmetric airborne threats like rockets, mortars and, increasingly, relatively cheap suicide drones. Shooting those threats down with traditional weapons is difficult, expensive, or both. Proponents hope lasers, like the Israeli-developed Iron Beam, can take on the task effectively and at a