After years of testing out a low-energy Stryker-mounted directed energy system, the Army is formally pushing for a combat-ready laser weapon to blast enemy drones and ordnance out of the sky in the next four years.
The Army is officially accelerating the prototyping and fielding of four Stryker vehicles outfitted with 50 kW-class laser weapons by fiscal year 2022, the service announced on July 26, a ten-fold increase over the 5 kW-class system that artillery soldiers have been testing in Germany since early 2018.
Germany is planning to install a laser cannon on its warships.
A K-130 class corvette next year will receive a prototype high-energy laser weapons system, or HELWS, for a two-year demonstration, according to German media and European defense contractor MBDA, whose Rheinmetall subsidiary will build the device.
"The HELWS demonstrator for this opportunity will be optimized for the counter-unmanned aerial system (CUAS) threat spectrum, including drones, mini-drones and micro-drones," MBDA spokesman Günter Abel told the National Interest.
U.S. military bases across the globe may soon have a New Mexico-made, high-powered microwave weapon at their disposal to instantaneously down swarms of enemy drones.
The Air Force Research Laboratory at Kirtland Air Force Base unveiled the weapon Thursday morning in a live demonstration with local reporters, who watched the system effortlessly knock a hovering drone out of the sky with an invisible and inaudible electromagnetic wave.
The Army says it will be able to field combat vehicle-mounted lasers and hypersonic missiles within the next four years to prepare for combat against rivals like Russia or China that may employ enemy drones or their own hypersonic weapons.
The Pearl Harbor-based USS Preble will be the first destroyer to be equipped with a high-energy laser to counter surface craft and unmanned aerial systems, according to a published report, with the Navy planning to one day use the powerful light beams to defend against Chinese or Russian cruise missiles.
Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, the Navy's director of surface warfare, told Defense News that the Preble will be outfitted in 2021 with the High Energy Laser and Integrated Optical- dazzler With Surveillance system, or HELIOS.
"We are making the decision to put the laser on our (destroyers)," Boxall said. "It's going to start with Preble in 2021, and when we do that, that will now be her close-in weapon that we now continue to upgrade," according to Defense News.
After more than a decade of research and development and upwards of $500 million in funding, the Navy finally plans on testing its much-hyped electromagnetic railgun on a surface warship in a major milestone for the beleaguered weapons system, Navy documents reveal.