UAV’s using lasers as a weapon, seems ridiculous and undeveloped right? Wrong. I read some interesting information today about how the major UAV airplane manufacturer General Atomics has been working hard on developing a high powered laser to stop incoming missiles and airplanes with nearly unlimited ammo. Striking at the speed of light the High Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) could cause some serious changes in the way we use our UAVs in the air today. In the past four years the Defense Advance Research Project Agency (DARPA) has given contractor General Atomics $60 million to develop the program. This laser will boast a powerful 150kW ray capable of doing some serious damage.
|Concept of laser weapons used by UAVs
Currently lasers of that strength are too large and heavy to be carried on planes, but are still able to destroy an incoming rocket or plane. This means they can only be outfitted to work on stationary systems as opposed to a moving UAV airplane that needs to be light weight. DARPA says the laser is in the “final development stage,” and has reduced weight at only 750kg. This opens up a whole new array of uses for lasers as weapons. The use of the laser for my concern is with UAVs. These lasers could bring forth a brand new fighting technique and revolutionize the battlefield, again. General Atomics expects the lasers use to be multiplied by using it with their newer Predator drone.
General Atomics believes that the most useful technique for the drones with the laser capability is to fly in a large “swarm.” The units will be integrated to overcome even large defense networks with the only loss to be a few relatively inexpensive drones. These bold claims do of course need to be weighed with other reservations but the outlook is currently very positive. The US Air Force sees drones as crucial to the future but whether or not the Predator will be the drone to do it is still under speculation due to the fact that neither the laser or drone are in mass production yet. Currently Russia, Israel, and other leading nations and arms manufacturers say they are working on their own version of the similar portable lasers, but the US is currently in the lead for developing advanced laser equipped UAVs.