US Marines Want to Use Lasers for Air Defense
This laser controlled by a MK-15 Phalanx close-in weapons system successfully tracked, engaged, and destroyed an unmanned aerial vehicle in an over-the-water combat representative scenario.
CREDIT: U.S. Navy
Military lasers have already shot down drones and destroyed incoming enemy fire in recent testing. Now the U.S. military wants to move a step closer to putting battlefield lasers on Marine vehicles so that they could provide air defense for the troops.
Such an air defense system would be able to combine high-energy laser weapons with guns or missiles to knock threats out of the sky — similar to a U.S. Navy weapon concept combining a laser with a machine gun for ship defense against small boats. The recent request for information about the Marine air defense system came from the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division on April 5.
But the Navy wants the defense industry to come up with much more than just military-grade laser weapons. It wants the air defense system to have a target detection sensor (such as radar), a command and control system to decide whether or not to fire on possible targets, and the actual laser weapons made for battlefield conditions. Such a system must also work in day or night lighting, as well as in good or bad weather.
The laser-based air defense would have to fire "on the move" as Marine vehicles roll along in a convoy or battle formation, even as they track and fire upon enemy threats.
Marines could direct the fire of the air defense system, but the Navy also wants any controlling software to leave open a "pathway to autonomous control" — an automatic air defense system not unlike those that already protect Navy ships from incoming missiles or fighter jets.
The Navy has not committed funding to such a project just yet, but its request for information shows its interest in moving lasers beyond futuristic demonstrations and toward modern battlefield weapons.