UAVs becoming armed threats – tactical laser weapon already in the works

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Raytheon Co. will develop a tactical laser weapon mounted on a maneuverable combat vehicle to protect U.S. Marine Corps task forces from unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), cruise missiles, and other.

Officials of the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Va., awarded an $11 million contract to the segment in California, to develop a vehicle-based laser device capable of defeating low-flying threats such as enemy drones, according to Military & Aerospace.

Naval researchers, that have been working on counter-UAV strikes systems, will this time as test the ONR’s Ground-Based Air Defense Directed Energy On-The-Move program (G-BAD DE OTM. The U.S. Army, meanwhile, is investigating laser vehicles such as the Boeing truck-mounted High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator (HEL TD) to defend Army troops against UAVs, rockets, artillery shells, mortars, and similar threats.

The big difference with the Raytheon G-BAD contract, however, is firing on the move. The system which has been demonstrated at the missile range in New Mexico, is designed to move to deployed Army sites and engage targets from fixed sites, whereas the future Marine Corps G-BAD laser weapon is envisioned to fire laser weapons while maneuvering with moving Marine Corps air-ground task forces.

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The contract awarded this week calls for Raytheon to conduct a field demonstration of a Humvee-mounted short-range laser weapon system with a minimum power output of 25 kilowatts, Raytheon officials say. The company is convinced they have the high energy lasers generate sufficient power to effectively engage small aircraft. While the Army HEL-TD program seeks to mount a 10-kilowatt laser weapon on a 10-ton eight-wheel truck to engage targets from a distance, the G-BAD initiative seeks to mount a short-range air-defense laser at least as strong as 25 kilowatts, and eventually a 50-kilowatt laser weapon, on a four-wheel Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) which is slated to replace the Humvee.

Further requirements are the ability to fire at full power for as long as two minutes. Marine Corps officials say current low-altitude air-defense systems have weaknesses against UAVs, which are becoming armed threats.

Raytheon’s system will consist of three subsystems: a radar, command and control, and a high-energy laser weapon. Laser weapons experts will look into a rugged, lightweight beam director for combat operations; improved beam control and adaptive optics. Additional systems will include fire-control that can acquire a target with its own sensors, command and control complete with communications and high-quality stills and video imagery as well.