"The Technology Is Getting Real" - Laser Weapons Edge Closer To Battlefield Use

Tyler Durden's picture

Three months after China unveiled "Silent Hunter" - its vehicle-slicing laser weapon, Stars & Stripes reports that US military forces are testing their own array of hi-tech weaponry.


 The Silent Hunter laser is powerful enough to cut through light vehicle armor at up to a kilometer away, making you wonder if China already has more powerful laser weapons only for domestic use.

And now Military.com reports, the toy-like drones destroyed during an Army field exercise at Fort Sill, Okla., last month weren't anything special; however, the way they were brought down -- zapped out of the sky by lasers mounted on a Stryker armored vehicle -- might grab people's attention.

The first soldier to try out the lasers was Spc. Brandon Sallaway, a forward observer with the 4th Infantry Division. He used a Mobile Expeditionary High Energy Laser to shoot down an 18-by-10-inch drone at 650 yards, an Army statement said.

"It's nothing too complicated but you have to learn how to operate each system and get used to the controls which is exactly like a video game controller," said Sallaway, who hadn't fired a laser before the exercise.

The drone-killing laser was relatively low energy -- only 5 kilowatts -- but the Army has tested much more powerful weapons. A 30-kilowatt truck-mounted High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator shot down dozens of mortar rounds and several drones in November 2013 at White Sands Missile Range, N.M.

Lockheed Martin's 30-kilowatt Accelerated Laser Demonstration Initiative, known as ALADIN.

Since then, researchers have made rapid advances in laser weapons, said Bob Ruszkowski, who works on air dominance projects and unmanned systems in Lockheed's secretive Skunk Works facility.

"We're really on the cusp of seeing the introduction of lasers in future systems," he said.

The weapon tested at White Sands is about to double in power with a 60-kilowatt laser the Army plans to test in the next 18 months, he said in a phone interview May 12.

The laser generates its beam through fiber optic cables like those used by telecom companies, said Robert Afzal, a senior fellow for laser and sensor systems at Lockheed.

"We demonstrated that we could combine large number of these fiber lasers and link them to a weapons system," he said.

Lasers are very efficient at converting electrical power to a laser beam, Afzal said.

That's important for the platforms that carry them, he said. It means they don't need a large generator or cooling system and that high-powered lasers can be easily transported.

"This was the key puzzle piece that needed to be solved before we could begin to deploy these laser weapons," Afzal said. "The technology is getting real. It's the dawn of a new era where the tech can be made smaller and powerful enough to be put on vehicles, ships and aircraft."

Scientists showed the potential of more powerful laser weapons in 2015 by burning a hole through a truck's hood at a range of one mile.

"It was the most efficient high-powered laser ever demonstrated," Afazal said of the test, which mimicked what might happen if a laser was fired at a vehicle from an aircraft.

During an operation, a laser might be used to disable a vehicle where the goal was to capture rather than kill an individual, Ruszkowski said.

"The laser is a surgical weapon and it's something customers are interested in," Afazal said. "Something like that can be easily integrated into an AC-130 gunship. That is something the Air Force is planning on demonstrating in the next two to three years."

Researchers believe they have the key ingredients to make such a system work, Ruszkowski said.

"When we realized that laser technology was maturing enough that we could be close to having something we could integrate on an aircraft we started looking at other difficulties that might arise," he said.

Airflow around a plane can destabilize lasers, so engineers developed a way to minimize turbulence, said Ruszkowski, who added that the Navy has deployed a laser weapon on board the USS Ponce in the Persian Gulf.

Laser weapons could be arriving just in time to defeat a growing menagerie of cheap-to-make drones and missiles in the hands of terrorists and rogue states, which could threaten expensive American military hardware.

"The threats are proliferating and changing," but laser weapons could counter some of them, Afazal said.

An advantage of laser weapons is that they don't need ammunition, he said. For example, a forward-operating base could protect itself from airborne threats with a laser as long as there was enough fuel to power a generator and recharge its batteries.

Use of such weapons on enemy troops is a gray area that, for now, the U.S. military is steering clear of since international agreements ban the use of weapons intended to blind, Afazal said.

"Before lasers have been deployed and we understand how they work, the policy is conservative," he said.


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serotonindumptruck's picture

Does this mean that the technology for photon torpedoes is just around the corner?

overbet's picture

Could you carry your laser pistol in a gun free zone?

Taint Boil's picture

Check out my new suit .... made with a million tiny mirrors. Sometimes the easiest solution is right in front of your eyes ... get it ... mirrors .. in front of your eyes .....<cricket sounds>

N0TME's picture

Be sure to tip your waitresses, he'll be here all night.

Shemp 4 Victory's picture

Extensive testing of US laser weapon systems has revealed that their capacity to vaporize Federal Reserve Notes has no known upper limit.

tmosley's picture

These lasers are only as good as their ability to aquire targets. One wonders how they will fare against a massive swarm of microdrones? Perhaps of the crawling variety, if flying makes them too vulnerable?

dirty fingernails's picture

They are also only effective against targets with a predictible trajectory

dlweld's picture

Not really - the laser beam has no inertia so can follow any weird motion - look at the active optics used in the big telescopes - heat waves in the atmosphere cause the light from a star to literally jump around blurring the image - the active optics changes the light path thousands of time a second and tracks the star so a very sharp image is obtained - the firing of a laser and correcting the beam and tracking is just this backwards.

Stuck on Zero's picture

I'm throwing away my 14 gauge. I'm gonna shoot pheasant with my 60 KW laser. It'll hit the ground all cooked and ready to eat.

Ignacous Pugnacious's picture

Severed & seared chunklet hors d'oeuvres, with a feather flourish. Yum!

