19 July 2009
Laser used to shoots down planes
Laser beams have been used for the first time in naval warfare to shoot down aircraft, it can be disclosed
By Thomas Harding, Defence Correspondent
The weapon, mounted on a warship’s missile, shot down four unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in secret testing carried out off the California coast, The Daily Telegraph has learnt.
In a joint enterprise between US Navy and Raytheon Missile Systems the technology has now got to the stage where lasers will be deployed on warships as part of their short-range defence.
For the first time a ‘solid state’ 32 mega watt laser beam of directed energy has been fired from a warship to a distance of more than two miles burning into a drone travelling at about 300mph.
The laser is mounted on a Phalanx close in weapons system that has a radar detection system. The targeting system was used in Iraq, to train fire from a Gatling onto rockets and mortars raining down on British bases.
Raytheon developed the system after buying six off-the-shelf commercial lasers from the car industry and joining them to make a single, powerful beam guided by the Phalanx’s radars. Unlike other tests which have been conducted on aircraft it uses a solid state laser rather than a chemical generated beam.
Mike Booen, vice president of Directed Energy Weapons at Raytheon, said the tests off San Nicolas Island were “a great day for the laser”.
“This is more real than Star Wars,” he said, speaking at the Farnborough Air Show. “Our lasers destroyed the UAVs lighting them on fire.
“This is the first successful shoot down over water. We are now on the path to deliver the first battlefield lasers integrated into real weapons systems.
With drones being used more frequently to spy on or attack fleets in future warfare it is necessary to make defences against them.
The laser system, which is mostly situated under the deck, fires an invisible beam that is only seen when it strikes an intruder. The system is also being developed to tackle small boats and potentially anti-ship missiles and will be ready for full military development by 2016.
“This will proceed to production because it is solving real problem,” Mr Booen said.
Raytheon have steadily been developing laser technology for several years
developing a land system that can shoot down mortar rounds.
20 July 2010
When it comes to sci-fi villains, few have endured as well as the Martians, whom HG Wells depicted wielding a weapon called the Heat-Ray in The War of the Worlds, back in 1898. This was a small, box-like case emitting a "beam of light and intense heat" so powerful that "whatever is combustible flashes into flame at its touch".
Unsurprisingly, this super-weapon, capable of killing any human target and destroying all mechanical objects, caught the imagination of the reading (and, later, viewing) public. Ray guns (Dan Dare), deathrays, phasers (Star Trek), laser pistols (Lost in Space), plasma rifles, blasters (Star Wars): we've known and loved them all, in fiction. Only now, reader, they're for real.
At the Farnborough Airshow in Hampshire, the American firm Raytheon has unveiled its Laser Close-In Weapon System (LCIWS). This is a solid-state laser whose 50kw beam is capable – and the company has video film to prove it – of shooting down, from a couple of miles away, an unmanned aerial vehicle. In May, the system, mounted on a US warship, shot down four UAVs off the coast of California. You don't get much more real than that.
Rather more prosaically, Raytheon apparently developed the system after bolting together six bog-standard commercial lasers used in the car industry. "This was a bad day for UAVs, and a good one for laser technology," Raytheon Missile Systems' vice-president, Mike Booen, told a presumably excited audience at the show. On board a ship, he said, the laser can be mounted inside and the beam fed up through fibre cables; on land, it could be trailer-mounted and used "across the globe" to target mortars and rockets. This is, says the editor of Jane's Defence Weekly, the beginning of a new era in missile technology.
The system's sheer power helps overcome two problems that have long hindered
laser weaponry: it works in wet weather (rain and damp marine air have
previously absorbed much of the laser's energy), and it can destroy even targets
fitted with reflective surfaces. "Set phasers," as the good Captain once said,