Every modern conventional army is becoming increasingly reliant on unmanned aerial vehicles. These unmanned drones can come in nearly all shapes and sizes. From man-portable units to high-altitude surveillance drones, militaries across the world depend on these additional sets of eyes and ears to monitor the battlefield. Boeing’s Laser Avenger is one of the only weapons in the world that excels at taking out these small aircraft in a cost effective way.
Laser Avenger Unique Edge
Shooting down a UAV is completely possible with current ballistic technology. But, in an actual battlefield, trying to shoot down a UAV can often reveal the position of the shooter. This puts that crew or vehicle at increased risk. What if there were a way to fire a projectile that was completely invisible to the naked eye?
The Boeing Laser Avenger is designed to be mounted on the back of a HMMWV (“Humvee”) platform. With an infrared laser capable of up to 10 kilowatts of power, the Laser Avenger is designed to shoot down UAVs mid-flight. In order to do this, Boeing had to design a very complex tracking system that would pick up on extremely small objects moving at low to medium altitudes. A laser operates at Line-of-Sight (LOS). Therefore, it’s possible to shoot a straight, narrow beam capable of burning through the unmanned drone. If all goes according to plan, this will knock it out of the air.
Modern militaries are worried about more than just surveillance. The capacity for UAVs to deliver bombs or ordnance on target is what is worrisome. According to the program director of the Boeing Directed Energy Systems, UAVs are a real threat facing the troops of the 21st century.
“Small UAVs armed with explosives or equipped with surveillance sensors are a growing threat on the battlefield,” said Gary Fitzmire, Vice President and Program Director of Boeing Directed Energy Systems. “Laser Avenger, unlike a conventional weapon, can fire its laser beam without creating missile exhaust or gun flashes that would reveal its position. As a result, Laser Avenger can neutralize these UAV threats while keeping our troops safe.”
The great thing about laser weapons like the Laser Avenger is that they do not give away the position of the shooter. A single Avenger Laser system can independently target and shoot down multiple unmanned flying vehicles. Best of all, it does this without a single gunshot being fired.
Testbed For Laser Weapons
Advances in technology, like the Boeing Laser Avenger, have led to the United States Army experimenting with the use of static laser turrets to protect against cruise missiles and other flying projectiles. These are in testing but the technology appears promising.
While lasers are very expensive and ineffective as kinetic combat weapons against personnel, they can be extremely effective against electronics and aviation equipment. The best part? No loss of human life. An unmanned vehicle getting shot down results in precisely zero direct deaths.
The Laser Avenger system from Boeing is an effective solution to blinding the enemy’s airborne assets before he can maneuver his forces into position.
Naval And Airborne Variants
It’s yet another reason why Popular Science reports that the U.S. Navy is adding energy weapons to its destroyers and other fleet ships. The ability to shoot down unmanned vehicles paves the way to potentially shooting down cruise missiles and incoming ballistics. The technology that enables a laser turret to be mounted to the back of a Humvee and successfully target an inbound missile can be adapted to cover a variety of needs in the air, at sea, or in the sky.
A variation of an infrared laser weapon system may also see action aboard other unmanned aerial vehicles. Imagine a massive dogfight happening in the sky overhead, only no one gets hurt. Drones will one day be equipped with energy weapons for destroying each other.
For now, we’ll depend on the Avenger platform on a humvee to save the day.