January 29, 2009 Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are now a well established tool in modern warfare, having proved their worth in both in reconnaissance and increasingly, combat roles. As with all weapons however, this success might not be viewed so glowingly if you happen to be on the receiving end. In developing ways to combat the threat of UAV platforms, Boeing has demonstrated for the first time that a laser equipped Avenger ground combat vehicle can shoot down a UAV.
The test took place at White Sands Missile Range, N.M. last month using a 1-kilowatt solid state laser system mounted on an Avenger combat vehicle - a military Humvee that is usually equipped with Stinger anti-aircraft missiles.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,500 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
During the tests, the Laser Avenger used its advanced targeting system to acquire and track three small UAVs flying against a complex background of mountains and desert, shooting down one of the UAVs.
No details have been released on the range of the laser, but Boeing says the shot was made from "an operationally relevant range".
"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 Laser Avenger is a more powerful variation on the system used for a previous, and arguably more critical, demonstration in which improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and unexploded ordnance (UXO) were knocked-out on the ground.
"We doubled the laser power; added sophisticated acquisition, tracking and pointing capability; and simplified and ruggedized the design," said Lee Gutheinz, Boeing program director for High-Energy Laser/Electro-Optical Systems. "Boeing developed and integrated these upgrades in less than a year, underscoring our ability to rapidly respond to warfighters' needs."