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Raytheon's test of its laser weapons tracking system was a resounding success, scoring 4 UAV kills.  (Source: Raytheon)

Raytheon has released video of the test.  (Source: Raytheon)

The new laser version of Raytheon's Phalanx tracking system could be used to counter UAVs from hostile nations such as Iran (U.S. armed "Reaper" UAV pictured).  (Source: The Real Revo)
Company shows off video of lasers shooting down a drone

Even as the Northrop Grumman tests out its new 100 KW solid state laser cannon as part of a $98M USD Maritime Laser Demonstration program with the U.S. Navy to defend against ships, Raytheon is offering a new guidance system that may be capable of aiming laser batteries against airborne targets.

In May, the U.S. Navy coupled six solid-state lasers with an output of 32 kilowatts (the Navy's Laser Weapon System, LaWS) to Raytheon's Phalanx Close-In Weapon System sensors.  The result was successful kills of four unmanned aerial vehicles.

Raytheon is showing grainy black and white video of test for the first time at the U.K.'sFarnborough International Air Show 2010.

The tests were conducted near the Navy's weapons and training facility on San Nicolas Island in California's Santa Barbara Channel.  Phalanx used radio-frequency (radar) sensors and electro-optical tracking to direct the laser's aim on targets.

The results were impressive and easily surpassed Raytheon's 2006 destruction of a static mortar shell, and 2008 destruction of an incoming (in motion) mortar shell over land.  Still, Mike Booen, vice president of Raytheon's Advanced Security and Directed Energy Systems product line insists that the successful tests are only the start and that the full system will not be finalized until 2016, at the earliest.

Interestingly, the Phalanx system is nothing new.  It has typically been coupled, though with traditional munition based weapons, such as the 20-mm Gatling gun.  The laser-equipped system would likely more than double the range of the traditional Gatling gun.

The laser anti-aircraft batteries could be useful to counter hostile nations like Iran that have reportedly developed UAV capabilities.  Coupled with the Maritime Laser Demonstration (MLD) cannons, they could offer an unprecedented warship.  States Northrop spokesman Bob Bishop, "The MLD system we are under contract to build for [the U.S. Office of Naval Research] will be scalable to a variety of power levels.  That means that laser power can be added—or subtracted—to meet the level of response necessary to address the threat, all within the same modular laser weapon system."

The MLD program will complete its tests by the end of year.  The tests will be performed at 15 KW -- a mere fraction of the laser's full power.  If all goes well, Northrop Grumman may be able to test shots at higher power levels, afterwards.

Both the U.S. Army and the Air Force are also currently evaluating and testing laser weapons.

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Paladin Tanks
By Cullinaire on 7/21/2010 8:08:13 AM , Rating: 3
I wonder how long until they fit this to tanks? I know Israel is working on a tank point defense system but this would take it to another level altogether.

RE: Paladin Tanks
By Amiga500 on 7/21/2010 8:20:26 AM , Rating: 3
Not very long. Mid to end of the decade if they wanted. It will probably take the form of 4 or 5 separate multi-T/R panels arrayed around the turret sides. Which would also have the advantage of being able to securely transmit/receive large swathes of information to/from airborne/spaceborne assets.

More interestingly, the Russian prototype PAK-FA has multiple locations for similar T/R panels located around the airframe. If* the Russians can ramp up their module transmit power (which I expect will happen given their recent jump in nanometre process technology), they may well be able to make a limited airborne version of this. All they have to do is fry the (very sensitive) seeker heads of the incoming AAMs.

Then its back to the dogfight, the F-22 can cope 'cos its got the kinematic performance to fight on a level playing field. The F-35 cannot.

*Its not really a question of if, but when. I believe they've been working on that area for some time...

RE: Paladin Tanks
By nafhan on 7/21/2010 10:02:09 AM , Rating: 2
Mid to end of the decade if they wanted.
I disagree with you here. The problem is power generation. New generation carriers, etc. have a lot of excess electric power capability with this in mind. At a minimum, I think we'd have to develop entirely new platforms (with a lot more electric power capability) to effectively use these on mobile land vehicles, and developing new platforms takes a while. So, I'd put 10 years as a minimum - depending on how much work has already been done in this respect, of course.
A short range, low power version explicitly to fry missile seaker heads does sound reasonable from a power standpoint, though. I think infrared lasers tend to be fairly efficient.

RE: Paladin Tanks
By Chernobyl68 on 7/21/2010 12:31:58 PM , Rating: 2
have to agree with you. 100KW is a large amount, but within the realm of possibility for ship-board deployment. putting something like this on a tank? It would need a separate power generation vehicle.

RE: Paladin Tanks
By AssBall on 7/21/2010 12:36:43 PM , Rating: 2
I wonder about a c-130?

