U.S. Army Plans To Field Most Powerful Laser Weapon Yet

2019/08/1565562644.jpg
Read: 1459     14:20     12 August 2019    

By Kyle Mizokami

The U.S. Army is pushing forward with plans for the most powerful laser weapon to date. The Indirect Fires Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL) will be a 250 to 300 kilowatt weapon, up to 10 times more powerful than the U.S. Navy’s Laser Weapon System. The power boost should be enough to destroy targets as large as incoming cruise missiles.


The U.S. military is pushing into lasers in a big way, with all three of the main services—Army, Navy, and Air Force—pushing hard to get them onto ground vehicles, ships, and aircraft. The main appeal of lasers is their fast reaction time, literally the speed of light, and their ability to fire a high number of shots without stockpiling bullets, missiles, or shells.

Lasers instead rely on electrical power, and as long as there is electricity to power the weapon it can theoretically crank out an endless number of shots. “Ammunition” is basically the cost of generator fuel, or about $10 per shot.

According to Breaking Defense, earlier this year the Army was looking to develop a 100 kilowatt laser weapon. Now, just months later, the service is aiming higher at a 250 to 300 kilowatt weapon. The Army has so far been interested in weapons to engage enemy drones and drone swarms—IFPC-HEL will be just powerful enough to shoot down an incoming cruise missile.

300 kilowatts is ten times more than the only currently operational laser weapon, LaWS. LaWS, or Laser Weapon System, was a $40 million dollar, 30-kilowatt laser installed on the amphibious sea base USS Ponce in 2014. Although apparently never used in action, LaWS was capable of blinding enemy forces as a warning, shooting down drones, disabling boats, or damaging helicopters.

Lasers, as Breaking Defense points out, are more like focused sunlight from a magnifying glass than pew pew pulses of light. Lower power lasers may need to focus on target for several seconds, while larger lasers can get by with quicker pulses, doing more damage faster. Meanwhile, a target like a cruise missile is densely packed with a guidance system, warhead, fuel, and turbojet engine. A laser pulse could fry the guidance system, explode the warhead or fuel tank, or damage the engine. Alternately it could cause damage to the missile’s fuselage and wings, causing it to become aerodynamically unstable and crash.

The new laser will be mounted on a truck and likely accompanied by a generator vehicle with plenty of diesel fuel. A firing position on high ground would allow it to engage targets at maximum range, before they could threaten friendly forces.

The first platoon of four firing vehicles will enter service in 2024.

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U.S. Army Plans To Field Most Powerful Laser Weapon Yet

2019/08/1565562644.jpg
Read: 1460     14:20     12 August 2019    

By Kyle Mizokami

The U.S. Army is pushing forward with plans for the most powerful laser weapon to date. The Indirect Fires Protection Capability-High Energy Laser (IFPC-HEL) will be a 250 to 300 kilowatt weapon, up to 10 times more powerful than the U.S. Navy’s Laser Weapon System. The power boost should be enough to destroy targets as large as incoming cruise missiles.


The U.S. military is pushing into lasers in a big way, with all three of the main services—Army, Navy, and Air Force—pushing hard to get them onto ground vehicles, ships, and aircraft. The main appeal of lasers is their fast reaction time, literally the speed of light, and their ability to fire a high number of shots without stockpiling bullets, missiles, or shells.

Lasers instead rely on electrical power, and as long as there is electricity to power the weapon it can theoretically crank out an endless number of shots. “Ammunition” is basically the cost of generator fuel, or about $10 per shot.

According to Breaking Defense, earlier this year the Army was looking to develop a 100 kilowatt laser weapon. Now, just months later, the service is aiming higher at a 250 to 300 kilowatt weapon. The Army has so far been interested in weapons to engage enemy drones and drone swarms—IFPC-HEL will be just powerful enough to shoot down an incoming cruise missile.

300 kilowatts is ten times more than the only currently operational laser weapon, LaWS. LaWS, or Laser Weapon System, was a $40 million dollar, 30-kilowatt laser installed on the amphibious sea base USS Ponce in 2014. Although apparently never used in action, LaWS was capable of blinding enemy forces as a warning, shooting down drones, disabling boats, or damaging helicopters.

Lasers, as Breaking Defense points out, are more like focused sunlight from a magnifying glass than pew pew pulses of light. Lower power lasers may need to focus on target for several seconds, while larger lasers can get by with quicker pulses, doing more damage faster. Meanwhile, a target like a cruise missile is densely packed with a guidance system, warhead, fuel, and turbojet engine. A laser pulse could fry the guidance system, explode the warhead or fuel tank, or damage the engine. Alternately it could cause damage to the missile’s fuselage and wings, causing it to become aerodynamically unstable and crash.

The new laser will be mounted on a truck and likely accompanied by a generator vehicle with plenty of diesel fuel. A firing position on high ground would allow it to engage targets at maximum range, before they could threaten friendly forces.

The first platoon of four firing vehicles will enter service in 2024.

popularmechanics



Tags: