TECHNOLOGY: Using Lasers on Drones and Against Them.

June 15, 2017 at 9:50 pm Leave a comment

Directed Energy Weapons.

Each branch of the U.S. military is developing directed energy technology — largely for defense against small, weaponized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), also known as drones.  But the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) wants to mount a laser on a drone to attack enemy ballistic missiles.

DIRECTED ENERGY-DARPA-MobileForce

An artist’s rendering of a vehicle-mounted small laser defense against attacking drones being studied by DARPA. (DARPA photo).

Since the Air Force manned Airborne Laser system was cancelled as too expensive and impractical in 2012, the MDA has looked for a way of combining a compact, high-power laser with a high-flying aircraft that can stay aloft for extended periods. Such an aircraft, ideally a drone, would be able to destroy an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) in the boost stage — shortly after launch — when it is most vulnerable.

“Our goal eventually is to integrate a high-powered, solid-state laser on a long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle operating in the stratosphere where the atmospheric disturbance of the aircraft and the laser is significantly reduced,” Richard Matlock, MDA’s program executive for advanced technology told a missile defense conference last December.

Meanwhile, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)  is working on a counter drone laser system to protect moving ground vehicles. The agency’s Mobile Force Protection Program is seeking industry solutions for protecting high value ground assets from the growing threat of small weaponized drones.

C-130 Gunship.JPG

The Air Force wants to supplement the Gatling gun on the AC-130 gunship with a silent laser weapon. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Julianne Showalter)

The Navy, which is the farthest along in weaponized laser development, is also helping Special Operations forces mount a directed energy weapon on Air Force AC-130 gunships. In addition to the big plane’s flying Gatling gun with a finite load of ammunition, directed energy would bring a silent, invisible capability that will be a game changer, according to Air Force Lieutenant General Bradley Heithold. Heithold, the principal deputy director for cost assessment and program evaluation at the Pentagon, is expected to outline the Defense Department’s roadmap for offensive and defensive directed energy weapons capabilities when he and Matlock speak at IDGA’s Directed Energy and Next Generation and Munitions conference later this month in Washington.

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Entry filed under: Air Force, Aircraft, National Security and Defense, News Developments, Skills and Training, Unmanned Aircraft, Unmanned Systems, Weaponry and Equipment. Tags: , , , , , , , , .

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