The US Army will begin testing a prototype laser weapon for close-range air defense this month.
The 50-kilowatt high-energy laser will be attached to a Stryker A1 vehicle to locate, lock on, track, and destroy airborne threats. The process is said to take a matter of seconds.
Army officials said they want to utilize four Directed Energy Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense systems by next year to protect against armed enemy drones.
“Twenty-three months ago, this was just an idea,” Army Vice Chief of Staff, Gen. Joseph Martin, told Stars and Stripes. “It’s very promising. It’s very powerful. There are many things we’ve got to do in terms of testing, and it’s about to go through a shootout to see how it does.”
Martin explained that he witnessed how Islamic State terrorists used unmanned aerial systems effectively against Iraqis. “And so we had to come up with some solutions. And we did,” he stated.
A Wide Range of Defensive Capabilities
Several officials at defense contractor Kord Technologies explained that the laser weapon can detect and destroy an enemy drone within eight kilometers.
When the enemy fires mortar rounds, the high-tech weapon will quickly move to intercept.
“We’ve got a target acquisition system that can sense and lock on and then strike a moving mortar round, a moving cruise missile, an unmanned aerial system, and other aircraft… It will penetrate and disrupt that particular munition or platform’s ability to accomplish its mission,” Martin said.
“That’s an incredible power to have. That is the kind of capability we have to have, and it demonstrates our ability to respond to the world around us with technology,” he added.
Laser-based Weapons Used in Other US Military Units
In January, the US Navy said it would deploy the laser-based HELIOS system, capable of countering drones and fast attack boats.
“Completing these significant critical milestones for the HELIOS team and the US Navy brings us much closer to delivering the system to the Navy and providing the Fleet with the capability to counter unmanned aerial threats and fast attack boats today,” Lockheed Martin official Hamid Salim said.
The US Air Force also announced that it tested a counter-drone laser weapon system built by Raytheon last year. The two-phased test began with a general assessment to check the weapon’s effectiveness.