U.S Army is taking help from the U.S Navy
to make its High Energy Laser program twice as powerful. The program is being overseen by U.S Army
modernization officials. Viewers may note that the Army’s High Energy
Laser Tactical Vehicle Demonstrator (HEL TVD) features a 100-kilowatt laser and can be planned
on different types of Medium Tactical Vehicle (FMTV) trucks. The U.S has plans to demonstrate the system’s
capability like target acquisition & tracking against different targets in 2022. In this video Defense Updates, analyzes U.S
military plans to deploy 250 kilowatts on Medium Tactical Vehicles
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ship and three days of premium account time as a bonus. Rockets, artillery, and mortars are typically
hard to defend against with traditional air defense system. The best defense against these is Israel’s
Iron Dome. According to Israel, it has been used to intercept
more than 1,500 targets with a greater than 90% success rate since it was deployed in
2011. Though the data regarding success rate is
often challenged by critics. And even if the data is correct, it is to
be noted that the groups firing these against Israel don’t possess the ability to carry
out sustained offense nor can they hurl thousands of projectiles. This will not be the case when the U.S face
a tough rival. For example, North Korea has thousands of
artillery pieces. Rockets, artillery, and mortar are not the
only threat, the advent of Swarm Drone technology is also a challenge. Rivals of the U.S, like Russia and China,
have been directing lots of their resources to build high-end recon and armed drones as
well as small swarm drones. The threat from high end armed drones is obvious. But a swarm of hundred or thousand small and
cheap drones could also be a deadly collaborative force on the battlefield as they are hard
to intercept being compact in size and being very numerous. A swarm of a small armed drone could overwhelm
even advance air defense systems. Drone swarm will be like a dense cloud and
this makes it hard for the air defense system to properly track and target any single drone
out of these. Also, most current air defense systems will
run out of ammunition. The conflicts in Iraq and Syria have shown
that this kind of capability is within reach of even non-state actors. In January 2018, a mass drone attack was witnessed
on Russia’s main outposts in Syria – the Khmeimim airbase and the naval base in Tartus. Another important usage of a laser will be
in using it to defend against hypersonic weapons. An object is said to be hypersonic once they
exceed speeds of Mach 5 that is 5 times the speed of sound. This is about 1,715 meters per second or 3,836
mph or 6,174 km/h. Unlike subsonic and supersonic weapon, hypersonic
weapons currently have no counters and laser could prove to be a solution. Lasers placed on land mobile systems like
the Family of Medium Tactical Vehicle (FMTV) will add an excellent tactical edge to U.S
Army. The Army’s Rapid Capabilities Office plans
to take advantage of the Navy’s 250-kilowatt laser program, a system that could be adapted
to fit on the FMTV platform, U.S Army Lt. Gen. Paul Ostrowski the military
deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics, and technology
gave an insight. He told an audience at an Association of the
United States Army Institute of Land Warfare breakfast,
“The intent is to work with the Navy, and we are doing that right now, in order to increase
the power of that laser system from beyond 100-kilowatt up to maybe the 250-kilowatt
mark,” He stated that the Army’s 100-kilowatt HEL
TVD is being designed to provide air and missile support to forward operating bases and airfields. As per him the army also plans to field a
platoon of four 50-kilowatt lasers, known as Maneuver Short Range Air Defense (M-SHORAD)
These will be mounted on a Stryker combat vehicle and are expected to be deployed in
fiscal 2022. Lasers have some very important advantages. The speed of light enables them to hit their
targets almost instantaneously. Laser weapons also don’t need to carry ammunition
like traditional systems and hence they will be able to take out a much larger number of
threats constrained only by the power supply limit of the platform. They are also so much cheaper and could cost
as less as $1 per shot. Ostrowski explained the advantage of the laser
is having an “unlimited magazine” for unmanned aerial systems, as well as rockets, artillery
and mortars, instead of “shooting $100,000 missiles at $7,000” unmanned aerial systems. He added,
“We want to be able to put that capability on our tanks to potentially get after targets
that our combat vehicles can go after, so this is just the beginning … of where we
see lasers going in the future,” Laser technology is still relatively new and
scientists and engineers are working round the clock to master it. There are many challenges when it comes to
using the laser for combat usages. Ostrowski said, one of the challenges of working
with lasers is controlling the heat buildup generated by the power source. He elaborated,
“It’s not just the ability to create the energy to fire the laser, but it’s also to dissipate
the heat,” Ostrowski stated that it’s still uncertain
whether the Navy’s 250-kilowatt laser program will work for the Army, but “we are not going
to ignore” its potential for dealing with more complex enemy air attacks. He explained further,
“The power piece is extremely important. If you don’t have the power, you don’t have
that unlimited magazine, and that unlimited magazine makes a difference in a swarm environment
where you have multiple targets and you have to be able to … recharge quickly and be
able to shoot them all down,” American military’s tryst with laser weapons
is not new. In 2010, the Air Force mounted and fired off
a megawatt-class chemical laser from a modified Boeing 747. Things have changed since then and instead
of unstable chemical laser used for that experiment, solid-state lasers are now being used. Another test with LaWS was conducted in 2014. Laser Weapon System or LaWS is a directed-energy
weapon developed by the United States Navy. It will act as a short-range, self-defense
system against drones and boats. Many projects are currently being executed
to field laser weapons like SHiELD The SHiELD program is developing a directed
energy laser system that will act as a demonstrator for a self-defense system that could eventually
enable aircraft to protect themselves from surface-to-air (SAM) and air-to-air (AAM)
missiles. On April 23, 2019, the U.S Air Force Research
Laboratory (AFRL) Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator (SHiELD) Advanced Technology
Demonstration (ATD) Program successfully achieved a major goal. A laser developed as part of the program had
shot down several air launched missiles in flight. The system could be deployed as an add-on
pod in the future. U.S Navy is working on HELIOS. HELIOS stands for High Energy Laser and Integrated
Optical-dazzler With Surveillance system. USS Preble, an Arleigh Burke Class guided
missile destroyer of U.S Navy is expected to be fitted with HELIOS by 2021 Overall, it can be said that America seems
to be in the right direction when it comes to laser weapons.