WASHINGTON: When do laser weapons finally become real? The low-hanging fruit for a near-term application looks like it’s shooting down enemy drones before they can target US forces. Both the Army and Marines are testing vehicle-mounted “counter-UAS” (Unmanned Aerial System) lasers, while the Navy already has a bulkier model aboard the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf.
How’s it going? Army Maj. Gen. Robert Dyess answered that question by dropping a dead quad copter on the table. Or rather, it used to be a quad copter: After an encounter with a prototype laser, the mini-drone is down to three rotors. At the recent Maneuver Fires Integration Exercise (MFIX) on Fort Sill, Okla., Dyess told the Directed Energy Summit here, a roughly 2-3 kilowatt laser mounted on an eight-wheel drive Stryker armored vehicle shot down 35 such drones.
The Army also has a heavy truck mounting a higher-powered 10 kW laser, now being upgraded to 50-plus kW. Meanwhile the Marines, who put a higher priority on lightness and mobility, are working on a 30-kW laser mounted on a Humvee (or, in the future, a JLTV), called Ground-Based Air Defense (GBAD).