High-Energy Lasers Used to Combat Hypersonic Missiles

High-Energy Lasers Used to Combat Hypersonic Missiles

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Hypersonic weapons have a special coating layer that keeps them from overheating or destabilizing, and was believed to withstand temperatures of thousands of degrees Celsius, making them highly resistant to laser attacks.

Beijing-based scientists reveal that lasers can actually strip the outer coating of a hypersonic missile, making it more prone to overheating, destabilization, or mid-flight disintegration. They also discovered that the coating sustains more damage when hit by a lower-powered laser, which is highly counter intuitive, as team leader Lin Jian from the Chinese Academy of Aerospace Aerodynamics wrote in a paper published in the Chinese academic journal Physics of Gases

According to Interesting Engineering, there is an ongoing debate about the effectiveness of using lasers to defend against hypersonic weapons – some argue that lasers are cost-effective and can move at almost the speed of light in the atmosphere, making them one of the most suitable ways to counter the threat of hypersonic weapons. Others claim that current laser technology has limited range and produces insufficient power, making it difficult to effectively damage incoming missiles within a limited time frame.

The research team claims that previous research did not accurately replicate the conditions of hypersonic weapons flying in the atmosphere –they explain that the airflow always has a cooling effect during the experiments, while in actual flight environments the aircraft are usually heated up.

The goal of laser weapon development was originally to burn through a target’s hull, but with the recent discovery and the potential of coating destruction, laser countermeasures have the potential for wider application.