Protective and defensive lasers are important to the US military and are getting a funding boost from the Pentagon. The Army has now awarded a contract to two significant defense corporations that are working together on a new directed energy weapon that is extremely powerful.
Drones, oncoming missiles, and airplanes are increasing in sophistication, and the US is looking for a cost-effective solution. Lasers, or directed energy weapons, may be the key.
Space-based laser weapons, popularized during the Reagan administration's Strategic Defense Initiative in the 1980s and mockingly dubbed "Star Wars" by critics, are back in style, only this time they will be ground-based.
Boeing and General Atomics will collaborate on the latest laser technology in a deal that intends to demonstrate the concept by August 2022 and eventually deploy the United States' most powerful laser system.
This strong 300-kilowatt solid-state electromagnetic laser will be dubbed the "Distributed Gain High Energy Laser Weapon System."
The laser, which will most likely be mounted on a truck, should become the most advanced weapon of its kind.
The US Air Force has also advanced in its protection against adversarial unmanned aerial systems.
The Air Force declared in the second quarter of 2020 that it has developed a directed-energy weapon capable of destroying enemy drones.
The Raytheon system, dubbed THOR by the Air Force Research Laboratory at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, is said to be capable of eliminating swarms of assault drones, according to military specialists.
The development of THOR began in 2018 when the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff asked for a directed energy response to aggressive remotely piloted vehicles.
By 2022, the Air Force and Raytheon should have a working model in place to use lasers to destroy enemy drones.
The year 2022 is also when the military intends to equip its Stryker armored personnel carrier with a 50-kilowatt directed energy weapon.
According to the Army's Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies directorate, the objective is to maximize the lasers' energy throughput.
Lasers have the potential to completely alter the way the US military views missile defense as evidenced by the Israeli Iron Dome system.
The military is hazy about the expenses, however, and there have been failed laser programs in the past.
These previous setbacks have not deterred the Pentagon from moving forward, so perhaps Reagan may get his American laser system after all.