The U.S. Army Wants Pulsed Lasers to Slice Missiles in Half

Home / Articles / External Non-Government

US Army wants pulsed lasers

January 22, 2020 | Originally published by Date Line: January 22 on

The U.S. Army wants a deadlier laser weapon that won’t just burn a target but rather slice it up. Instead of low-power continuous wave lasers that emit a steady stream of energy, the Army wants pulsed lasers that shoot intermittent, but intense, bursts that can quickly destroy a target. Pulsed lasers are already used commercially for precision cutting and etching. 

How big a difference will this make? Consider this: the Army plans to mount 50-kilowatt continuous wave laser weapons on Stryker armored vehicles by 2023. A kilowatt is 1,000 watts. The Army now wants to develop tactical ultrashort pulsed lasers with minimum peak power of 1 terawatt and a maximum of 5 terawatts. A terawatt is a trillion watts.

“Current high energy laser (HEL) weapon systems primarily consist of continuous wave (CW) laser sources with output powers in the kilowatts,” explains the Army research proposal. “These kilowatt-class CW laser systems predominantly engage targets via absorption of light, either causing the target to burn and melt or overwhelming optical sensors with high intensities.”

The appearance of external hyperlinks on this DTIC website does not constitute endorsement by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) of the linked websites, or the information, products or services contained therein. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the United States DoD.