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"...the space defense initiative drove the USSR bankrupt, and it originated at my house in Tarzana."
- Larry Niven

Concentrated Light  
  Beam of powerfully concentrated light pressure.  

Interesting foreshadowing of the ethical quandary of scientists in WWII is shown in this excerpt from a discussion between scientists.

"I am a physicist, dealing with light and electromagnetic effects. What happens? My practical application of light pressure is now being used to scythe airplanes out of the stratosphere, to annihilate squadrons of men ten miles away... Brains that should have been employed to make the world a better and more wonderful place to live in, have devoted all their talents to annihilation..."
From The Shining One, by Nat Schachner.
Published by Astounding Science-Fiction in 1937
Additional resources -

Here's a description of the weapon in use, after the attack begins:

...concentrated light stabbed blinding fingers through the murk, blasted men and planes into crumbling dust.

Lasers are almost ready as a military device; see this article on laser gunships.

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Additional resources:
  More Ideas and Technology from The Shining One
  More Ideas and Technology by Nat Schachner
  Tech news articles related to The Shining One
  Tech news articles related to works by Nat Schachner

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