DoD Buzz

New Laser Is 'Bad Day' for UAVs

For the first time, a solid-state laser has successfully destroyed a flying drone in a naval environment.

The tests, performed by Raytheon with the Navy, occurred off of San Nicholas Island, Calif. over several days in late May. Four UAVs were destroyed, according to Mike Booen, vice president of directed energy.

Booen spoke with DoD Buzz in an exclusive interview at the Farnborough Air Show. The company mounted six 5.5kw solid-state lasers with a Phalanx gun system. The radar used the Phalanx's targeting system, Booen said. And the famous guns could be used to supplement the radar.

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Aside from UAVs, the laser could be used against Katyushas and other smaller rockets, as well as against swarming small boats, a growing threat to large Navy ships. Of course, the means it could, in theory at least, be used against pirates.

The effort was funded by Raytheon internal research dollars until the May shootdown, Booen said, when the Navy paid. Booen would not disclose how much the company has spent and deferred all questions about Navy funding to the service. The laser effort is not yet a program of record, meaning there is no dedicated money for it in the Pentagon budget. After additional testing, Booen said the company thought it could become a regularly funded program by 2016.

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