The world’s most respectable air show, which takes place once every two years not far from the town of Farnborough in England’s Hampshire, has brought a number of surprises. The presentation of the US-made anti-aircraft laser gun was one of them.
Scientists started developing laser weapons many years ago. A laser weapon is not a matter of sci-fi stories anymore. The product by Raytheon Missile Systems, a US company, turns out to be the closest one to weapons of the future.
The secret tests conducted for the newest weapon ended with the downing of four unmanned aircraft at the distance of over 3 kilometers, The Daily Telegraph wrote.
“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 traveling at about 300mph,” the newspaper said.
The tests were conducted on the Californian coast. It is worthy of note that the laser stays invisible until the target is destroyed.
Mike Booen, vice president of Directed Energy Weapons at Raytheon, said that it was “more real than Star Wars.” “Our lasers destroyed the UAVs lighting them on fire,” he said.
Since intelligence often uses unmanned aerial vehicles, the laser arms may raise considerable interest already in the nearest future. The first laser system is said to be completed by 2016.
In February of this year, the USA’s MDA tested an air-based combat laser weapon, which downed the ballistic missiles at the moment when they were developing speed.
The tests were conducted at the airbase in Point Mugu, California. The system, mounted on the modified Boeing-747-400F, detected a missile in mere seconds and used a low-energy laser charge to track the target. Another beam analyzed the influence of the atmosphere in terms of the strike accuracy. The whole operation continued for two minutes.
The downed missile was a liquid-fuel one. Another missile was launched an hour later from San Nicolas Island, some 100 kilometers off Point Mugu. The second target, a hard-fuel missile, was also destroyed.
It was the second test of the US air-based combat laser. The first one took place in August 2009, when infrared sensors of the laser system detected a flying target, a missile.
Laser systems mounted on modified Boeing planes will be capable of destroying ballistic missiles during the boost phase of their flight trajectories from the distance of up to 460 kilometers.
Passive sensors mounted on board a Boeing plane detect and lock-on a target which begins to gain altitude vertically. Afterwards, the system sends a high-energy laser beam from the plane to the target, and the laser gun destroys ballistic missiles at the moment when they are launched from the tube launcher.
The state-of-the-art directed energy weapon is expected to become a highly marketable product because it can instantly strike several targets hundreds of kilometers afar, US specialists believe.
Officials with Raytheon Missile Systems believe that the laser weapon must also be used in local ground conflicts. This is quite a contradiction to the tactics of the Pentagon and its NATO allies in the Afghan war, where Talibs have neither UAVs, nor ballistic missies.
What will be the targets for the new super weapon? Will it be Iran and its mythical nuclear arsenal? Or maybe North Korea?