Oh, the ways armed forces around the world are working to blast uncrewed aerial vehicles they don’t like. Now the US Army is at that again, putting the finishing touches on a laser weapon that can not only destroy the innards of drones as they fly, but also drop incoming artillery as well.
New laser weapon heats drones until they’re just not right
The US Army is touting the chops of its Directed Energy Maneuver Short-Range Air Defense (DE M-SHORAD) system, which it tested at Fort Bliss, Texas, over the summer. The platform uses a 50-kilowatt laser honed on an enemy target to heat the hostile object in ways that render them useless. In the case of drones, the laser weapon ups the temperature of the craft so dramatically that it ruins aerodynamic efficiency, blind onboard sensors, over-taxes engines, or cause batteries, gas reserves, or explosive payloads to detonate.
The Army says it will be mounting the first four field versions of the DE M-SHORAD system on armored vehicles sometime next year, and has added the program to its expanding range of weapons against uncrewed aerial vehicles (UAV) being developed.
That diversification of weapons using lasers, microwaves, and other energy tech is accelerating apace with the threat drones are posing to armies around the world. Smaller and more difficult to pick up or bring down than larger vehicles, UAVs are also being used to carry more lethal payloads by both formal armies and militia and terrorist groups alike.
Those kinds of organizations have increased their use of those weaponized craft in Iraq, India, Pakistan, and Syria. Criminal outfits like Mexican drug cartels also testing airborne attack potentials, with drones having also been used in attempted assassinations as well.
Given that rapid innovation and rise of drones as cheap but potentially deadly offensive weapons, US forces have increased their research into energy-firing weapons in defense of individual UAV strikes, or swarm assaults. The DE M-SHORAD is the first Army ground laser weapon in that expanding effort.
The anti-drone laser innovation can also deal with incoming enemy artillery, rockets, and mortars. The DE M-SHORAD platform, the Army says, will intercept those munitions in mid-flight, using the intense laser beam to explode or incapacitate them before they can come too close to troop positions.
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