Army Boosts Investment in Lasers

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December 17, 2018 | Originally published by Date Line: December 17 on

The Army is investing more and more money in lasers to defeat incoming rockets and enemy drones.

Across the Air & Missile Defense (AMD) portfolio, “we put over 50 percent of our S&T (Science and Technology) money going towards directed energy projects,” up from about a third previously, said the AMD modernization director, Brig. Gen. Randall McIntire.

To meet an urgent deadline for initial deployment in 2020, the Interim Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (IMSHORAD) system now going on 8×8 Strykers had to use existing, off-the-shelf technologies. That means the first two battalions of air defense Strykers, to be fielded by 2022, will mount a combination of missile launchers and machineguns.

But the full-up MSHORAD will be “less about missile technology” and have “more of a directed-energy focus,’ McIntire told reporters at last week’s at the Association of the US Army conference. MSHORAD will also probably have electronic warfare systems to jam the transmissions directing enemy drones, although that’s not yet final. (I heard no discussion of another promising technology, microwaves to burn out electronics at a distance).

MSHORAD will be the next step from the Army’s ongoing Multi-Mission High-Energy Laser (MMHEL) experiments with Stryker-mounted lasers, which aim to field-test a 50kW weapon in 2021. (That would qualify the laser for Technology Readiness Level (TRL) 7). The Army aims to field the 50 kw weapon by 2023.