Zapping Drones from a Truck



It took more than six months, but the Air Force coughed up some details yesterday on a laser program it's developing to plink drones and other flying objects from the sky.

Out at China Lake in May, a joint team sponsored by the Air Force Research Lab that included the engineers from the Naval Air Warfare Center fired a 2 Kilowatt class laser at a series of five UAVs, tracking them and shooting them down  "at long ranges and using relatively low laser power," according to a release from the laser maker Boeing. The so-called Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments beam rides on a trailer and is tethered to a fire control radar that helps it zero in on the drone and track the intruder before zapping it with laser precision.

The Mobile Active Targeting Resource for Integrated eXperiments (MATRIX), which was developed by Boeing under contract to the Air Force Research Laboratory, used a single, high-brightness laser beam to shoot down five UAVs at various ranges. Laser Avenger, a Boeing-funded initiative, also shot down a UAV.
During the same test, the AFRL fired their Laser Avenger prototype at another drone, downing it and giving the engineers a chance to blast the 25 mike-mike the Avenger wields as a "hybrid directed energy/kinetic energy" air defense system.

We're still looking to get more information on how high these lasers were able to deal their lethal energy. But this, combined with other news coming out about directed energy weapons quietly making strides, goes to show that lasers may be a lethal addition to modern platforms sooner than we think.

-- Christian

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