This paper reviews the characteristics of high power electric discharge CO lasers with emphasis on the unique properties which differentiate CO EDLis from competitive systems. The operational principles and design constraints are discussed. The results of investigations into some of the most promising approaches to the development of high power devices are summarized. Projections for device performance and technology development are presented. Consideration is given to the impact that the potential advantages of the CO EDL may have in enhancing the performance and/or simplifying the design of laser systems for practical applications. Although the first CO EDL was demonstrated more than a decade ago (making it a contemporary of the CO2 EDL), it is only within the last few years that the potential advantages of the CO system have been fully appreciated, and attention has been focused on the development of practical devices. Of particular significance are the demonstrated advantages in power conversion and volumetric efficiency, the development of low loss optical components for the CO laser wavelength (~5μ) which show remarkable resistance to laser damage, and projections of favorable atmospheric propagation characteristics. A high energy pulsed electric discharge laser has demonstrated efficiencies in excess of 60%, and a small (~1 liter) CO EDL utilizing supersonic flow has produced over 100 kW in a short run (~2 ms) experiment which simulated the conditions for continuous operation. Balanced against the advantages are a number of technological problems which must be addressed before truly practical devices can be realized. However, device technology is progressing rapidly and CO electric discharge lasers should be considered serious contenders for future high power laser applications.