The U.S. military is testing a new laser system that aims to find, track and destroy moving aerial targets on the battlefield. The weapon, developed by Boeing, was specially designed to eliminate adversarial drones, artillery fire and small low-flying aircraft.
Known as the Compact Laser Weapon System (LWS), the platform is one of the smallest laser defense systems currently in development, enabling a high degree of mobility. A team of Marines tested the LWS earlier this year in the desert near Yuma, Arizona, Boeing representatives told the Albuquerque Journal this week. The laser proved able to identify targets from 22 miles away, the test team explained.
“The system includes a two kilowatt laser, which is powerful enough to disable or deny a target,” said Boeing spokeswoman Queena Jones. “Say it's an unmanned aerial vehicle, the laser could burn the wing and crash the drone -- you wouldn't need to blow it up or set it on fire, just make it crash. Or you can disable the drone's sensing system to make it inoperable.”
The laser is scheduled to undergo more exercises this summer, with U.S. Special Operations forces reportedly testing it.
Such tests come at time when the U.S. and a number of international governments are developing anti-drone technology. A German defense contractor, for instance, unveiled its own laser tracking system in June. That weapon can track and hit UAVs from 1.86 miles away, knocking the drone out of the sky within seconds.
The portable LWS weighs 650 pounds, with the weight split between suitcases carrying a water-cooled chiller and extra battery power.