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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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RE: This is a small example of why...
By HotPlasma on 7/21/2010 10:08:50 AM , Rating: 2
I'll bet you that by the end of the decade we'll have F-35s flying around with lasers on them.


RE: This is a small example of why...
By Chernobyl68 on 7/21/2010 12:34:37 PM , Rating: 2
doubt it. Solid state lasers need a large electrical supply which a fighter jet does not have in excess. Even the 747-based ABM laser deployment was a chemical laser, IIRC.

RE: This is a small example of why...
By 91TTZ on 7/21/2010 1:56:33 PM , Rating: 1
While figures like "32 KW laser" sound impressive, the power requirements are not much at all. 32 KW is equal to about 43 hp.

1 gallon of gasoline contains the energy to provide about 39 KW for an hour.

RE: This is a small example of why...
By 91TTZ on 7/21/2010 2:18:21 PM , Rating: 1
False. This laser is the equivalent of 43 hp. Not a large amount of energy. Jet engines have tens of thousands of hp.

By PlasmaBomb on 7/22/2010 9:08:34 AM , Rating: 2
You are confusing thrust with available electrical power. While the F-35 may have vast quantities of the former (~28k lbf dry thrust) equating to 97kHp at supercruise, it doesn't have any spare electrical power (the latter), in fact the F-35C's (naval variant) Hamilton Sundstrand power generator was mistakenly designed to only 65% of the required electric output , and had to be redesigned to accomodate the existing power demand from the flight electronics!

By Amiga500 on 7/21/2010 1:51:17 PM , Rating: 1
You might get an F-35 with one laser... namely the AESA radar in the nose. Not much use if a missile is coming in your 7 o'clock is it?

Which is why I specifically talked about the distributed system on PAK-FA which gives full 360 deg coverage.

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