It is a staple of every sci-fi film: A laser weapon mounted to a fighter or spacecraft – and now, it’s getting closer to reality.
The US Military Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (Darpa) has revealed it has just completed the first tests of a system that could eventually see laser weapons added to drones and fighter jets.
They say the weapons shows ‘unprecedented power’ and are about to begin testing it against live targets on firing ranges.
Called the High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS), it will create a laser small enough to be mounted on a plane.
‘The goal of the HELLADS program is to develop a 150 kilowatt (kW) laser weapon system that is ten times smaller and lighter than current lasers of similar power, enabling integration onto tactical aircraft to defend against and defeat ground threats,’ Darpa says.
It said the secretive trials ‘demonstrated sufficient laser power and beam quality to advance to a series of field tests.
‘The technical hurdles were daunting, but it is extremely gratifying to have produced a new type of solid-state laser with unprecedented power and beam quality for its size,’ said Rich Bagnell, yhe projects program manager.
‘The HELLADS laser is now ready to be put to the test on the range against some of the toughest tactical threats our warfighters face.’
Ground-based field testing of the HELLADS laser is now expected to begin this summer as an effort jointly funded by DARPA and the Air Force Research Laboratory.
Following the field-testing phase, the goal is to make the system available to the military Services for further refinement, testing or transition to operational use.
The HELLADS program has been developing an electrically driven solid state laser at greatly reduced size and weight over lasers of similar power for tactical use.
The laser was developed by DARPA performer General Atomics
The weapons are expected to be used to shoot down drones.
‘Enemy surface-to-air threats to manned and unmanned aircraft have become increasingly sophisticated, creating a need for rapid and effective response to this growing category of threats.
‘High power lasers can provide a solution to this challenge, as they harness the speed and power of light to counter multiple threats.’
However, they are also likely to be used on bombing raids to target precise locations.
‘Laser weapon systems provide additional capability for offensive missions as well—adding precise targeting with low probability of collateral damage.’