The head of Army Space and Missile Command on Tuesday laid out a five-year plan for testing high-energy lasers that would be powerful enough to take down enemy aircraft.
Army officials recently participated in a series of tests involving the Mobile Expeditionary High-Energy 5 Kilowatt Laser and the service's Heavy Expanded Mobile Tactical Truck 10 Kilowatt Laser at Hard Kill Challenge, an exercise to test counter-unmanned aerial system technology.
"Both of the laser systems were highly successful," Lt. Gen. James H. Dickinson, Commanding General, United States Army Space and Missile Defense Command and Army Forces Strategic Command, told an audience at the Association of the United States Army's 299th Institute of Land Warfare Breakfast.
One of the benefits of the 5 KW laser is it does not require engineers to operate, the Army was able to train soldiers for the operation in just two weeks, Dickinson said.
The development of high-energy lasers is going so well, Dickinson said, that the Army plans to test a significantly larger laser next year.
"In FY18, we will continue to improve upon these cutting edge systems by testing a 50 KW laser integrated into a similar platform," he said. "A 50 KW laser is a key component in a system known as the high-energy laser tactical vehicle demonstrator."
The goal of the service is to develop a 100 KW laser by 2022, Dickinson said.
Moving to a 50 KW laser will provide longer range and more lethality than the current 5 KW and 10 KW lasers, which are designed to engage small UAS platforms, Dickinson said.
Dickinson was tight-lipped about the details of the 100 KW laser except to say enable the service to engage larger types of targets such as "rotary-wing and fixed-wing" targets.
Army officials are working with industry and local universities to gain further advances in this field, Dickinson said, adding that the service hopes to create a High-Energy Center of Excellence at Redstone Arsenal, Alabama.
"These advanced laser systems can be integrated into more rugged and mobile platform compatible with the Army's Battle Management Network in order to provide a lethal, low-cost and persistent defensive capability," Dickinson said.