The future of laser weapon warfare has arrived.
The U.S. Army has made plans for a "laser-off" firing of its emerging 50-kilowatt (kW) laser weapon designed to destroy drones, helicopters, fixed-wing aircraft, and incoming enemy missiles, Fox News reported.
The laser cannons — which will be attached on a platoon of four Stryker armored vehicles and are capable of delivering enough energy to power several homes — are slated to hit battlefields by 2022.
The weapon system has been in development under the Maneuver-Short Range Air Defense mission, which aims to bring air-and-missile defense back to armored vehicles on the move in combat.
"The time is now to get directed energy weapons to the battlefield," Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood said in a recent 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."
Northrop Grumman and Raytheon are subcontractors in an Other Transaction Authority agreement between the Army and Kord Technologies, the report stated.
Laser weapon technology brings many advantages to the battlefield. Even more than being able to engage enemy drones, helicopters, and some fixed-wing enemy targets, the Stryker-fire lasers could intercept incoming enemy air-missile attacks.
The Army has for years been very interested in using laser technology to enhance military capabilities, and now it appears they are beginning to reach their goals.
"Both the Army and commercial industry have made substantial improvements in the efficiency of high energy lasers — to the point where we can get militarily significant laser power onto a tactically relevant platform," Dr. Craig Robin, RCCTO senior research scientist for Directed Energy Applications, said. "Now, we are in position to quickly prototype, compete for the best solution, and deliver to a combat unit."
Specific details about the laser shoot-off are limited, but "the service did describe the Stryker-laser plan as slated to 'complete a competitive performance checkout leading into a range demonstration against various threats,'" Fox News reported.