Raytheon UK to install laser weapon on British Army fighting vehicle
In another step from the workbench to the battlefield, Raytheon UK is integrating its first high-energy 15-kW laser weapon into a Wolfhound armored vehicle for the British Army as part of the Ministry of Defence's Land Demonstrator laser program.
The UK is a pioneer in laser combat, deploying a practical dazzler laser during the Falklands War in 1982, and the British government is committed to developing and fielding a homegrown high-energy system in the next few years. Of course, low-budget spy movies to the contrary, it isn't just a matter of building a death ray and strapping it to the back of a pickup truck. Like any other weapon system, lasers have to be integrated into the platform carrying them and that means a lot of fussing over details and working within limitations.
For example, while a 15-kW laser may seem tiny compared to Lockheed Martin's 300-kW behemoth, it's still very effective against UAVs and larger threats. What it can't destroy, it can blind by attacking vulnerable sensors and electronics. More importantly, the lower power demands make it practical to mount on a vehicle like the Wolfhound, though the new laser has a rechargeable reserve (possibly a battery or super-capacitor) and requires minimal logistics thanks to its theoretically infinite ammo supply.
In addition to the vehicle, the integration also has to take into account that the laser is just one part of a deep, layered air defense system, so it needs to easily connect, communicate with, and work in concert with the other components that may be on land or sea, or in the air or space.
According to Raytheon UK, the laser system has already undergone considerable field testing in the United States over four days of live fire exercises against short-range attacks, drone swarms, and long-distance threats. During the tests, it successfully acquired, tracked, targeted and destroyed dozens of drone targets.
The new laser benefits from experience gained in developing eight laser weapons for the American military that have engaged and destroyed over 400 targets over 25,000 operational hours. The integration is being carried out at Raytheon UK's new, advanced laser integration center in Livingston, Scotland.
"The arrival of this transformative technology is an important milestone in our collaboration with the MoD on using directed energy to address a variety of threats, from drones and UAVs to more complex missile systems," said Julie Finlayson-Odell, managing director of weapons and sensors at Raytheon UK. "This system is a culmination of decades of investment, research and innovation and its arrival reflects our continued commitment to help fulfill a key strategic objective of the UK’s Integrated Review, which is to understand how directed energy weapons can safely and effectively operate alongside other elements of the UK’s armed forces."
Source: Raytheon UK