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China has recently signaled its intentions to join the march toward laser weapons, unveiling a laser system designed to destroy drones. The new lasers match American military capabilities in a growing tit-for-tat arms race between the two global superpowers.
As first reported by the state news agency Xinhua, the China Academy of Engineering Physics said the new system is characterized by its stealthy movement and ability to hone in on any small scale drone within a 1.2 mile radius, flying at low altitudes, around 1600 feet. That could mean targeting any type of quadcopter, other multi-blade drone, or mid-size winged surveillance drone.
Designed with private collaborators like China Jiuyuan Hi-Tech Equipment Corporation, during the first system’s public test, the military shot down more than 30 drones.
According to Motherboard, the US government is concerned about possible domestic terror threats from drones, according to Xinhua. The system was designed to counter targeted attacks on crowds or populated centers using what the report describes as cheap “small-scale, unmanned drones… a likely choice for terrorists.”
The 10 Kw Chinese system follows the introduction this year by the US Navy of its 30 Kw drone-killing Laser Weapon System (LaWS), which a congressional report heralded as a “game changer … comparable to the advent of shipboard missiles in the 1950s.” Lockheed Martin is also developing a laser for targeting missiles.
China’s ground-based system is similar to the High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL MD) that the U.S. Army began testing this year. Both systems currently use a 10kW laser. The US Marines have also announced a humvee-mounted drone-hunting laser designed for shooting down unmanned vehicles.