RE: Paladin Tanks
By Master Kenobi on 7/21/2010 6:11:59 PM , Rating: 2
The AC-130 with laser capability uses a chemical laser to generate the reaction power to fire. Powering it with conventional electricity would require a very heavy battery and/or a turbine capable of generating it on the fly. Neither is particularly good for an aircraft, even an AC-130.

RE: Paladin Tanks
By Amiga500 on 7/21/2010 1:48:44 PM , Rating: 2
100 kw is 135 bhp...

The M1A3 Abrams tank is slated to produce over 1500 bhp at the shaft.

RE: Paladin Tanks
By nafhan on 7/21/2010 2:10:36 PM , Rating: 2
I don't think the M1 is optimized for generating electrical energy, which is the same problem they've encountered attempting to outfit modern computer systems (and likely lasers) on older Navy ships.
Plus getting the rotational energy into a 100kw laser beam is non-trivial, and the laser itself is "a unit about the size of a couple garbage dumpsters stacked together" - making size an issue.
So, even if something the size of the M1 could do it, it would probably make more sense to have a purpose built vehicle.

RE: Paladin Tanks
By dgingeri on 7/21/2010 2:32:53 PM , Rating: 2
The M1 drive system is similar to a diesel train: engine runs a generator, generator runs electric motors for the wheels. So, in essence, the M1 is already putting all its power into electricity. So it should be easy to get a laser on an M1.

RE: Paladin Tanks
By gamerk2 on 7/21/2010 3:06:06 PM , Rating: 2
I argue its not a power problem; computing the angle the actually aim said lazer is not an easy task, nor is keeping the lazer on a target long enough to cause damage. To me, computing is a bigger factor then power is.

RE: Paladin Tanks
By Amiga500 on 7/21/2010 4:25:37 PM , Rating: 2
You joking right?

How is tracking a target with an instantaneous response harder than tracking a target then calculating the time delay for a missile to arrive there?

You know how AESA radar works (particularly in track & jam modes)? It already does the tracking and aiming of EM waves.

RE: Paladin Tanks
By deputc26 on 7/21/2010 3:43:17 PM , Rating: 4
I believe 100Kw is the power present in the beam, which is only ~2% efficient. So multiply that by 50.

RE: Paladin Tanks
By Amiga500 on 7/22/2010 4:10:48 AM , Rating: 2
No no, current SSLs have efficiencies of around 10%....

So multiply by 10. :-)

And watch that efficiency factor rise continuously over the next few years.

RE: Paladin Tanks
By bh192012 on 7/22/2010 6:00:56 PM , Rating: 2
Next, figure out what your going to do with the other 90% of that energy that is now heating your tank up.

RE: Paladin Tanks
By moenkopi on 7/22/2010 5:59:23 PM , Rating: 2
errr THAT IS 100KW infrared light output from a solid state laser! WHO KNOWS WHAT THE POWER INPUT IS! More than likely, it 1000times more than that!

RE: Paladin Tanks
By TimberJon on 7/22/2010 11:39:30 AM , Rating: 2
Great post Nafhan, yet a min of 10 years is still a bit too soon. You hit the problem on the head tho, power capacity.

Nobody seems to get that you cant slap a big alternator or other generator on a tank and produce laser-grade power. The key here is a fusion power plant shrunk down to a commercialized size for use in a tank, helicopter, truck, etc..

We need the ITER complete before the real benchmarking can begin. Then we will have the opportunity to ramp up the power and increase the excess that can be shunted off to power other systems. ITER will be huge. It has to be proven and well understood before miniaturized versions can even be conceptualized. When they get down in size, THEN they might get fitted into a tank, or a bipedal walker at that point..

Tracks or wheels... or two legs. The tank that holds such a powerplant would need to be larger than our 75-80 tonners, but might also be a tad faster utilizing electric motors at the drive wheels. With enough power to work with.. the motors could be electric for wheels, tracks, rotors, lasers, and even servos and artificial musculature for things like legs.

We aren't there yet. We need a mobile source of high energy output. ITER supposedly won't be powered up until 2021 or so. I expect some power breakthroughs to happen within 5 years after first startup. For the time being.. where's the outlet?

RE: Paladin Tanks
By marvdmartian on 7/21/2010 9:02:04 AM , Rating: 5
More importantly, how long before they can fit these things on SHARKS , baby?? Yeah!!

RE: Paladin Tanks
By driver01z on 7/22/2010 12:01:37 PM , Rating: 2
on their heads! on their FRICKIN HEADS

RE: Paladin Tanks
By jesman0 on 7/21/2010 11:04:44 AM , Rating: 4
Paladins are OP, Shamans should get them instead.

RE: Paladin Tanks
By Anoxanmore on 7/21/2010 12:14:56 PM , Rating: 2
You have not enough minerals. :D

RE: Paladin Tanks
By Jedi2155 on 7/22/2010 12:26:58 PM , Rating: 2
You must construct additional pylons.

"Young lady, in this house we obey the laws of thermodynamics!" -- Homer Simpson

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