After years of development, the U.S. Army is preparing to conduct Styker-armed laser tests designed to destroy a host enemy craft including drones, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft and incoming enemy missiles.
As part of the Army’s Initial Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (IM-SHORAD), the weapons bring a 50 kilowatt-class of lasers to be equipped on a platoon of four Stryker vehicles in Fiscal 2022, according to a Fox News report.
“The time is now to get directed energy weapons to the battlefield,”Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, Director of Hypersonics, Directed Energy, Space and Rapid Acquisition, said in an Army report. “The Army recognizes the need for directed energy lasers as part of the Army’s modernization plan. This is no longer a research effort or a demonstration effort. It is a strategic combat capability, and we are on the right path to get it in Soldiers’ hands.”
Subcontracted by Northrop Grumman and Raytheon, the move is setting an ambitious timetable for deploying laser weapons on Strykers.
“We are on track to deliver a laser next year and support the Army’s effort to build a platoon of laser-combat-capable Strykers,” said Mark Skinner, Vice President of Directed Energy, Northrop Grumman.
“It is all about the ability to put photons on target. It is a system that can be deployed rapidly from a stowed position. It can engage an enemy at the speed of light. It has to be able to shoot from a moving platform and engage a moving target through an air column that can be full of rain, dust or turbulence — and hold that energy on target long enough to get the desired effect,” Skinner said.
Other Military branches have been developing lasers for combat use, as well. The U.S. Air Force demonstrated in tests on April 23 that ground-based The Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration Program, or SHiELD, laser can shoot down an airborne missile, Stars and Stripes reported.
“The successful test is a big step ahead for directed energy systems and protection against adversarial threats,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, AFRL commander. “The ability to shoot down missiles with speed-of-light technology will enable air operation in denied environments.”
U.S. adversaries have also been developing laser weapons, and Russian President Vladimir Putin is eager to show them off.
Russia’s new laser weapons will be on “standby” by the end of 2019, Putin said in his annual state of the nation speech.
“Next December, all the Peresvet missiles supplied to the armed forces will be put on standby alert,” Putin said addressing the Russian Federal Assembly.