Laser systems to knock out drones

Posted by Nermin Hajdarbegovic

The US Navy has a long tradition of knocking things out of the sky and ever since the Imperial Japanese Navy decided to engage in mass "tokko" suicide attacks, and it has been thinking about new ways to shoot down anything that doesn't have some stars and stripes on it.

Practically every warship deployed by the US Navy over the past few decades features Phalanx CIWS turrets and a number of point defence missiles, specifically designed to bring down sea skimming anti-ship missiles. However, such systems tend to be quite bulky and expensive. Using an ESSM or RIM-116 missile to shoot down a tiny drone is out of the question, as a single RIM-116 costs $440,000.

In addition, marine units that hit the beach cannot rely on ship borne defenses, so they would be exposed to enemy drones, which are difficult to intercept. With that in mind, the Navy is now offering cash to private outfits to develop laser systems, small enough to be fitted on top of a Humvee.

The entire system should weigh less than 2,500 pounds and it will feature a 25 to 50 kilowatt laser, Wired reports. Since most drones are incredibly light and built using materials that don't react well to heat, the idea should work.

However, it is rather ambitious. Powering a 25 kilowatt laser on top of a small truck sounds like a tall order. Wired reports that even small ships have trouble generating enough power for 100 kilowatt lasers. A small system installed on a Humvee would probably need to rely on an external source of power, or it would need at least 20 minutes to recharge between shots.

This means that any enemy with more than one drone has a good chance of penetrating the defenses, while marines rush to recharge the laser.