too scary to ignore

Laser Weapons Edge Closer To Battlefield Use
Tyler Durden, Zero Hedge, May 29 2017

20170301_silent

Three months after China unveiled “Silent Hunter”, its vehicle-slicing laser weapon, Stars & Stripes reports that the Pentagon are testing their own array of hi-tech weaponry. The Silent Hunter laser is powerful enough to cut through light vehicle armor at up to 1 km away, making you wonder if China already has more powerful laser weapons only for domestic use. Military.com reports that the toy-like drones destroyed during an Army field exercise at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, last month weren’t anything special. But the way they were brought down might grab people’s attention. They were zapped out of the sky by lasers mounted on a Stryker armored vehicle. The first soldier to try out the lasers was Spc Brandon Sallaway, a forward observer with the 4th Infantry Division. He used a Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser to shoot down an 18-by-10-inch drone at 650 yards, an Army statement said. Sallaway, who hadn’t fired a laser before the exercise, said:

It’s nothing too complicated, but you have to learn how to operate each system, and get used to the controls, which is exactly like a video game controller.

The drone-killing laser was only 5 kw, relatively low-energy, but the Army has tested much more powerful weapons. A 30 kw truck-mounted High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator shot down dozens of mortar rounds and several drones in Nov 2013 at White Sands.

20170529_laserLockheed Martin’s 30 kw Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative.

Since then, researchers have made rapid advances in laser weapons, said Bob Ruszkowski, who works on air dominance projects and unmanned systems in Lockheed’s secretive Skunk Works facility. He said in a phone interview May 12:

We’re really on the cusp of seeing the introduction of lasers in future systems. The weapon tested at White Sands is about to double in power, with a 60 kw laser the Army plans to test in the next 18 months. Operationally, a laser might be required to disable a vehicle, if the goal was to capture rather than kill an individual. We believe we have the key ingredients to make such a system work. When we realized that laser technology was maturing enough that we could be close to having something we could integrate on an aircraft, we started looking at other difficulties that might arise. Airflow around a plane can destabilize lasers, so we developed a way to minimize turbulence.

Robert Afzal, a senior fellow for laser and sensor systems at Lockheed, said:

The laser generates its beam through fiber optic cables like those used by telecom companies. We demonstrated that we could combine large number of these fiber lasers and link them to a weapons system. Lasers are very efficient at converting electrical power to a laser beam. That’s important for the platforms that carry them. It means they don’t need a large generator or cooling system, and that high-powered lasers can be easily transported. This was the key puzzle piece that needed to be solved before we could begin to deploy these laser weapons. The technology is getting real. It’s the dawn of a new era where the tech can be made smaller and powerful enough to be put on vehicles, ships and aircraft. In 2015, we burned a hole through a truck’s hood at a range of one mile. It was the most efficient high-powered laser ever demonstrated, and it mimicked what might happen if a laser was fired at a vehicle from an aircraft. The laser is a surgical weapon and it’s something customers are interested in. Something like that can be easily integrated into an AC-130 gunship. That is something the USAF is planning on demonstrating in the next two to three years. The threats are proliferating and changing, but laser weapons can counter some of them. The Navy has deployed a laser weapon on board the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf. One advantage is that they don’t need ammunition. For example, an FOB can protect itself from airborne threats with a laser as long as there ias enough fuel to power a generator and recharge its batteries. Use of such weapons on enemy troops is a gray area that we are steering clear of for now because international agreements ban the use of weapons intended to blind. Before lasers have been deployed and we understand how they work, the policy is conservative.

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