TuPhat's picture

The tracking you mentioned is actually done by a computer program after the fact.  That won't be useful on incomming ordinance.  The real problem with laser weapons is the recharge rate of the power supply.  The article mentioned dropping a number of mortar rounds from the sky.  That sets off the bullshit indicator, since mortar rounds are not powered and drop out of the sky as part of their trajectory.  That's the kind of weapon they are.  Maybe the author just doesn't know anything about weapons. 

Buck Johnson's picture

"A new generation of telescopes built since the 1980s uses instead very thin mirrors, which are too thin to keep themselves rigidly in the correct shape.

Instead, an array of actuators behind the mirror keeps it in an optimal shape.

The telescope may also be segmented into many small mirrors, preventing most of the gravitational distortion that occurs in large, thick mirrors."

I think your wrong, they do make corrections but not as fast.

Mr Hankey's picture

Targets like planes& rounds can spin ,reducing damage

Horse Pizzle's picture

Modern radar can pinpoint hundreds of incoming objects at once.

Buck Johnson's picture

Your totally correct, and I don't buy that mortars where shot down.  Remember the laser has to get commands fast enough from the processor and it's outlying components that are tracking the shell to get a target for it to move and fire at the position the mortar was.  Unless the mortar was going slow enough it's possible.  But the faster the shell or rocket is the harder it is to get a good lock or shoot it down.  Also what if the enemy decides to launch shells of smoke and also chaff to mess up the radar or sensors.  So if your an enemy you smoke out the position to lessen the laser power and then launch mortars.

And then with drones your right, they are seeing that using a mass attack of small or medium drones with bombs on them or whatever could overwelm a defense system and be unstoppable.  Hell imagine if a person is commanding one or more of those small drones with 3 pounds of C4 or whatever strong explosive.   And then those drones are being followed by 50 more with the same package they could suicide or mass attack an important position or bunker or whatever and have those kamikaze exploding everytime 3 pounds or more of explosives.  Or if you have good software and intelligence you can have those same drones programed with map software and given instructions on each where to attack on a base.

Mr Hankey's picture

Initiating primary ignition... Tap tap tap...is this thing on?

N0TME's picture

I think technically you could as it is light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, not 

chemical reaction as in gunpowder.

risk.averse's picture

is that a laser pistol in your pocket...or have you just taken a shine to me?

GUS100CORRINA's picture


Watch the Movie CLIP below to see lasers in action. You will enjoy it!!!

Real Genius (8/8) Movie CLIP - Jerry's House of Popcorn (1985)


Common_Law's picture

Isn't it great that they can track everybody within a few meters now with their phones. They could just turn people to ashes if they oppose the empire (just dust in the wind). No more messy "wetworks" 

AGuy's picture

"Does this mean that the technology for photon torpedoes is just around the corner?"

No, but Sharks armed with lasers is right around the corner!

Mr Hankey's picture

Monkeys with spearguns- baby boo - boo booshies pet project

Fiscal.Enema's picture

I've been following directed energy weapons since the Carter administration took the Russian threat seriously in 1977. That was about 6 years before the Reagan SDI or star wars research started in 1983 and was an expansion of Carter's program.

I can tell you the real directed weapon are nuclear powered. These are not talked about, do not use mirrors, lenses and self-focus through the atmosphere.

The real sinister weapons are partical beam weapons.

Almost 90% of the developments in directed energy is classified. 

What they show to us is dog and pony.

TuPhat's picture

You are correct about the particle beams.  That's where the real research is being done.

Urban Roman's picture

Yes, unless a fly shits on the lens and screws up its resonances.

Ignacous Pugnacious's picture

Yeah, right next to the popcorn counter.

Bank_sters's picture

Creating weapons is big business.   

LetThemEatRand's picture

"'It's nothing too complicated but you have to learn how to operate each system and get used to the controls which is exactly like a video game controller,' said Sallaway [the first soldier to try out the lasers], who hadn't fired a laser before the exercise."

Remember when it was a conspiracy theory to think that video games were training ground for the US military?

runswithscissors's picture

All I want is to grab some hot pussy.



Sam.Spade's picture

Pussy is all the same temperature.  Go for the wet ones.

Ignacous Pugnacious's picture

Try the morgue on a sweltering July night; YOUR only option,Quimjester.

ipso_facto's picture

Is causing the enemy soldier's head to explode considered 'blinding'?

indygo55's picture

When they chop your head off I'm pretty sure you go blind.


sinbad2's picture

Yes I would think that an exploding skull could blind you, if you were standing too close.

It's always a good idea to keep your distance from exploding heads.

Pure Evil's picture

OK, we'll send small projectiles your way to cavitate you, send mortar or howitzer shells to rip you to shreds, or drop 500 lb bombs on you to obliterate you and your city, but, no we won't shoot a laser at you cause you could be blinded.

And, if there's one thing above all that causes terrorism its being blinded by a laser.

New_Meat's picture

used to watch "laser tag" at one time

Lurk Skywatcher's picture

Apparently white phosphorus is also banned, but only for intentional use against people... israel using it to "illuminate" palestinian slums at toddler level is A-OK!

Maybe if they call it a disco gun it would be fine to use.

tmosley's picture

Jews do need to be able to illuminate things for their one eyed monsters prior to Passover festivities.

ebworthen's picture

But can you mount it on a shark?

MsCreant's picture

Set Fazers to stun. Really. 

Mini-Me's picture

Have to keep the MIC well funded.  Otherwise they'd have to get real jobs producing something people actually wanted.

holdbuysell's picture

And the second civilization that the US budget funds laughs at these advancements.

No one has yet to identify where the $11.5T in DOCUMENTED funds went since 2000 from the Pentagon/DOD budgets.

SilverRhino's picture

Glad I'm not the only one curious about the second civilization and where all those ships are.